Robert Smith, M.D. has been awarded with the American Medical Association's (AMA) Medal of Valor for fighting social injustice and providing health care to all Mississippi citizens during the civil rights era. The award was granted to Dr. Smith by the AMA Board of Trustees at the AMA's 2017 Interim Meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii. The award serves to honor those who demonstrate courage under extraordinary circumstances in non-wartime situations. Staying true to the mission of Howard University College of Medicine, Dr. Smith provided consistent health care to those with little or no access throughout the civil rights movement in Mississippi.
A founder of the Medical Committee for Civil Rights and the Committee for Human Rights in the mid-1960s, Dr. Smith and other health care professionals aided and treated civil rights workers and many other Mississippians during the Freedom Summer of 1964.
“In dangerous, volatile times in our country, Dr. Smith placed himself repeatedly in harm’s way and made it his mission to stand up for the health care rights of African Americans,” said AMA President David O. Barbe, M.D. “He is a man of compassion, courage and bravery, who routinely put the health and wellbeing of others ahead of his own by providing medical care to the poor, uninsured and underserved citizens of Mississippi.”
Notably, Dr. Smith was a co-author, founder, and implementer of the concept of Federally Qualified Health Centers, now known as FQHCs. Dr. Smith co-founded the nation's first rural community health center, Delta Health Center, in Mound Bayou, MS, as well as the Mississippi Primary Health Care Association, which provides affordable and accessible primary medical and dental care to individuals and families. Today, there are more than 10,000 FQHCs nationally; they serve 30 million Americans, including several hundred thousand Mississippians.
In the past several years, Dr. Smith has remained in active practice. He is married to Otrie Hickerson Smith, M.D., and has three children, Claude, Donna, Robert, Jr., and an adopted daughter, Pamela.