For more than half his life, Taylor K. Smith, MD, has been involved in humanitarian activities. The AAOS recognized this devotion by presenting Dr. Smith with the 2011 Humanitarian Award during the 2011 Annual Meeting in San Diego.
The Humanitarian Award honors members of the Academy who have distinguished themselves through outstanding musculoskeletal-related humanitarian activities in the United States or abroad. This award also recognizes orthopaedic surgeons who help to improve the human condition by alleviating suffering and supporting and contributing to the basic human dignity of those in need.
A tireless humanitarian
Since 1978, Dr. Smith has volunteered with the nonprofit organization, Operation Rainbow, providing free medical care to underserved patients in impoverished countries worldwide. He has participated in approximately 30 missions in rural Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Venezuela, China, the Philippines, Peru, and other countries. In 1990, he founded the orthopaedic division of Operation Rainbow, which provides free orthopaedic and plastic surgical care to indigent patients in developing countries. Dr. Smith currently serves as Operation Rainbow’s director of orthopaedic surgery.
In nominating Dr. Smith, Kelly D. Carmichael, MD, wrote: “Dr. Smith works countless hours, never gets tired, and never says ‘no’ to those in need.” He added, “Dr. Smith has remarkable talent and all those around him benefit. His leadership is responsible for dozens of other orthopaedic surgeons becoming involved in care to the third world.”
In the wake of the devastating earthquake that shook Haiti in January 2010, Dr. Smith led two orthopaedic surgical teams to St. Marc, Haiti, to provide orthopaedic care and disaster relief. Additional Operation Rainbow teams provided orthopaedic surgical care on six contiguous missions in several hospitals in Port-au-Prince and near the Dominican Republic border. Their work in Haiti continues.
“Dr. Smith traveled to Haiti as soon as he could put a team together… we take a team of 25 to 30 members for 7 to 10 days,” explained William L. Green, MD. “He will not turn away any patient who needs treatment, regardless of the time of day. Dr. Smith has been an inspiration to his colleagues for many years, and especially to the fertile minds of orthopaedic residents who accompany him on these trips.”
Dr. Smith’s son, Christopher K. Smith, MD, also an orthopaedic surgeon and Academy fellow, has accompanied his father on more than 15 mission trips, witnessing firsthand his father’s tireless determination to provide orthopaedic assistance to patients in need.
“I have had the opportunity to experience his unique style of compassion and hard work that inspires loyalty and commitment in other mission team members,” said the younger Dr. Smith. “I hope to continue to share the experience of providing orthopaedic care to those in need with my father for years to come. He is someone who truly ‘leads by example.’”
Advice for residents
“The key to successful missions, whether emergent or elective, is planning for and being able to do just about anything confronting you and knowing your limitations,” said Dr. Smith.
He encourages orthopaedic residents to gain broader surgical experience by participating in orthopaedic-related humanitarian efforts.
“You will learn more about the natural history of diseases and injuries and many skills from the local orthopaedic surgeons. It is the most rewarding thing you will ever do in the practice of medicine,” he said.
Maureen Leahy is assistant managing editor for AAOS Now. She can be reached at email@example.com