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Retired pathology chair recognized with emeriti faculty award

IU School of Medicine • 6/13/19

James W. Smith, MD, who enjoyed a distinguished career at Indiana University School of Medicine as an infectious disease researcher, was honored Tuesday, June 11, with the Ritchey Emeriti Faculty Service Award for contributions to the school and community in the years since his retirement.

Smith, a retired pathologist and Nordschow Professor Emeritus of Laboratory Medicine, retired from IU School of Medicine in 1998. His support for the medical school and its mission has continued in a variety of ways.

In 2000, he established the James W. Smith Professorship in Clinical Microbiology to improve the school’s ability to recruit and retain outstanding microbiology faculty.

Smith has served as a member of the development board for AMPATH, a partnership led by IU School of Medicine that has impacted the lives of millions of Kenyans through clinical care, research and medical training. He has served as a consultant to AMPATH’s reference lab, which stores and shares biomaterial for research. Smith has worked to strengthen anatomic teaching and pathology in Kenya.

As a member of the board of directors of the Indiana Medical History Museum, Smith helped secure grant funding for much-needed repairs. He was instrumental in the development of a book on the history of the School of Medicine.

Smith, who still maintains an office in the microbiology department, said he enjoyed his work at the School of Medicine as well as what’s followed in retirement.

“I think it’s been a good trip and I’m pleased to join the list of previous recipients of this great honor,” Smith said.

The Ritchey Emeriti Faculty Service Award is given to a retired faculty member who shows commitment to the mission of IU School of Medicine through voluntary service after retirement; who shares time and experience in serving the greater community; or who has made a planned gift to benefit the school.

Diane Leland, PhD, professor emeritus of pathology and laboratory medicine, was a young technologist in the microbiology lab when Smith arrived at IU in 1970. She credited Smith, who eventually became chairman, with expanding the microbiology faculty and growing the number of lab techs from 10 to 50. But Leland said Smith is also an excellent example of someone whose contributions continue after their career is complete.

“There’s a lot of emphasis on what this person does after retirement,” Leland said of the award. “(He) is a model of commitment to service in retirement.”

A 1959 graduate of the University of Iowa School of Medicine, Smith completed his residency and fellowship in Iowa as well. He served in Boston as lieutenant commander in the Navy before joining the faculty of the University of Vermont as an assistant professor of pathology.

Smith joined the faculty at IU School of Medicine in 1970 as a professor and director of the Division of Medical Microbiology. He became chair of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine in 1992.

Smith brought national and international recognition to the School of Medicine, particularly due to his expertise in diagnostic parasitology and infections in immunocompromised hosts. Those included Pneumocystis, a rare infection in healthy people but one that became a common cause of pneumonia and death in patients with AIDS.

Research in Smith’s laboratory found that a combination of drugs, clindamycin and primaquine, could be effective in treating the infection. Today, AIDS is more commonly treated with antiretroviral drugs.

In 1997, the same year Smith was appointed Nordschow Professor of Laboratory Medicine, he was presented with the Glenn W. Irwin Jr., MD, Distinguished Faculty Award, which recognizes faculty for their outstanding teaching, collaboration, medical care or research. The award was a fitting capstone for Smith.