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UAMS Dean Smyth dead of cancer at age 57

Prominent cardiologist fought cancer by Neal Earley | January 1, 2023 at 2:51 a.m.
Dr. Susan S. Smyth, dean of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences College of Medicine, addresses fourth-year medical students during the college's Match Day Ceremony at Heifer International in Little Rock in this March 18, 2022 file photo. Smyth, who was also executive vice chancellor at UAMS, died Saturday, Dec. 31, 2022, after a battle with cancer, the school announced. She was 57. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Stephen Swofford)

Dr. Susan Smyth, dean of the College of Medicine and executive vice chancellor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, died Saturday after a battle with cancer, the school announced. She was 57.

Smyth was a nationally known cardiologist who made her name as a physician and researcher focusing on arterial and venous thrombosis, authoring more than 200 publications and a dozen textbooks, according to a statement from UAMS Chancellor Dr. Cam Patterson.

Despite her cancer, Smyth "was working full-speed Wednesday" before her health rapidly declined, Patterson said.

Smyth came to UAMS just 19 months ago from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine, where she served as the chief of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine and Jeff Gill Professor of Cardiology.

Patterson said Smyth was a "fantastic scientist" and "incredible leader" whose research helped advance the understanding of heart disease and identified new therapies to treat people suffering from it. Patterson also credited Smyth as a trailblazer for women in academic medicine who became president of the Association of University Cardiologists.

Smyth also served as the senior associate director for the Kentucky Center for Clinical and Translation Science. She also had a part-time appointment with the Lexington Veterans Affairs Health Care System as a physician and investigator.

"She will be remembered not just today, not just a year from now. She will be remembered 50 years from now," Patterson said in an interview.

Originally from Chapel Hill, N.C., Smyth graduated from Mount Holyoke College with a bachelor's degree in biology. She earned her medical degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she also graduated with a doctorate in pharmacology. She completed her internal medicine residency at the University Medical Center in Stony Brook, N.Y. and her cardiology fellowships at Mount Sinai Medical School in New York City and the University of North Carolina, according to her biography on UAMS' website.

"I'm not entirely sure how I came to the decision to become a doctor, but I can say that sometime in my senior year of high school, I decided that I was going to be a physician-scientist," Smyth said in a June 2021 interview posted on UAMS' website. "I loved my biology class, and I entered college with the goal of preparing myself to be an M.D./Ph.D."

In November, UAMS invested Smyth in the Arkansas Medical Society Distinguished Dean's Chair, one of the highest honors the school can bestow. Smyth was also picked for her expertise in translation science, "the process of turning observations in the laboratory, clinic, and community into interventions that improve the health of individuals and populations," according to the National Institutes of Health National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.

At UAMS, Smyth said her goal was to help guide the state through the covid-19 pandemic and to improve health outcomes in rural and underserved communities. In a statement, Patterson credited Smyth with launching and expanding "numerous initiatives to improve health in Arkansas while also increasing the College of Medicine's national standings in primary care and other aspects of education, research and clinical care."

She joined the University of North Carolina's faculty in 2001 where she met Patterson, who was also a faculty member at the school. Patterson helped recruit Smyth to UAMS after Dr. Christopher Westfall, stepped down as dean of the College of Medicine in 2021.

"When our previous dean, Chris Westfall, said he was going to step down, we convened a search, and her name was the first one that popped into my mind," Patterson said. "I was so thrilled that she threw her hat in the ring and even more thrilled for the people of Arkansas that she accepted such a big job."

Smyth is survived by her husband, Andrew Morris, and their sons Edward and William.

Print Headline: Smyth, UAMS college dean, dead at age 57


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