Dr. Craig Smith Named 'Practitioner of the Year' at the Peak of his Career

Craig R. Smith, MD, Calvin F. Barber Professor of Surgery at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons and Chief of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center (NYPH/CUMC) has been named 'Practitioner of the Year' for 2004 by the Society of Practitioners at Columbia University Medical Center. Founded in 1973, the Society of Practitioners is a 550 member physician advocacy group that addresses patient care issues, physician-hospital and physician-university relations, physician practice models, managed care issues, and malpractice insurance at the Columbia campus of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.

"The Society is comprised of attending faculty. Every year the Society chooses a distinguished practitioner, and in some years it chooses two. For 2004, the committee chose Dr. Craig Smith and Dr. Ralph Blume," says Ellen Danetz, Director of the Society of Practitioners. "Historically, doctors have been chosen who are nearing retirement, and they are honored for their distinguished work throughout their career, but in choosing Dr. Smith this year, the selection committee decided that he was very deserving because of his immense dedication to his art—to the art of surgery. Dr. Smith has exhibited a true commitment to the field of cardiac surgery and is a mentor to both physicians and students alike. This year the committee chose someone whom it felt was at the peak of his career."

An awards dinner was held in June 2004 to celebrate the announcement, and speeches were made by several attending faculty who have worked closely with Dr. Smith and have witnessed his talents and expertise firsthand.

Dr. Smith has overseen the growth of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery over the past eight years. He is one of the leading cardiac surgeons in the country. Under his direction, the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery has embarked on a program utilizing robotic technology. He pioneered cardiopulmary bypass techniques that allow neurosurgeons to approach otherwise inoperable intracerebral aneurysms under deep hypothermia with circulatory arrest. In addition, he is actively involved in clinical research that promotes developing unique applications of robotic technology. Dr. Smith performs more than 350 operations a year, predominantly cardiac valve repair and replacement, coronary artery bypass procedures, and operations involving the thoracic aorta. Referring physicians nationwide call upon Dr. Smith's expertise to manage highly complex patients.

Dr. Smith came to Columbia University Medical Center as a fellow in cardiothoracic surgery, and he joined the Columbia faculty in 1984 as Associate Director of the Columbia Presbyterian Heart Transplant Program, which grew to be the most active program of its kind in the United States. He later inaugurated a successful program in heart-lung and lung transplantation that remains the major program in the region.

2004 has been a memorable year for Dr. Smith. This year he was also inducted into the American Surgical Association. The American Surgical Association, founded in 1880, is one of the nation's oldest and most prestigious surgical organizations.

"I'd like to add—our announcement came before Dr. Smith operated on Bill Clinton," Ms. Danetz says with laughter. Dr. Smith made headlines news in September 2004 when he performed a successful quadruple bypass procedure on Former President Clinton. "We had our eye on him way before that. Dr. Smith is truly at the peak of his career," adds Ms. Danetz.