PeaceHealth Names Psychiatrist ‘Physician of Excellence’ for 2012


​The Medical Staff of PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center has honored Gary Smith, MD, hospital psychiatrist and medical director of Behavioral Health Services, as “Physician of Excellence” for 2012.

Dr. Smith was recognized at the annual January Medical Staff dinner hosted by PeaceHealth. This year’s nominees included: Dana Petersen, MD; Larry Moss, MD; Keith VanderGriend, MD; Susan Hakeman, MD; Tom Stackhouse, MD; Warren Taranow, DO; Meg Jacobson, MD; David Cahalan, MD; and Sara Mostad, MD, PhD.

A graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, a highly decorated fighter pilot during the Vietnam war and former test pilot, Dr. Smith devoted himself to psychiatry and has served the patients of Whatcom County for nearly 30 years. He began his career in Bellingham working with St. Luke’s Hospital, before joining the PeaceHealth St. Joseph medical staff in 1983. 

Henry Levine, MD, who nominated Dr. Smith, said that this year’s Physician of Excellence has “been a hero of a psychiatrist and an invaluable provider in our community.”

During Dr. Smith’s tenure, Behavioral Health Services changed from St. Luke’s to St. Joseph Hospital, moved from South Campus to PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center, and has grown from just six beds to 20, with access to integrated care in a healing and supportive environment. Through all the changes, Dr. Smith’s compassionate care remained constant.

According to Dr. Levine, Behavioral Health patients have bad illnesses and often feel powerless over what’s happening. “They may compensate by complaining about their surroundings – the food, the facilities, their caregivers and their medications,” Levine said. “But in the 30 years I covered for Gary Smith on weekends, I cannot remember one patient complaining about the care he gave. Not one.”

Previous recipients of the “Physician of Excellence” honor, first presented in 2007, are: 2011, Ian Thompson, MD and Hull “Cactus” Cook, MD; 2010, Marvin Wayne, MD and Emily Gibson, MD; 2009, Claire Beiser, MD and Kenneth Bachenberg, MD; 2008, William Lombard, MD and Marcy Hipskind, MD; and 2007, Margaret Jacobson, MD and Kenneth Gass, MD.