For Mission of Mercy’s long-time Medical Director Dr. Brad Smith, surprisingly, his career as a naturopathic medical doctor wasn’t what he intended to do upon graduating from college. In fact, it’s his second career! He started his medical schooling at age 34 after spending more than a decade as a family therapist.
It was during his time as a fourth year medical student at the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine & Health Sciences (now Sonoran University of Health Sciences) that he first gained exposure to MOM – at the time a fledgling community-based healthcare clinic – in 1999. As the story goes, it was fate that brought Dr. Smith to MOM.
“I had an emergency room rotation that fell through at the last minute but MOM’s medical director at the time, Dr. Bill Schneider, agreed to take on two naturopathic students and I was one of them,” Dr. Smith recalls. “He also opened the door for me to shadow him in the ER at Thunderbird medical center, which I greatly appreciated and learned a lot from that experience.”
After completing a family practice residency, Dr. Smith realized that his heart was in community medicine, and he accepted Dr. Schneider’s offer to serve as MOM’s part-time Assistant Medical Director in Arizona, helping to oversee the clinic sites and see patients.
At the time he was hired in 2002, Dr. Schneider said, “Brad has been a faithful volunteer in our clinics. When the need was clear for an assistant medical director to work with me at the four clinics in Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa, Brad was the perfect choice. He truly embodies what we mean when we say that our mission is healing through Love.”
Connecting Physical Healing with the Spiritual
Aside from his professional accolades, Dr. Smith also has a Master of Divinity from Anderson School of Theology. He’s not only an excellent family practitioner, but also a gifted listener with the ability to truly empathize with MOM’s patients.
When Dr. Schneider left MOM to pursue a fellowship with Phoenix Children’s Hospital in 2003, Dr. Smith was promoted to Medical Director.
“I love being a doctor here. I love the challenge of diagnosing and treating our patients,” Dr. Smith said. “I get exposure to interesting pathology that some physicians have never seen in their entire career, and I get to collaborate with volunteer doctors who are among the best specialists in their field.”
A Man of Many Talents
Aside from his professional life, Dr. Smith has his HVAC certification, practices woodworking and stained glass as his hobbies, and is an “experienced tinkerer” thanks to growing up working in his dad’s machine shop.
He is married with two adult children who have followed in his footsteps – one is an occupational therapist and the other is in medical school.
“As medical director, I’ve had the privilege of working with thousands of patients over the years who can’t afford healthcare and consequently are immensely grateful for the services that Mission of Mercy provides,” he said. “I also get the experience of adapting and pivoting to meet the various challenges that a community-based mobile medical clinic like ours faces every day. It is enormously gratifying.”