Salisbury native graduating from Chicago medical school

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 1, 2017

By Laurie D. Willis

Special to the Salisbury Post

SALISBURY – A Salisbury native who dreamed of becoming a doctor as a child, in part because of a relative who was a physician, attended the Divisional Academic Ceremony at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine last Friday.

Chris Smyre, the oldest son of Bishop Russell L. and Patricia Smyre, participated in the hooding ceremony in the Rockefeller Chapel on campus. He was joined by his wife, Benjellica; his maternal grandfather, Lovie B. Reid Sr., and his parents.

“I have wanted to be a doctor since I was very young,” said Smyre, 28. “Growing up, I saw my great-uncle, who was a doctor, utilize the biopsychosocial model to help family members understand their conditions and their physician’s rationale for their treatment plan. My great-uncle bridged the gap between what my family knew and what they needed to know.

“From him, I learned the importance of carefully tailored communication with people from different socioeconomic backgrounds,” Smyre said. “As a family medicine physician, I want to provide holistic care utilizing the cultural and social aspects of the patient to enhance the physician-patient relationship and address their health care needs.”

Smyre, a 2006 graduate of Statesville High School, earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry, with a focus in biochemistry and biophysics, from Wake Forest University. He will continue his training to become a family medicine doctor by doing his residency at Northwestern McGaw Erie Family Health Center in Chicago.

“Being a family medicine physician will position me to assist my patients in efficiently navigating and properly utilizing the health care system,” he said. “I am passionate about working with underserved populations and doing research aimed at eliminating health care disparities on individual- and community-based levels.”

On June 10, Smyre will graduate magna cum laude from the Pritzker School of Medicine, ranked 15th best in the country by U.S. News & World Report. Smyre is the Pritzker School of Medicine’s 2017 recipient of the Departmental Award for Outstanding Performance in the field of family medicine.

Dr. Sonia P. Oyola, director of the Family Medicine Clerkship at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine, said Smyre was an easy choice.

“Chris embodies what family medicine is, which is whole patient care,” Oyola said. “He’s focused not only on the disease or the problem the patient might be presented with but also on the patient himself as a whole. Chris has always demonstrated that. He’s a leader, he’s community-service-minded and he looks very deeply inside social issues, which is something that our field is constantly managing.”

Oyola said Smyre demonstrated “a desire and a passion” to learn more about the links between mental health care and primary health care, something that is strongly emphasized in the family medicine field.

“Chris is very compassionate and very patient and community-centered,” she said. “He’s just an amazing student that goes beyond learning only about the biomedical. … He delves deeply into the spiritual and mental well-being of his patients as well.”

Smyre said he was excited about the hooding ceremony and beginning the next phase of his career as a doctor. He credits his parents for their unwavering love, support and encouragement and for teaching him about the Lord.

“My parents taught me that I am valuable and have purpose independent of anything I accomplish or do,” Smyre said. “I also appreciate the way they modeled strong work values and instilled a belief in me, my brothers and our sister, Teadora S. Williams, that if we put our minds to it and work hard, we can achieve anything.”