Life and Times of Leading Cardiologists With Rob Califf. Guest: Sidney Smith

Robert M. Califf, MD; Sidney C. Smith, Jr., MD


December 11, 2013

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Today's Guest: Sidney Smith

Robert M. Califf, MD: Hello. I am Rob Califf, and I want to welcome you to a new episode of "Life and Times of Famous Cardiologists." The purpose of these interviews is to give insight into the people who have done great things in cardiology and hopefully inspire new generations, and to reflect on the good times and interesting parts of life.

I am fortunate to have with me today Sid Smith. Sid has been a major figure in the global organization of cardiology. He also happens to lead the Division of Cardiology in a little place called the University of North Carolina (UNC), about 8 miles from where I hang out. It's been a real privilege to get to know Sid over many years. Welcome.

Sidney C. Smith, Jr., MD: Thank you, it's good to be here.

Dr. Califf: Sid, I distinctly remember that I first met you at a meeting that was related to biomarkers in San Diego. You were at Sharp Memorial Hospital at the time. I didn't recognize any potential connection so close to UNC, but I remember a great discussion about what all of the science meant. You were pretty intense about it.

But let's go to how this all started. Tell us a little bit about where you grew up.

Southern Roots

Dr. Smith: It started in Wilmington, Delaware. My mother and father are both from Virginia. I grew up in Petersburg, Virginia. My mother was from Dinwiddie. You go through Dinwiddie on I-85 up to Richmond. The church where my parents were married is still there. My father went to Virginia Tech, got engineering degrees, and then went to work with DuPont.

Both of my parents ended up in Wilmington, where the headquarters of DuPont are. That is where I was born. Every summer, when we went back to visit my cousins and relatives in Virginia, my mother sang "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny" in the car, with no air conditioning. So I was exposed to my southern relatives.

Dr. Califf: I didn't understand when I first met you that you had the southern roots.

Dr. Smith: Deep roots in Virginia, but I was always considered a Yankee. Even though I would go over the Mason-Dixon line, that proximity made me a Yankee.

A Family of Engineers

Dr. Califf: Do you have brothers and sisters?

Dr. Smith: I have a younger brother.

Dr. Califf: What does he do?

Dr. Smith: We both have engineering degrees. He went into electrical engineering and then got a business degree and was with Bell Labs, and then he retired. He is on the Delaware coast at Ocean City.

Dr. Califf: What did your mom do?

Dr. Smith: My mother was a teacher who, when she had my brother and me, realized that she had her hands full. She stopped teaching and tried to keep us under control.

Dr. Califf: Growing up, the discussion at the family dinner table -- was it science-oriented or was it politics?

Dr. Smith: It was fairly interesting. It would range from science to politics to sports, to eating your vegetables and you are not going to get dessert until you do.

Dr. Califf: What did you enjoy most in elementary and junior high school? Did you know you were going to be a doctor, or did you want to be an engineer?

Dr. Smith: No. I enjoyed sports and math. I enjoyed science, and that led me to majoring in chemical engineering, but there were several influential doctors who were neighbors who had an impact on me. It was always in the back of my mind.


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