"I’ve always been moved by the needs that are out there both in Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee, as well as worldwide," states Dr. Smiddy in a recent interview with East Tennessee Medical News.
Dr, Smiddy is a pulmonologist who practices in Kingsport, Tennessee, near the border with Virginia. Known as a coal mine belt, southwest Virginia has a high incidence of mine workers with lung disease. The Appalachians have a multitude of health-related lung problems. Several area industries work with asbestos and smoking and obesity rates are high, “When we broke the numbers of smokers down by zip codes, we saw that the average age for starting to smoke was 12 in these areas,” Smiddy said. “By the time they’re in their early 30s, they already have 20 years accumulated in their lungs.” Adding to these problems is histoplasmosis, a fungus in the soil, which can also cause lung disease.
Many of the people in these areas either cannot afford health care or are unable to travel the distance needed to obtain available care.
Deciding better X-ray technology was necessary to diagnose lung disease, thus allowing treatment to be started earlier, Dr. Smiddy purchased and customized an 18-wheel tractor-trailor that would enable him to take the treatment directly to the people in need. "I have my own tractor trailer with a chest X-ray inside," Smiddy said. "I went to tractor trailer school and did 180 hours of training, got my Class A CDL and have driven my truck all around the region and down to New Orleans twice."
Dr. Smiddy is a long-time volunteer with Remote Area Medical (RAM). He was instrumental in setting up a partnership between them and Lincoln Memorial University (LMU), where he is a member of the Board of Trustees. Today, he is the medical director and volunteer physician for RAM'S "Health Wagon" which operates a mobile clinic for under-served and indigent in poverty-stricken areas of rural Appalachia.
Recently, Dr. Smiddy worked with CMDA, our featured organization, on a medical missions conference which provided information to people on how to go on a mission trip, what mission opportunities were available in the region (clinics for the underserved) and how to do it. It was called “Discover the Joy”, and was a wonderful success.
"There’s room for everybody to be involved in missions," he says. "The idea is that everyone can be involved. You can find a niche, and it doesn’t have to be money."
Dr. Smiddy has gone on numerous international mission trips and persuades his colleagues to join him. One trip was to India to work in a medical center that lacked a pulmonologist. "They were very interested in how we organized free healthcare. Since there was not a pulmonologist in the hospital I was at, I was able to teach many physicians on how we diagnose and treat pulmonary diseases here."
Another mission Dr. Smiddy is involved with is the Body & Soul Ministries in Belize, where he is now serving as their medical director.
In the spring of 2010, teams will return to Belize. The first wave will again feature U.Va.-Wise nursing students along with members of U.Va.-Wise’s Baptist Collegiate Ministries. They will open the clinic, evaluate pediatric patients and spread the word that the pediatricians will be arriving, hopefully the next week.
Between now and then, the group will ship needed equipment, recruite volunteer medical personnel and team leaders, and establish treatment protocols.
But life isn't all "work" for Dr. Smiddy. Joining his father, Chancellor Emeritus of The University of Virginia, also known as Papa Joe Smiddy - music is a big part of their lives. Watch the video below for a sample of their music.
The 8th Annual Papa Joe Smiddy Mountain Music Festival will be held on September 5, 2010. The festival will be a blend of bluegrass and traditional music. "Papa" Joe Smiddy is a well know old time banjo player and singer,and was born in 1920 in Jellico, TN. Papa appears on many recordings, including CD's "Butter Beans" and "Hop Up Ladies". more about the festival
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