Morton E. Smith, M.D., professor emeritus of ophthalmology & visual sciences and associate dean emeritus at Washington University School of Medicine, has been referred to by medical students and colleagues over the years as an icon, a shining star and the heart and soul of the ophthalmology program.
He has significantly contributed to the life and education at the School of Medicine since 1961 when he began his residency and fellowship in ophthalmology.
Dr. Smith is an ophthalmic pathologist, a subspecialty of ophthalmology and pathology that focuses on diseases of the eye and neighboring tissues. He is also a teacher, leader and friend to countless School of Medicine students and graduates.
He continues to mentor residents when they see patients in the clinic and teams with other faculty to plan the best treatment for cancer patients whose disease may affect their eyes.
In 1967 he began his long tenure as coursemaster in ophthalmology, responsible for planning all aspects of ophthalmology education.
An internationally recognized clinician and a gifted educator at the School of Medicine who has an infectious enthusiasm for ophthalmology, Dr. Smith has been honored by his students with nearly a dozen teaching awards. He received the University’s Founders Day Distinguished Faculty Award for excellence in teaching in 1976.
In addition, he received the Medical Center’s Alumni Association Distinguished Service Award in 1999, which honors high quality of instruction, strong relationships with students inside and outside the classroom, reputation for scholarship and distinguished service.
He also received two Distinguished Service Teaching Awards and a Distinguished Alumni Award from the Washington University Eye Alumni.
Among his many roles with students, he serves as a faculty adviser to the Student Arts Commission and he has served as councilor of the School of Medicine’s Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society chapter and director of the University’s Scholars Program in Medicine, a program that recruits high school seniors to the University and guarantees them a slot in the School of Medicine.
The Baltimore, Maryland, native earned a bachelor’s degree in 1956 and a medical degree in 1960, both from the University of Maryland.
He completed an internship at Denver General Hospital in Colorado, and then came to the School of Medicine and Barnes Hospital as a resident and a National Institute of Neurologic Disease and Blindness Fellow in Ophthalmology.
He completed a yearlong stint as a National Institutes of Health Special Fellow in Ophthalmic Pathology at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington, D.C., and then returned to the School of Medicine in 1965 as chief resident and instructor in ophthalmology. He spent four months as a visiting scholar at the Eye Institute of the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York.
Dr. Smith was named assistant professor of ophthalmology and pathology at the School of Medicine in 1967, and then was promoted to full professor in 1975.
Over a nearly 30-year period, he not only taught and mentored students but was also on the attending staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals and the John Cochran Veterans’ Affairs Medical Center.
Dr. Smith added an administrator’s hat in 1978 when he was named assistant dean of the School of Medicine. He was promoted to associate dean of continuing medical education and postgraduate education and received emeritus status in 1996.
He has received research support from the National Society for the Prevention of Blindness, Alcon Pharmaceutical Company, the National Council to Combat Blindness and the National Eye Institute.
Dr. Smith was chairman of the steering committee that founded the American Association of Ophthalmic Pathologists in 1976. He served as that organization’s president, on its board of directors and is a charter member. He was a director of the American Board of Ophthalmology from 1992 to 1999.
Dr. Smith and his wife, Paula, an artist, have three grown children: Jill Smith, of Minneapolis; Erica Nicholson of Boulder, Colo.; and Brian, a college professor and artist in St. Louis who has a piece displayed at the medical school’s Farrell Learning and Teaching Center; and two grandchildren.