HONOLULU The American Medical Association (AMA) honored Robert Smith, M.D., with the Medal of Valor Award for fighting social injustice and providing health care to all Mississippi citizens during the civil rights era. Granted by the AMA Board of Trustees, the Medal of Valor Award honors AMA members who demonstrate courage under extraordinary circumstances in non-wartime situations.

Dr. Smith was an instrumental figure during the civil rights movement in Mississippi, providing consistent health care to those with little or no access. A founder of the Medical Committee for Civil Rights and the Committee for Human Rights in the mid-1960s, Dr. Smith and other health care professionals aided and treated civil rights workers and many other Mississippians during the Freedom Summer of 1964.

“In dangerous, volatile times in our country, Dr. Smith placed himself repeatedly in harm’s way and made it his mission to stand up for the health care rights of African Americans,” said AMA President David O. Barbe, M.D. “He is a man of compassion, courage and bravery, who routinely put the health and wellbeing of others ahead of his own by providing medical care to the poor, uninsured and underserved citizens of Mississippi.”

Dr. Smith co-authored, founded and implemented the concept of Federally Qualified Health Centers.  He co-founded the nation’s first rural community health center, Delta Health Center, in Mound Bayou, Miss., as well as the Mississippi Primary Health Care Association (MPHCA), which provides accessible and affordable primary medical care and dental care services to individuals and families. There are now more than 10,000 centers serving 30 million Americans, including several hundred thousand Mississippians.

A native of Terry, Miss., and graduate of Tougaloo College, Dr. Smith received his medical degree from Howard Medical School and serves as president and chief executive officer of the Central Mississippi Health Services, Inc. He and his wife, Otrie Hickerson Smith, M.D., have three children. 

The AMA presented Dr. Smith the Medal of Valor Award during the opening session of the 2017 AMA Interim Meeting.

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The American Medical Association is the physicians’ powerful ally in patient care. As the only medical association that convenes 190+ state and specialty medical societies and other critical stakeholders, the AMA represents physicians with a unified voice to all key players in health care.  The AMA leverages its strength by removing the obstacles that interfere with patient care, leading the charge to prevent chronic disease and confront public health crises and, driving the future of medicine to tackle the biggest challenges in health care.

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