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Meet MarinHealth Primary Care Physician, Jerome Smith

Jerome Smith was working in IT and volunteering with an afterschool program for underserved youngsters when he realized his true passion was helping kids. So he went back to school, getting his medical degree from George Washington University. Dr. Smith’s philosophy of care reflects the influence of his mentors at Cedars-Sinai in LA, where he completed his internship and residency. Dr. Smith believes that a person’s infancy and childhood have a life-long effect on their health and potential for success. He enjoys advising the parents of his patients to help them promote the healthy habits children need to thrive.
Meet MarinHealth Primary Care Physician, Jerome Smith
Featured Speaker:
Jerome Smith, MD
Dr. Smith is a Board Certified pediatrician at MarinHealth Pediatric Care | A UCSF Health Clinic and a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. He earned his medical degree from George Washington University in Washington, DC and completed his combined Pediatric Internship and Residency at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. During residency, he also completed a Masters of Public Health degree with a focus on Child Health Policy at UCLA. He is fluent in Spanish and conversant in French, and he appreciates being able to communicate in the language a family is most comfortable using. He sees children from the newborn period through their college years. 

Learn more about Jerome Smith, MD
Transcription:
Meet MarinHealth Primary Care Physician, Jerome Smith

Caitlin Whyte: Our doctors know so much about us, but what do we know about them? Today we're sitting down with Dr. Jerome Smith, a Pediatrician at MarinHealth Pediatric Care. He'll share with us his education, training and philosophy of care.

This is the Healing Podcast brought to you by MarinHealth. I'm your host, Caitlin Whyte. So Dr. Smith, what made you decide to become a physician?

Jerome Smith, MD: I graduated from engineering school in the early nineties. I worked in DC in IT and was volunteering with an afterschool program for underserved kids, one day a week. And I realized I got a lot more energy from that 90 minutes helping kids than I did at my day job. So I think it was a combination of interpersonal contact and the ability to help someone early in life. I had way too much student debt to consider going to social work or psychology, lots of math and science behind me. So I thought pediatrics would be a good fit. I took a one transitional year preparing for med school and teaching high school. And that time of my adolescence just further cemented my decision.

Caitlin Whyte: I love that. And you touched on it a bit, but where did you receive your education and training?

Jerome Smith, MD: I did my undergrad at Duke University and stayed in DC for medical school. I went to George Washington University. And this was right about the time that Clinton Health Plan debates were happening. So it was an exciting time to be in Washington for us medical students. But there were a couple of really cold snowy winters during my clinical years. So I elected to come to California for residency. I did my internship and residency at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles and my Master's at UCLA at the same time.

Caitlin Whyte: Now tell us about your philosophy of care. How do you approach the care of your patients?

Jerome Smith, MD: That's a great question. My philosophy of care was heavily influenced by my mentors at Cedars and at UCLA who were very system oriented. They introduced me to this idea of life course health development that certain things in early life can influence your whole lifelong potential from very early on. The concept of a trajectory that can be positively or negatively bent, influenced by fetal factors, early childhood factors and other things in childhood adolescence.

And as all of these fields coalesced, everything from genetics and epigenetics, your home, your neighborhood, school, community environment, social systems, even policy, your access to care, your access, to clean air and parks, all of these things set you up on a on a track.

And I see my role as kind of promoting those things that can positively influence that trajectory, encouraging parents to read to their children from early on, or proper early identification of developmental mental differences, or caring for chronic disease so that they're managed well, behavioral, emotional issues, all of that stuff. And then on the flip side of that, mitigating negative effects on that trajectory, things like excess screen time, untreated cavities, development of obesity, those sorts of things, so that they have less of a lasting effect in midlife. I think that optimizing a child's development for school readiness is an outflow of that.

Counseling teens on harm reduction and critical thinking development are outflows of that more recently in California, anyway. We have this move to understand trauma informed care and recognition of those cumulative effects of those kinds of toxic stresses or adverse child experiences. That's another kind of outflow of that. So I approach care with a particular focus on the comprehensive wellness exam, so we can check in on a lot of those things, but also on actively coordinating care in the case of chronic illness and putting things into a larger context. I'd say as a scientist and certainly as a public health professional, I'm a strong vaccine proponent. So that's part of my philosophy of care. And I also really like teaching parents and the older kids during their visits. The word doctor, actually, it comes from a Latin root Doceri, meaning to teach. So the word docent and doctor comes from the same root. So hopefully we can teach what it is and why it's important. We get better follow-through from families who maybe just need to hear a little more context before they make decisions about their kid's health.

Caitlin Whyte: Now you mentioned you got to California because of your residency. Now, what brought you to the Bay area?

Jerome Smith, MD: Well, I was a military brat, so I was used to moving around and seeing lots of different places. But California in particular, has always represented to me a vibrant mix of ideas and innovation and, and good weather. And the Bay area has a very temperate climate, I live in a beautiful small town and Sonoma really drew me in and sealed the deal.

Caitlin Whyte: What are some other, what do you like to do in the Bay area? What are your favorite parts of it?

Jerome Smith, MD: Well, like I said, the weather's great. We can reach the mountains. We can reach the ocean. We can go down to big city. You know, arts and performing arts and museums and such all within an hour's drive. So that's really great. I lived in big cities for many decades of my life. And at this stage with having young kids, this is kind of the best of both worlds. We have a very informed, educated, interesting diverse population here. And yet it's not that big, heavy pace. And there's no traffic. I think I have a seven minutes commute to work.

Caitlin Whyte: Oh my gosh. We love that.

Jerome Smith, MD: I know, right?

Caitlin Whyte: Now, besides the good weather, of course. What drew you to MarinHealth?

Jerome Smith, MD: Well, I love the balance of working in a small practice. We have some great colleagues and then the balance of the support of a larger system like MarinHealth and its affiliation with UCSF Health one of the world's finest medical centers. So it's the best of both worlds.

Caitlin Whyte: Great, Dr. Smith, is there anything else you'd like your patients to know about you.

Jerome Smith, MD: I have twin sons and they continue to teach me a lot about pediatrics and being flexible with solutions and just the general challenges of being a parent, certainly. I love to travel, expose our sons to other languages, cultures, and histories. We actually hosted two exchange students before the kids were born and now, they are young adults. So we love whenever we can meet up with them anywhere.

Caitlin Whyte: Oh, how cool. Where were they from?

Jerome Smith, MD: One was from Norway and then a second year was from Sweden.

Caitlin Whyte: That is really cool.

Jerome Smith, MD: Yeah, it's like the kids have extra sets of parents and brothers in Scandinavia. I'm also a human jukebox. So my patients will hear me humming and whistling in the halls a lot in the office. And I perform with a local chamber ensemble, at least pre COVID anyway, when we could still do those sorts of things.

Caitlin Whyte: Well, thank you so much, Dr. Smith for taking the time to share with us a bit about yourself. You can learn more about all of our doctors at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. This is the Health Podcast brought to you by MarinHealth. I'm Caitlin Whyte. Stay well.