Dr. Karen Smith

Dr. Karen Smith knows much about caring for patients from different socioeconomic, racial, and geographic backgrounds.  She has treated people who are Caucasian, African American, Native American Indian, and Hispanic, male, female, newborn, geriatric, poor, wealthy, insured and uninsured, employed and unemployed.  Healthcare disparities are something she is keenly aware of.  “The impact of disparities in care crosses multiple socioeconomic levels,” she says, “the burden of less than optimal disease management affects not only the individual, but the entire community.”

As a longtime member of the North Carolina Medical Society, she has seen and participated in many ways to confront healthcare disparities.

In a recent article in NCFP she recounted some of her patients and how they handled similar healthcare issues differently.  She notes that how individuals respond to care is influenced by how people are treated by physicians and clinical staff, EMS personnel, language differences, physical barriers to care, and economic realities of families.  She says that “despite advances in technology and enhancements in clinical education, the mortality rate for minorities in the United States remains substantially higher than the Caucasian population.”

Smith says that it is “imperative to correct this difference in case management.  The health of the individual is key to maintaining a strong workforce with less dependence on public assistance for support of the family unit.”  She aims for lifelong relationships with patients and the development of a sense of trust.  “The recognition of the family physician as an advocate for the individual patient must be communicated to the public.”

As part of her commitment to her patients, Smith recently opened a new practice facility in Raeford.  It was designed to embrace new technology that gets patients involved and comfortable with a new way of seeing their physician.  Her waiting room features a working fireplace that promotes the concept of family and relaxation.  It is a first of its kind for a family medicine practice in North Carolina.