Virginia Tech alumnus Sidney Smith on a mission to serve
Dr. Sidney Smith, a 1963 chemical engineering graduate from the College of Engineering, racks up a lot of frequent-flier miles.
In just one month, he traveled to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, London, San Diego, Bethesda, Md., Paris, and Helsinki, Finland — and even spent some time at his home in North Carolina. The following month he went to China and Australia.
His travels aren’t just for pleasure, though. His trips most often involve speaking to international audiences about treating and preventing heart disease and stroke.
Smith is a professor of medicine and director of the Center for Cardiovascular Science and Medicine at the University of North Carolina. He began his term as president of the World Heart Federation in January 2010. He has also been involved with the American Heart Association for the past two decades, serving as president from 1995-1996 and chief science officer from 2001-2003. For the past 15 years, he has provided leadership in the development of national and international guidelines, especially in the area of prevention strategies for cardiovascular disease.
Despite his busy schedule, Smith still finds time to serve his alma mater. He is currently serving as co-chair of the Raleigh/Durham Regional Campaign Committee.
“I think all of us who went to Virginia Tech understand the value of that education,” Smith said. “I wanted to find a way to contribute and give back so that those who follow will benefit just as we did from those who preceded us.
“There are so many creative and innovative ideas that have been launched on campus that it is essential that everyone pitches in to make them a reality,” he said. “It is only when they become a reality that we can make true progress.”
Attending Virginia Tech
Smith comes from a Virginia Tech family. His father had both undergraduate and graduate degrees from the university and many members of the family also attended. But family ties weren’t the only reason Smith chose to enroll.
Smith, a high school football star and a strong student, had been offered a national honor scholarship to Cornell — one of only 25 given each year. But he said he chose Virginia Tech because it had a strong reputation in engineering and a Division I football program. Smith came to Blacksburg, Va., and played for two years in Coach Frank Moseley’s backfield.
After two years on the gridiron, however, Smith was faced with a difficult decision. He was already in the academically rigorous chemical engineering program and he knew he wanted to pursue a career in medicine, which meant his course work would become more difficult. He had to choose between football and medicine. Medicine won.
A trip to Japan with Virginia Tech’s Episcopal chaplain, R. Baldwin Lloyd, was a pivotal experience for the young Smith because it solidified his desire to go to medical school and allowed him to think in international terms, an ability that has influenced his professional path.
“A great deal changed in who I thought I was and where I would head from when I entered as a freshman to when I walked out the door with my degree in chemical engineering headed to medical school at Yale,” Smith said.
After Virginia Tech, Smith attended Yale School of Medicine, where his background in chemical engineering gave him the opportunity to do research with the National Institutes of Health (NIH). After his training there, the young doctor took a fellowship at Brigham and Women’s Hospital at Harvard. It was the combination of his engineering background from Virginia Tech and his cardiovascular and medical training from Yale and Harvard that led him to pursue a career in academic medicine, he said.
A man on a mission
These days, Smith spends about one-third of his time seeing patients and teaching at UNC, another third working at NIH on new heart disease and stroke prevention guidelines for the United States, and another third traveling to speak to international audiences about heart health.
One of his most important projects is Go Red for Women, an effort led by the American Heart Association to educate women about their number one killer in the United States — heart disease.
With his travel and commitments, Smith appears to be a man on a mission — a mission to serve a worldwide community. But that mission includes giving back to Virginia Tech. He gives back because he doesn’t want to miss the opportunity to make a difference.
“There is so much that everyone can accomplish on a personal basis and it is really this type of giving that moves Virginia Tech forward and helps dreams become a reality,” he said. “Never underestimate the amount that each individual’s gift can make to a young student.”
- For more information on this topic, contact Amy Ostroth at (540) 231-1969
What is The Campaign for Virginia Tech: Invent the Future?
The Campaign for Virginia Tech: Invent the Future is a $1 billion campaign, launched in October 2007. For the campaign, Virginia Tech outlined five funding priorities to concentrate future effort.
These priorities are:
- Academic excellence
- Undergraduate experience
- Research facilities
- Virginia Tech and the community
- The President’s Discovery Fund.
Gifts made to any of these areas will affect lives on all corners of this campus and around the world and your support of the campaign allows you to play a role in inventing the future -- the future of research, the future of service and leadership, the future of learning, the future of building technologies, and the future of the arts.
For more on these priorities, visit The Campaign for Virginia Tech website.
Like many alumni, Joe Collie first came to Virginia Tech in his late teens. But for Collie, then an 18-year-old native of Danville, Va., it was not the university’s academic offerings that brought him here — it was an assignment by the Army Specialized Training Program during World War II.
Regions of The Campaign for Virginia Tech
Dr. Sidney Smith is the co-chair of the Raleigh/Durham Regional Campaign Committee, along with Joe Collie. The campaign will travel to 15 other regions as well, including
- Roanoke Valley
- Hampton Roads
- Tampa Bay/Orlando
- Charlotte, N.C.
- Northern Virginia
- Greensboro/Winston-Salem, N.C.
- Bay Area
- Richmond, Va.
- Los Angeles
- Dallas/Fort Worth
- Washington, D.C./Maryland
- New York City
Look through previous Spotlight stories