2015 Top Doctor: Michael Smith, MD

Category: Profiles Issue: April 2015
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Thoracic Disease

Med School/Year Graduated: University of California San Francisco School of Medicine, 1994
Years in Practice: 11

Why did you specialize in thoracic medicine?
Early in my training, I became attracted to the developments in lung and esophageal surgery as well as lung transplantation.

Tuberculosis patients once came to Arizona for the warm, dry weather. How often do you see TB now?
We see very few tuberculosis cases today due to early treatment and prevention strategies deployed by the medical community over the past several years.

Have you ever smoked? How do you advise patients to quit?
I have never smoked. My preferred methods to assist my patients with cessation include counseling regarding the benefits of smoking cessation, employment of the Arizona Smokers’ Helpline, and drug therapy if necessary.

What are your thoughts on vaping and e-cigarettes?
E-cigarettes are probably less harmful than real cigarettes but are by no means risk-free. [They] still contain nicotine and can be a gateway to real cigarettes for youths and nonsmokers.

How common are lung transplants today?
Approximately 4,000 lung transplants are done worldwide for end-stage lung disease. Overall, this is very successful in saving patients’ lives. The lung transplant program at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Norton Thoracic Institute is currently the busiest on the west coast.

Is asthma on the rise in the Valley? Is it the haboobs?
We do think that haboobs and pollution can make it more difficult for asthma patients. Another health concern is the Valley Fever fungal spores that are aerosolized during the haboobs.

“If I wasn’t a doctor, I’d be...”
A sailboat delivery captain.