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Photo courtesy of Crlenda Smith

Carlenda M. Smith, M.D.

Carlenda Smith: Love, care for all

 

Cindy Solomon
September/October 2017

Practicing faith at work

For more than 10 years Dr. Carlenda M. Smith, a board-certified general pediatrician and assistant professor of clinical pediatrics at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee, has had countless opportunities to weave her faith into everyday encounters with patients and their families.

"As a young person, I knew I wanted a career in the medical field," said Smith. Growing up, Smith's parents often referred to her as "Lucy" — the comic character in Peanuts. "I had a knack for listening and giving advice — things I consider gifts from God."

Smith relies on her faith for guidance in everything she does and realizes her journey into the medical field was made possible by the divine presence of God. However, the journey was not always easy. Smith failed her first block of tests in medical school and remembers several professors encouraging her to consider other career options.

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"I remember praying and asking God what to do. I felt God telling me, ‘I did not send you here to fail.' I learned how to study more efficiently and I continued praying. After that first semester, I passed all my tests and excelled in all of my courses."

As a young physician, Smith faced faith-building challenges. "Fresh out of residency I was working at a clinic that was plagued by an unusual number of problems," Smith recalled. "I was the only doctor employed there so essentially I was running my own clinic. Nothing can prepare you for the day you have to deliver bad news to a family, and that first time came early in my career."

Smith was seeing a young patient with unusual symptoms. "The child did not fit the profile of a seriously ill child but the Holy Spirit was telling me to trust my instincts. My worst fears were realized when test results showed an aggressive malignancy that required immediate surgery. When I delivered the news to the family, we all wept and prayed. I thanked God for the divine wisdom and intervention that led me to the diagnosis. Through God's healing power, the child went through surgery and treatment and is now free of the malignancy."

For Smith, practicing her faith in the workplace means being open and loving to everyone she sees. "I have the privilege of nurturing and caring for a diverse patient population," she said. "Learning about various cultures and religions has been amazing. As a believer in God, my eyes have been open to my patients' need for compassion, understanding and love. My faith has enabled me to be more caring, loving and accepting of individuals as they are. For me, that is practicing God's love."

Smith, a member of John Wesley United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tennessee, believes sharing our faith means loving and caring for everyone we meet. "In this day and age, there seems to be a lack of respect for those who differ from us or who have a different faith. I believe actions speak louder than words. As found in 1 Corinthians 13:13, ‘But the greatest of these is love.'

"I am a living testimony of what God can do, and certain scripture passages have been part of my journey. I am often reminded of Psalm 128:1-2, ‘Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things.'" Smith is also drawn to Philippians 4:6, "Don't worry about anything, instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done."

Cindy Solomon is a marketing consultant and freelance writer living in Franklin,Tennessee.