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Alexander Smith, MD, MPH, MS

TitleAssociate Professor
InstitutionUniversity of California San Francisco
DepartmentMedicine
Address4150 Clement St
San Francisco CA 94121
Phone415-221-4810 ext. 4684
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    Collapse Biography 
    Collapse Education and Training
    University of California, San FranciscoM.D.2002 Medicine
    University of California, BerkeleyM.S.1999 School of Public Health
    University of MichiganBS1996Cellular and Molecular Biology
    Harvard UniversityMPH2005School of Public Health
    Brigham and Women's HospitalResidency2005Primary Care Internal Medicine
    Brigham and Women's Hospital/Dana Farber Cancer InstituteFellowship2006Palliative Medicine
    Beth Israel Deaconess Medical CenterFellowship2008General Internal Medicine
    Collapse Awards and Honors
    Brigham and Women's Hospital2004  - 2005Outstanding Resident Mentor Award
    University of Michigan1996Phi Beta Kappa
    Greenwall Foundation2010  - 2014Greenwall Faculty Scholar in Bioethics
    American Federation for Aging Research/NIA2012  - 2017Paul Beeson Career Development Award In Geriatrics
    Society of General Internal Medicine2012  - 2012Best Paper of the Year Award
    Annals of Internal Medicine2012  - 2012Top Reviewer
    Medical Students in Aging Research2013  - 2013Research Mentor of the Year
    Project on Death in America 2014  - 2014PDIA National Leadership Award
    Reynolds Foundation 2016  - 2016Eprognosis awarded Product of the Decade
    OnlineColleges.com2012  - 2012One of "50 Best Medical Professors on Twitter"

    Collapse Overview 
    Collapse Overview
    Alex Smith is a clinician-researcher who is at the forefront of efforts to integrate Geriatrics and Palliative Care. Dr. Smith received his medical school training in the UC Berkeley/UCSF Joint Medical Program. He completed a primary care internal medicine residency at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) followed by two fellowships, a one-year clinical fellowship in Palliative Medicine at BWH and Dana Farber Cancer Institute, followed by a two-year General Internal Medicine Fellowship at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, including an MPH from the Harvard School of Public Health. Dr. Smith returned to UCSF in July 2008 as faculty in the Division of Geriatrics.

    Dr. Smith's research program focuses on improving palliative care for vulnerable and dependent elders. He has strong interests in bioethics and improving patient-physician communication. He is currently funded by a Paul Beeson National Institute on Aging K23 career development award. Dr. Smith works clinically on the Hospice and Palliative Care Service at the SF VAMC. Dr. Smith and Dr. Eric Widera co-founded GeriPal, a Geriatrics and Palliative Care Blog, the leading source for news and commentary related to Geriatrics and Palliative Care on the web. GeriPal received nearly 2.5 million page views between 2009 and 2015. Also working with Dr. Widera and Drs. Sei Lee and Mara Schonberg, Dr. Smith launched ePrognosis, an online set of prognostic calculators for the elderly. ePrognosis had over half a million page views in the first week, and over 1 million between 2012 and 2015.

    Research:

    Dr. Smith is a general internist dually trained in palliative medicine and health services research, focused on integrating geriatrics and palliative care.

    Dr. Smith’s research is motivated by a recognition that the overwhelming need for palliative care services occurs in the elderly. Unfortunately, however, older persons are severely underrepresented both in the receipt of palliative care services and in palliative care research. This gap in our understanding exists for a reason: the challenges of studying palliative care needs in frail elders with multiple diagnoses, and frequently with functional and cognitive impairment, are much more complicated than studying these needs in younger patients with cancer. Dr. Smith embraces the challenge of research in this complex area.

    While Dr. Smith is broadly interested in issues at the intersection of geriatrics and palliative care, his research has largely been organized around three primary areas: end-of-life experiences, patient-doctor communication, and cultural attitudes toward care. In a series of studies examining a nationally representative group of older adults who died, Dr. Smith demonstrated that: (1) pain due to arthritis is under-recognized in the last years of life; (2) lengths of stay in nursing homes for patients who die are shorter than generally appreciated (median 5 months, average 14 months); and (3) emergency departments and skilled nursing facilities are common sites of care in the last months of life and should be a focus of efforts to improve the quality of palliative care. Dr. Smith has a strong interest in understanding how cultural factors influence the perspectives and experiences of patients with serious illness or disability and their families. For example, in a recent study, Dr. Smith found that two-thirds of Chinese American, African American, Latino, and white elders with disability would want to be told their prognosis if they had less than 5 years left to live. He therefore argues that clinicians should offer to discuss prognosis with their very elderly patients, both because it allows for more informed medical decision making and because many patients want to know so they can prepare for the future.

    Clinical:

    Dr. Smith's primary clinical work is on the Hospice and Palliative Care service at the SF VAMC. In this capacity, he consults on the management of patients with palliative care needs in the hospital and cares for patients who reside in the hospice facility located within the Community Living Center.


    Collapse Research 
    Collapse Research Activities and Funding
    Developing prognostic models for life expectancy and geriatric outcomes
    NIH/NIA R01AG047897May 15, 2015 - Jan 31, 2019
    Role: Principal Investigator
    P0045982 Late Life Disability: Epidemiology, Symptoms, Quality of Life
    NIH/NIA K23AG040772Sep 1, 2012 - Nov 30, 2017
    Role: Principal Investigator

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