Women's History Month: Meet Carla Smith, DO
Celebrating Women's History Month at Cook Children's
By Ashley Antle
March is Women’s History Month. While the country commemorates the role of women in American History, at Cook Children’s Health Care System, we celebrate the role of women in building one of the largest free-standing pediatric health centers in the country.
After all, it was the vision and generosity of two women that started it all.
One, a former postmistress with few financial resources, Mrs. Ida L. Turner, dreamed of a place where fragile babies would be cared for regardless of their family’s ability to pay. Her vision and hard work led to the opening of the Fort Worth Free Baby Hospital in 1918.
The other was a wealthy heiress who wanted to honor her late husband by helping sick children. In 1929, Mrs. Missouri Matilda Nail Cook dedicated the oil royalties from the Cook Ranch to build the W.I. Cook Memorial Hospital.
Eventually, the two children’s hospitals became one and grew to be one of the finest pediatric medical institutions in the country with more than 1.5 million patient encounters every year.
Throughout our 105-year history, the women of Cook Children’s have championed children; nurtured the sick and hurting; led innovation in science, medicine and technology; and steered the business of health care with imagination, safety, generosity, kindness, respect and collaboration.
While these women number in the thousands throughout Cook Children’s history, this year, we’re highlighting a few who have made their mark in medicine. Each comes from different backgrounds, different specialties and different decades, but they all share two things — a passion for their work and the Promise to improve the well-being of every child in our care and our communities.
Carla Smith, D.O., FACOP, FAAP
Pediatrician at Cook Children’s Pediatrics Burleson
Years at Cook Children’s: 14
Carla Smith, D.O., was a member of one of the first graduating classes at the University of North Texas Health Sciences Center in 1979 — one of only three females out of 70 students. Even so, she doesn’t consider herself a trailblazer for women in medicine.
“You become a family with the people that you spend that much time with,” Dr. Smith said. “As students, we all just wanted each of us to succeed, not caring if we were male or female.”
Dr. Smith can’t remember a time when she didn’t want to be a doctor. She knew, even as a child, that she would pursue a career in medicine. The desire to be a pediatrician came during her pediatric rotations in medical school.
“I realized how much I enjoyed working with children and their zest for life and wellness,” she said. “And possibly a little bit of selfishness as I realized that children love to be well, and they could make me laugh and help me keep a young and healthy attitude.”
Dr. Smith was one of the first locums doctors for the system. A locums doctor is one who works on a temporary basis for another physician. She initially worked part-time for a Cook Children’s physician in Granbury who needed a day off each week to be with her young children, and went on to work temporarily at many local physician offices when they needed someone to fill in.
Then, in 2010, Cook Children’s built a clinic in Burleson, where Dr. Smith lived since 1995. She jumped at the chance to work full-time in her own community.
“I was hired, as was Dr. Lanna McClain, and I can honestly say that we both cried when we arrived at our beautiful office for the first time,” she said. “That is my proudest moment, the opening of the Burleson office, and being able to work in my hometown! It has now been open for 13 years. A fantastic office with three physicians, two nurse practitioners, a great office manager and a great staff.”
The journey to becoming a pediatrician wasn’t always easy, she said, but Dr. Smith wants other women considering a career in medicine to know the hours of study, training and sacrifice were worth it. And when they get overwhelmed, to do what one of her professors once told her: “Take it one step at a time.”