ASH GROVE, Mo. – Ash Grove is mourning the loss of its only family physician. Dr. Mark Smith died last week following COVID-19-related complications.
“He was one of those doctors that took time to listen to you and ask you questions,” said Judi Frost, a patient of Smith’s and the owner of Queen Bee Floral & Gifts on Main Street.
Patients, friends, family, and colleagues are still reeling from the loss of Smith, who died last Thursday, Aug. 5, at the age of 52. Smith practiced at Ash Grove Family Medical Center in U.S. 160.
Smith is also being remembered by the community for his caring heart, personal approach, and sense of humor.
“I had a mole that one time and he said, ‘It doesn’t look like a mole; it looks like a big old tick’ It wasn’t, it was a mole” Frost said. “But he just had to tease me about it. And that is just probably something that I will remember. Hate to see him gone.”
“In thinking about going to see Doctor Smith in his office, it felt like you were going to see an old friend. It felt like you were going to chat with an old friend,” said Jennifer Martin, another patient of Smith. “And if there was anything concerning your mental health, he homed in on that. And I always appreciated that.”
While the community focuses on the positive contributions of the doctor to the community, there are also many conversations taking place regarding the illness that contributed to his untimely death.
The exact details surrounding the doctor’s illness have not been made public. Still, the situation is leading many people to have some hard conversations about what happened.
“COVID is scary. it is a scary thing, it is real,” said Melissa Mau. “In my heart, I know more people are going to get vaccinated because of it. I know my husband did for that reason. He was like oh my gosh….that is kind of scary that the doctor got it.”
She added, “It’s just really sad for the whole community because it is so hard to get a doctor in a small community, and we really appreciate it when we do have one.”
Alberta Williams, Smith’s mother, announced last week her son passed away due to COVID-19 complications. His obituary does not list a cause of death.
Williams explained, “He went home at night thinking and praying for those that needed more than he could give. There are any number of people who could share about Mark, both a doctor and as a man. As his mother, I’m probably most proud of him having the integrity of his medical oath. ‘To heal, not to harm’ and apply it to both body and spirit. He was a big man. The nickname ‘T-bear’ let’s you know he was a gentle physician. A conversation with an “old farmer” meant as much as a talk with a corporate CEO.”
Following his passing, CMH offered its sympathies to the community and family of Smith:
“Citizens Memorial Hospital and Health Care Foundation express our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Mark R. Smith, M.D., who passed away Thursday, August 5th.
Dr. Smith was in practice at Ash Grove Family Medical Center and was the former medical director at Ash Grove Healthcare Facility. Funeral arrangements are pending at this time. He will be greatly missed by his co-workers, patients, and residents.”
CMH says patients can still receive services at the Ash Grove clinic through other medical staff. Also, for the time being, a CMH doctor from the Dade County Family Medical Center in Greenfield will come to town a few times a week to care for patients.