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Heritage Snapshot: Part 168

By Richard Schaefer
Community Writer
03/08/2023 at 03:31 PM

Louis L. Smith, MD (CME Class of 1949) was President of the Pacific Coast Vascular Society. In 1967, he performed the first organ transplant in Loma Linda. The kidney transplant was performed just months before patients moved from the old hospital on the hill into the new University Hospital on July 9, 1967.

Louis Smith was born on May 19, 1925, in College Place, Washington, near Walla Walla College. His parents were both educators. His father, Walter I. Smith, EdD, eventually became president of Walla Walla College, Pacific Union College, Angwin, California, and Newbold College, in England. From the General Conference Department of Education he supervised SDA colleges in North America and Northern Europe, and always insisted on high standards of scholarship. Louis’ mother taught English. His uncle, Wilburn Smith, MD, a surgeon at the White Memorial Hospital in Los Angeles, was his mentor. By the time Louis was 12, because of the good influence of his uncle and because he was good with his hands, Louis knew that he wanted to be a surgeon. And because of his parents’ involvement in education, teaching was the “thing to do.” 

Following his pre-medical education at Pacific Union College and Walla Walla College, in 1944 Louis started medical school in Loma Linda, where he met Marguerite Gardner. Marguerite’s father, Floyd Gardner, MD, taught chemistry and physiology at the College of Medical Evangelists. During his basic sciences education Louis painted some illustrations for Dr. Samuel Crooks’ new anatomy syllabus. In 1947, between his junior and senior years of medical school, Louis and Marguerite were married in the Loma Linda Hill Church. Marguerite graduated from La Sierra College, worked at the Glendale Sanitarium and Hospital, and provided the family’s financial support. 

After completing his medical education at CME in 1949, Louis wanted to join its faculty. To be his best he took the first part of his residency in vascular surgery at the huge Los Angeles County General Hospital and additional postgraduate work in transplant surgery research at Harvard University. 

In 1962 Dr. Smith became one of the first of the Loma Linda University School of Medicine faculty to move from Los Angeles during the School’s consolidation in Loma Linda. The decision to move was easy because Loma Linda was Marguerite’s home and because Louis wanted so much to inspire student physicians in the mission of the institution. He felt that moving the School to Loma Linda would be best for the institution and its students’ wellbeing. 

Louis liked surgery because he could address his patients’ immediate needs and see results quite soon. In addition to providing good patient care, Dr. Smith wanted to improve the practice of medicine and surgery. He was always interested in research. In fact, he directed a research laboratory in Los Angeles for five years. After coming to Loma Linda, he was a mentor to Leonard L. Bailey, Loma Linda University’s future infant heart transplant pioneer. Dr. Smith was known as one of the Loma Linda physicians who prayed with his patients. One of his patients reported, “I couldn’t help but feel that I was in good hands, knowing that I was in the hands of praying doctors.”