North Carolina Doctor Named 2017 Family Physician of the Year

Raeford family physician recognized for providing healing touch to patients and community

Friday, Sept. 23, 2016

Janelle Davis
American Academy of Family Physicians
(800) 274-2237, Ext. 6253
(913) 912-0377 (Sept. 22–24)

ORLANDO -- The American Academy of Family Physicians today awarded its highest honor to Karen L. Smith, MD, FAAFP, of Raeford, North Carolina. Smith was named the AAFP’s national 2017 Family Physician of the Year, which honors one outstanding American family physician who provides patients with compassionate, comprehensive care, and serves as a role model in his or her community and to other health professionals. She accepted the award during the AAFP’s annual meeting, the Family Medicine Experience.

Smith has served the citizens of rural Hoke County, North Carolina, for more than two decades. There she provides the full spectrum of family medicine from obstetrics to care for the elderly. “The power of touch: spiritual, physical and emotional” are words she lives by, both in her clinical work and personal life. Despite running a bustling independent family medicine practice, Smith’s care extends beyond the exam room to her family and community.

Raeford is located in an impoverished rural area of the state where primary care physicians are in short supply. More than a decade ago, Smith’s practice was one of the first rural, independent, state-of-the-art family medicine practices to simultaneously invest in technology such as interactive patient portals, kiosk-based check-ins and electronic health records. This established her as one of Hoke County’s most important and progressive health care providers.

Smith has since earned a national reputation as a leading proponent of health information technology and is an aggressive promoter of computer literacy among her patient population.

Many consider Smith’s use of health information technology to be a model for rural family medicine practice. However, for Smith, technology is fundamentally a means through which she achieves two aims: providing better patient care and encouraging patients to engage in their health. She has a unique gift for leveraging technology to serve the needs of her patients.

She also was an early adopter of patient advisory panels, using their input to develop strategies to help guide her practice. A trailblazer at heart, she has long used this approach to improve the depth, breadth and quality of service she provides. With her patients as partners, her whole community is better served.

Alongside her practice, Smith also serves as medical director and supervising physician of the Hoke County Health Department. There she treats patients and works tirelessly to help train other health professionals and inspire them to continue serving in the area. On a broader community scale, Smith supports key social service efforts across the region addressing substance abuse issues, food-related health disparities, and working with local youth to deliver after-school programs and guidance. Smith is also a trusted public voice within community media, hosting a weekly radio program sharing timely health information. This has been especially beneficial for elderly patients in the region.

Smith advocates for family medicine and its value to the health care system through her involvement with organizations such as the North Carolina Academy of Family Physicians, the North Carolina Medical Society and the North Carolina Medical Care Advisory Committee. She has been called upon to testify on Capitol Hill regarding the challenges and benefits of electronic health technology, and was named a Meaningful Use Vanguard Fellow by the Office of the National Coordinator in 2013. In addition, she has served as chair of the AAFP’s Commission on Practice Enhancement and Quality, and is currently a member of the AAFP Commission on Governmental Advocacy. Through all of these roles, Smith’s work has impacted family medicine and patient care in ways that extend far beyond North Carolina.

Smith’s investments in practice infrastructure, community health, and health care advocacy continue to pay big dividends through improved quality, increased access to care, greater efficiency, streamlined patient communication and more effective population health management. Her contributions and achievements are representative of who family physicians are and what they can aspire to be in similar places in the United States.

Smith earned her Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and her medical degree from the Hahnemann University School of Medicine in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She completed her residency at the Duke/Southern Regional Area Health Education Center Family Medicine Residency Program in Fayetteville, North Carolina. She went on to earn a post-residency certificate focused on preparing physicians to teach in residency and medical school education programs from the Duke University Faculty Development.

Smith is board certified by the American Board of Family Medicine. She has the AAFP Degree of Fellow, an earned degree awarded to family physicians for distinguished service and continuing medical education.

Editor’s Note: To arrange an interview with Dr. Smith, please contact Janelle Davis at (800) 274-2237, ext. 6253, or (913) 912-0377. A downloadable photo is available online here(50 KB JPG). 


Founded in 1947, the American Academy of Family Physicians represents 134,600 physicians and medical students nationwide, and it is the only medical society devoted solely to primary care.

Family physicians conduct approximately one in five of the total medical office visits in the United States per year – more than any other specialty. Family physicians provide comprehensive, evidence-based, and cost-effective care dedicated to improving the health of patients, families and communities. Family medicine’s cornerstone is an ongoing and personal patient-physician relationship where the family physician serves as the hub of each patient’s integrated care team. More Americans depend on family physicians than on any other medical specialty.

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