Lompoc Valley Medical Center extends its condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of former local surgeon, Dr. Frank L. Smith, who was killed in the crash of his twin-engine Aztec airplane on Jan. 17.
The 75-year-old was the lone occupant in the crash, which occurred south of Ellensburg, WA.
Dr. Smith operated on patients at the former Lompoc hospital site in the late 1980s and early 1990s. A graduate of Harvard Medical School, Dr. Smith was, at the time of his death, a general surgeon employed by Kittitas Valley Healthcare, a rural healthcare organization.
Melissa DeBacker, now LVMC’s Chief of Quality Assurance and Performance Improvement/Risk Management and Infection Control, worked as a nurse with Dr. Smith when he was a surgeon treating patients in the Intensive Care Unit.
“He was a physician who was skilled and meticulous -- a world-class human being,” she said. “Blessings and sympathies to his family and friends.”
OBGYN Dr. Rod Huss commented that Dr. Smith was a “gifted surgeon and a very nice human being.” Former Director of Nursing Martha Hicks said the surgeon was “very caring to the patients. He was kind and nice and helpful to nurses. We were crushed when he left.”
Dr. Smith’s coworkers in Washington remembered him as a “gracious and gentleman.”
Dr. Smith grew up in the San Fernando Valley. The great-grandson of a slave, he was a civil rights activist in college. He met Martin Luther King Jr., Medgar Evers, and Rosa Parks and participated in the march from Selma and the March on Washington in 1963, according to a story about him on the Kittitas Valley Healthcare website.
An Air Force veteran, he also previously worked in private practice in Southern California and with the Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic.