2012 Health Care Heroes: Jodi L. Smith, PhD, M.D.

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Health Care HeroesFINALIST: Physician

Jodi L. Smith, PhD, M.D.

John E. Kalsbeck Professor and Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery, James Whitcomb Riley Hospital for Children/Goodman Campbell Brain and Spine


While earning an advanced degree in anatomy from the University of Utah School of Medicine, Jodi Smith, PhD, M.D., conducted research to try to prevent problems like spina bifida. She was preparing for an academic career, but a chance meeting with a pediatric neurosurgeon made her switch paths. Smith went on to earn her medical degree, graduating first in her class and completing her fellowship in pediatric neurosurgery at Harvard in the Boston Children’s Hospital. Thousands of children and families who benefit from her skills as one of the nation’s top pediatric neurosurgeons are very glad she did.

Smith_Jodi_Phys.jpg (IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

So is Smith. Her office is filled with mementos from grateful families. “I want to be the best for my kids,” Smith said. “It’s so much fun to be part of their lives and to feel like I’ve been able to make a difference.”

One of only 137 board-certified, fellowship-trained pediatric neurosurgeons nationwide, Smith and her partners perform 1,000 surgeries and see 6,000 patients each year for neurosurgical issues. Most surgeries are for traumatic brain and spine injuries, brain and spinal cord tumors, congenital spine and craniofacial disorders and hydrocephalus (water on the brain). But Smith also performs complicated surgeries for epilepsy and for moyamoya, a cerebrovascular disorder resulting from blocked arteries at the base of the brain. She’s one of the few pediatric surgeons in the nation who does.

“Smith is often the last hope for children with such complex conditions,” said Sheila J. Ogden, administrative director for IU Health Neuroscience.

Some children with epilepsy continue to have seizures even while taking multiple medications. Approximately 86-percent of them are able to live seizure-free—some no longer requiring medications—after Smith operates. She is conducting epilepsy research and hopes to collaborate with colleagues at Eli Lilly and Co. to develop improved medications for seizures. She loves the challenge, but she does it all for the kids.

“The only thing rivaling Smith’s skill in performing cutting-edge procedures is her special gift for building trust with families in crisis,” Ogden said.

Smith, age 50, doesn’t have children of her own, but she treats the hundreds of patients she operates on each year as if they were her own. “These parents are handing over these precious little people to us to operate on and care for,” she said. “If I perceive parents need to talk to me because they are worried about their child’s upcoming surgery, I’ll stay there for however long it takes.” Smith, who is blessed with an enthusiasm for life and an abundance of energy, admits to spending about 90-percent of her time at Riley.

She’s received 34 Red Shoes Awards from Riley for her outstanding dedication and commitment to pediatric patients and their families. Her peers nationwide voted her among the top neurosurgeons in the nation, according to U.S. News and World Report’s list of America’s Top Doctors (2011-2012).

Smith feels she’s been divinely guided throughout her life. “I believe that one of my purposes in life is to be a pediatric neurosurgeon,” she said. “It’s a lot of stress and a lot of pressure, but it’s worth it. I know the strength and the help I get comes from God.”


Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. So much for Eric Holder's conversation about race. If white people have got something to say, they get sued over it. Bottom line: white people have un-freer speech than others as a consequence of the misnamed "Civil rights laws."

  2. I agree, having seen three shows, that I was less than wowed. Disappointing!!

  3. Start drilling, start fracking, and start using our own energy. Other states have enriched their citizens and nearly elminated unemployment by using these resources that are on private land. If you are against the 'low prices' of discount stores, the best way to allow shoppers more choice is to empower them with better earnings. NOT through manipulated gov mandated min wage hikes, but better jobs and higher competitive pay. This would be direct result of using our own energy resources, yet Obama knows that Americans who arent dependent of gov welfare are much less likely to vote Dem, so he looks for ways to ensure America's decline and keep its citizens dependent of gov.

  4. Say It Loud, I'm Black and Ashamed: It's too bad that with certain "black" entertainment events, it seems violence and thuggery follows and the collateral damage that it leaves behinds continues to be a strain on the city in terms of people getting hurt, killed or becoming victims of crimes and/or stretching city resources. I remember shopping in the Meadows area years ago until violence and crime ended make most of the business pack you and leave as did with Lafayette Square and Washington Square. Over the past 10 to 12 years, I remember going to the Indiana Black Expo Soul Picnic in Washington Park. Violence, gang fights and homicides ended that. My great grandmother still bears the scares on her leg from when she was trampled by a group of thugs running from gun fire from a rival gang. With hundreds of police offices downtown still multiple shootings, people getting shot downtown during Black Expo. A number of people getting shots or murdered at black clubs around the city like Club Six on the west side, The Industry downtown, Jamal Tinsley's shot out in front of the Conrad, multiple fights and shootings at the skating rinks, shootings at Circle Center Mall and shooting and robberies and car jackings at Lafayette Mall. Shootings and gang violence and the State Fair. I can go on and on and on. Now Broad Ripple. (Shaking head side to side) Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Ashamed.

  5. Ballard Administration. Too funny. This is the least fiscally responsive administration I have ever seen. One thing this article failed to mention, is that the Hoosier State line delivers rail cars to the Amtrak Beech Grove maintenance facility for refurbishment. That's an economic development issue. And the jobs there are high-paying. That alone is worth the City's investment.