The Interview: Frederick “Rick” Smith
This UNLV Health Pediatric Clinic administrator, gospel quartet singer, and colon cancer survivor is an unstoppable force.
No one can ever accuse Fredrick “Rick” Smith, administrator of the of the UNLV Health Pediatric Clinic – it handles 26,000 patient visits yearly – of not having enough to do. For almost six years he’s been the person responsible for daily operations of the clinic, which includes planning, directing, and coordinating a 73-member medical team that ranges from Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine at UNLV faculty physicians and residents to nurse practitioners, medical assistants, and office staff as well as a community health worker, quality care coordinator, and dietitian/nutritionist. He also works medical students and volunteers smoothly into the mix.
“I am blessed with a wonderful staff that cares about the mission of pediatrics,” says Smith, who for eight years in Las Vegas served first as chief operating officer (COO) of Summerlin Hospital and then as administrator of Sunshine Valley Pediatrics before taking his present position. He arrived in Las Vegas in 2002 after holding the position of COO at a Tucson hospital for nine years. Married to an emergency medicine physician, he is the father of three grown children. His youngest daughter, Christen Smith, is a student in the UNLV Honors College.
The chair of pediatrics at the school of medicine, Dr. Evelyn Montalvo Stanton, appreciates how collegially Smith works with faculty physicians and staff in the provision of patient care, a talent that was all the more welcome during COVID surges. She notes that Smith comes in on weekends to do data analysis and reports. She also points out that he “did not miss work days during his illness.”
His illness was Stage 4 colon cancer. Found during a June 2019 colonoscopy, the cancer was removed a month later by Dr. Ovunc Bardakcioglu, division chief of colon and rectal surgery and associate professor of Medicine at the Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine. Smith underwent chemotherapy for a year, treatment that often left him nauseous.
“I didn’t miss work during the treatment because I was able to cope, and I would rather work and keep busy instead of feeling sorry for myself, “ says Smith, who, while considered cancer free, must receive CT scans every six months until he reaches five years without a recurrence.
What is the satisfaction and enjoyment you receive from being administrator of the pediatric clinic?
Most important is the sense of purpose I receive from taking ownership of coordinating the provision of pediatric medical care, while also helping to enable the teaching of residents who often become pediatricians in our community. I enjoy working with great people, all of whom are interested in enhancing the medical services in our community.
Why did you go into the healthcare field?
I became interested in healthcare as a career from my exposure to my dad being in medical sales and my grandfather was the maintenance director at Spring Branch Memorial Hospital in Houston, Texas, where I was born and lived until the eighth grade. I would work summers at that hospital when I was earning my business degree at Abilene Christian University.
How do you mellow out?
Singing and playing the guitar is a stress reducer for me. I took after my dad, who was a singer at the DiMaggio’s Italian Restaurant in Houston. I took guitar lessons as a boy. I have a Taylor 816, and it’s easy to play. I know a lot of songs, and I also have a three-ring binder with close to 200 songs. I have Sirius in my car, and I listen to channel 65, Enlighten. There’s a lot of Southern Gospel on this channel, and I sing along with the low bass parts.
Have you performed?
When I was 12, I sang at DiMaggio’s Restaurant. I sang, “Rub it In.” I have sung in two gospel quartets, the Harvesters Four and the Gospel Echoes, as the bass singer. The Harvesters Four had a van and traveled to different churches. We won many talent contests. In both groups, we professionally recorded four albums/cassette tapes and sold them to cover expenses and buy equipment. I especially miss the quartet singing. In Las Vegas, I’ve sung at many places, including the Charleston Heights Arts Center and UNLV Pediatrics holiday parties.
You’ve said your father knew many singers and you met many of them. Who were they?
The singers that come to mind are Kenny Rogers, B.J. Thomas, Mickey Gilley, Frankie Valli, Lisa Harman, Johnny Nash, Chuck Berry, and Johnny Winter.
What has been the most beautiful place you’ve visited?
Lake Louise in Canada’s Banff National Park. The water is so blue, and the mountains surround it. It just seemed surreal. I need to plan a trip there with my family soon.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
What trait do you like most about yourself?
I just try to do something good every day and work at being positive. We hear so much negative news, but I think we can do more to help each other and be more kind to one another.