Friday Forum: Dr. Mark Smith '68

Dr. Mark Smith ’68 spoke to the Millbrook community about the school he knew as a student and the elements of his experience that he still carries.  Mark’s father worked as a civil rights activist at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, founded by Thurgood Marshall. Albert Boothby, a history teacher and director of admissions, was an NAACP LDF benefactor and in 1964 took concrete steps to integrate Millbrook. The Smith campus visited Millbrook, and, along with Vernon C. Manley ’68, Mark enrolled as one of Millbrook’s first Black students. During the ensuing four years, Mark served as school president, excelled academically, played on an undefeated soccer squad during his Vth and VIth form. 

The appeal of Millbrook went beyond the aforementioned experiences which could be had at most boarding schools. Mark was struck by Millbrook’s commitment to community service. “Community service was one of the things that attracted me to Millbrook when we went there,” he said, “it was such a novel concept and seemed to be really integral to the school’s philosophy.” Mark worked in the chemistry lab and as a headwaiter and, through those and other experiences, observed how necessary community participation was to the functioning of the school. 
“Community service came to be an important part of my life at Millbrook,” said Mark, “I think it was an important part of my future life in terms of this notion of service and community responsibility.” America in the late 60s was in the midst of seismic change and while Millbrook existed at some remove, Mark was able to see a connection between his time at school and a future of service and community support. He enrolled in Harvard and became politically active. Mark withdrew after two years and moved to Jackson, Mississippi, and eventually to Greensboro, North Carolina, where he became active in labor causes and organizing. 

After four years, Mark resumed his studies at Harvard, helped found the Afro-American Studies Department, and decided to be a doctor. “In part, because it was a helping profession,” he said, “in part because I saw it more as an avenue for continued social and political activity, rather than the science part.” After medical school at University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, he became a resident at San Francisco General Hospital at the dawn of the AIDS epidemic. Treating patients on the very front lines of a new kind of epidemic, Mark found a convergence of his desire to serve society and practice medicine. “Because of the accidents of history,” said Mark, “I developed an early expertise in a disease that has a social component that appeals to the underdog champion part of me.” Mark learned firsthand about the inequities and failures of the healthcare system and recognized that it is often the underlying and ongoing living conditions of the marginalized and underserved that exacerbate their poor health.

Mark’s experience as one of Millbrook’s first two Black students gave him valuable experience in “dealing with people of all sorts,” a life skill he often employs. Mark applauded the greater heterogeneity that he observed while on campus to attend his 50-year reunion. He encouraged the trend while also calling on Millbrook to do more to diversify the student population, racially, and socioeconomically. 

Mark has remained engaged with Millbrook over the years, but has given even more generously of his time over the past 12 months as part of Millbrook's Medical Advisory Committee on all medical matters related to COVID-19.
As a board-certified physician, university professor, and nationally recognized health policy expert, his lifetime of work has been fueled by his passion to support social equality. Mark credits his years at Millbrook for his commitment to leadership and service. His life is an expression of Non Sibi Sed Cunctis, and so many have benefited from his care, dedication, and skill.
No comments have been posted