January 03, 2012

Nancy Solomon

Dermott Smith, M.D., 1924-2012

Dermott Smith, M.D., professor emeritus of psychiatry and director of undergraduate psychiatric education, passed away on Sunday, Jan. 1 in Richmond Heights. He was 87.

Dermott Smith, M.D.

Smith had been a longtime employee, who joined the university in 1958 as assistant dean of the School of Medicine and assistant professor of psychiatry. A gifted teacher who was known for his compassion, Smith became professor emeritus of psychiatry and human behavior in 1993.

"He was a prince of a guy. I don't know of a single colleague who didn't love Dermott Smith," said Raymond Tait, Ph.D., vice president for research and professor of psychiatry.

"He was respected by all and no one ever questioned whether he had the interests of others at heart. Dermott was a master at finding win-win solutions for what appeared to be meddlesome problems. The world is a better place for having had him in it."

George Grossberg, M.D., director of the division of geriatric psychiatry and one of Smith's students who became a work colleague, said Smith recognized the power of helping patients in emotional distress.

"He was inspirational and loved doing what he was doing," Grossberg said. "He influenced a Iot of medical students to become psychiatrists because they saw how much he cared for patients and how much he did to help patients in emotional distress. He focused his energy on teaching and clinical care."

Smith was modest and humble, led by example and was dedicated to the profession of psychiatry, Grossberg said. Smith won every teaching reward in the department, multiple times.

"He really was extremely loyal to SLU and the medical school. He was the kind of person that the chair could always count on to take on any delicate task in the department," Grossberg said. "He was a wonderful human being and never had a bad thing to say about anyone."

Smith discovered his love of psychiatry while in the military during World War II, when he was sent to counsel soldiers who has suffered severe emotional trauma on the battle front, Grossberg said.

He graduated from Saint Louis University Medical School in 1949, and did much of his post-graduate training in psychiatry at Walter Reed Army Hospital. He served as an officer of the United States Army Medical Corps from 1949 to 1958. He was a staff psychiatrist in Tokyo and division psychiatrist in North Korea, where he was awarded a Bronze Star for meritorious service.

After his military career, Smith returned to SLU, and became a professor of psychiatry. In addition to directing undergraduate psychiatric education for the School of Medicine, Smith was chairman of the committee on program planning and promotions; a member of the educational policy committee; and chairman of the subcommittee on curriculum planning and evaluation.

Smith was the widower of Mariette Smith (nee O'Kane) and Jean Schlueter Smith (nee Mathis). He is survived by his children, Nora (Jim) Leritz; Sean (Mary) Smith; Kevin Smith; and Erin (Scott) Anderson; and his step-children, Al (Kathy) Schlueter Jr.; Katie (Tim) Nellesen; and Cindy (Chris) Shepherd; and 17 grandchildren.

His funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 4 at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church, 16 Joy Ave., in Webster Groves.

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