Dr. Smith embraces retirement after 39-year medical career

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In the spring of 2020 during the most unknown phase of the Covid-19 pandemic, Dr. Smith separated his clothing and shoes for cleaning and sanitizing in the breezeway of their home. (Photo submitted)

By Caroline Rosacker 

Dr. Andrew Smith, dedicated physician and staff member of the Guttenberg Municipal Hospital & Clinics (GMHC), has recently stepped down from his medical career – spanning 39 years – and switched gears to ready himself for retirement. 

Humble beginnings

Dr. Smith was born and raised in Silvis, Ill., and attended high school at United Township. He earned his undergraduate degree at Illinois Wesleyan University, Bloomington, Ill., and his medical degree at the University of Iowa in 1980. 

"I was always a good math student and thought about becoming an engineer following high school graduation," he remembered. "My family was vacationing at a cabin in Minnesota with our extended family. My uncle, who was a physician, encouraged me to consider a degree in medicine. At the time, Boeing had laid off a number of their engineers, which also influenced my decision. I enjoyed science, did well in college, and my uncle was a good role model."

The respected physician grew up caring for others. "My father had Multiple Sclerosis and was disabled. He was a welder by trade, and had to stop working when I entered kindergarten," he looked back. "There was not much the medical community could do for him at that time. He wore leg braces and used crutches, and eventually ended up in a wheelchair by the time I was in high school. My mother worked hard as a teacher, so we all helped care for my father."

Dr. Smith grew up in a community similar to Guttenberg. "I had a pretty humble upbringing. I didn't grow up in a mansion, but always had what I needed," he commented. "Most of the people in my community were blue collar workers, so Guttenberg was a good fit for me. I enjoy the natural beauty of the area, and it has been a great place to raise a family."

A unique work environment

Dr. Smith will not miss the sleep deprivation associated with being a physician, but will miss caring for others, and the staff at GMHC. "My partners and I have been such a collegial group," he remarked. "Other medical communities can't believe how well we get along. Even short-term interns comment positively about GMHC's work environment."

Smith credited GMHC administration, hospital board members, fellow physicians, Dr. Bob Merrick and the late Dr. Eugene "Mike" Downey for their dedication to Clayton County residents. "Everyone works together to provide the highest quality of patient care," he proudly shared. "Dr. Hoffmann is a superstar in the medical field in Iowa. He has never been afraid to get involved politically at the State House. Dr. Dikkers has been at GMHC since she graduated. Many hospitals and clinics see physicians and hospital personnel come and go. That is not the case at GMHC." 

He continued, "I admired Dr. Downey, who was the only physician for so many years. He was rarely able to take time off. He was a great physician." 

What lies ahead?

In 1987, Dr. Smith began brewing beer following a surge in micro- brewing. "I received a kit for Christmas and it was kind of fun," he said with a smile. "It has been more of a wintertime hobby – something to give away. We have our own well, which helps makes a good, drinkable beer. I would like to make a light beer that will win at GermanFest. I was awarded top prize once in that category using fresh hops, but I haven't had the time to grow my own. Now that I have more time I can research our soil and become more involved in the growing process."

The Guttenberg Brewing Company will be a source of education and inspiration for the small batch brewer. "I am excited to have a micro-brewery open in Guttenberg," he added.

Gardening

Although Dr. Smith admits he is not a cook, he does enjoy raising vegetables. "I enjoy working in the garden and will enjoy the extra time I have to spend growing vegetables," he commented. "I enjoy the way fresh produce tastes and have grown to enjoy the process. In the past, it was a good way to spend my time when I was stuck at home on call and couldn't go anywhere." 

Getting in better shape is also on Dr. Smith's to-do list. "I am a little nervous about retirement and plan to work a little bit to fill in as needed," he noted. "I hope to get myself in better shape also. I am not a morning person, so I will have more time to do the physical activities I enjoy throughout the day."

Bike riding is at the top of his list. He went on to say, "I enjoy riding my bike on trails – not the highway. Since the pandemic every family vacation has involved biking."

Environmental development

Dr. Smith would like to allocate some of his time to environmental projects. "I would like to get out on the river more, and become involved with Pool 10 in river clean up and habitat restoration," he pointed out. "I would also like to see the south marina trail cleaned up and more accessible, and the development of a community bike trail, a group which I am involved in." 

He concluded. "I have enjoyed my time caring for, working alongside, and volunteering with my neighbors, friends and family in this rural community. It has been a great fit for my family and me. I couldn't imagine living anywhere else."

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