Conway doctor Lander Smith loves his patients, and his patients love him right back. For 34 years, Smith has worked alongside cousin John Smith at Banister-Lieblong Clinic in Conway.
Smith joined cousin John Smith as a family practitioner at the clinic after finishing medical school in Little Rock in 1979, and has seen thousands of patients over the years, developing lifelong relationships in the process and solidifying one of the most successful, established medical practices in the area.
Smith noted big changes and advancements in the business since 1979.
“When we first started out, I delivered 500 babies. Now I’ve raised them all and they’re all out of college and have children of their own,” Smith says of his early years. When a handful of obstetricians came to practice in the area, Smith said he was relieved of the task of delivering children, and in time was also relieved of the surgeries he had performed, as Conway began to grow and more surgeons came to town.
Smith married wife Suzanne in 1981. “I married my trophy bride,” Smith says. “She was my first and only and she’s been here with me all but those first two years of practice.” The couple share three children, son Clark, who is also a doctor; daughter Natalie Brownd, a registered nurse pursuing her master’s degree at the University of Central Arkansas, and daughter Hayley, a fourth-year nursing student also enrolled at UCA.
Smith works seven days a week, with daily, early-morning visits to about 300 nursing home patients in Conway and Greenbrier and Monday through Friday business hours spent at the clinic. As the practice ages, Smith says he’s developed a large base of elderly patients.
He plans to work in the clinic for at least five more years, he says; then he will likely transition to working with elderly patients full-time.
Reflecting on the pursuit of his career, Smith attributed his love of the elderly to routine trips to the county nursing home with his late father Mack, a Baptist preacher in Fordyce.
“He’d stick his head in the door and come out and say hello to each of them. Then growing up, when I’d go back home to see him in college, we would still visit the nursing home.”
When his father became ill at the age of 74, Smith said he would still wheel his father through the bursing home to visit the patients.
“Some of them had dementia — they didn’t even know their own names, or his — but they came out of their rooms and patted him and smiled.
“I don’t know how many years I’ve been doing that. I get up at five, and by six every day I’m at the nursing home,” Smith said.
Of his partnership with cousin John, Smith noted the pair have been friends since they were children and called their relationship “hard to even understand.”
“I’ve worked with John every day for 34 years, and there has never been a single day that I have ever left this clinic with an ill thought or a harsh word. We’ve never had an argument.”
Smith said he looks forward to getting up every day and going to work, and being recognized as “Best Doctor” affirms his daily intent, which he says is to “do (his) best and help somebody.”
“I guess I just feel like I get up each day and try to help people, and the response to the survey makes me feel like maybe I’m on the right track,” he said. “It just makes me want to get up tomorrow and try even harder.
“I sure feel blessed by the patients and the friends I’ve made along the way, for sure.”
(Megan Reynolds is a staff writer and can be reached by phone at 501-505-1277 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Twitter @LCDonline, @meganpreynolds.)