The Purpose Series: Wally Smith, M.D.

Purpose drives positive change. For the lucky few, it defines and channels energy into improving the lives of those suffering around the world. That combination is a rare and valuable quality in researchers and those who care for patients. On the MCV Campus at VCU Health, we’re fortunate to count many of those lucky few among us. Philanthropy often supports these changemakers and their ideas through endowed professorships and chairs., enabling them to push the boundaries of science and medicine in an effort to build a better tomorrow. They’re also often rewriting the textbooks future generations use to learn.

Purpose SeriesWe’re excited to launch The Purpose Series to highlight the ways in which purpose, people and philanthropy all converge at VCU Health to save and improve lives.

Our first installment features Wally Smith, M.D., director of VCU Health’s Adult Sickle Cell Program and the first recipient of The Florence Neal Cooper Smith Professor of Sickle Cell Disease.  He also serves as vice chair for research in the Division of General Internal Medicine and is the former scientific director of the Center on Health Disparities at VCU. He has authored over 100 publications and served as an investigator on over 50 externally funded grants and contracts, including principal investigator on 26 federal or foundation-funded grants and contracts.

Dr. Smith is an experienced implementation scientist and an expert in clinical and health services research in sickle cell disease. He has been the principal Investigator of the ARRA-funded (Agency for Health Care Research and Quality) grant, Comparative Effectiveness of Virginia Coordinated Care versus the Traditional Safety Net Delivery System, which used both qualitative and quantitative population assessment methods. He was the principal investigator the largest and most detailed adult cohort study of sickle cell pain, which changed the understanding of SCD pain in adults, led to an NIH Request for Proposals on the Neurobiology of Pain in Sickle Cell Disease, and led to him becoming a member of the Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee for DHHS, and now NIH’s Helping to End Addiction Long-term (HEAL) Initiative Multi-disciplinary Working Group.

Dr. Smith has been associated with the development of two potential lead compounds for sickle cell disease at VCU. He has been extraordinarily successful at recruitment of sickle cell patients into clinical research, enrolling over 450 patients in 10 years. 

For more information on how you can help benefit Dr. Smith and his research into sickle cell disease, please contact Brian Thomas, vice president and chief development officer at the MCV Foundation, or visit