(Baton Rouge, La.) – A $7.8 million estate gift from the late Dr. Charles M. Smith of Sulphur, La., will advance cancer treatment through a longstanding partnership with LSU and Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center that began in 1980. LSU and the Cancer Center leverage their education and research expertise through a joint medical and health physics program. This elite program is improving the quality of patient care locally and, through research and innovation, contributing to enhanced patient care worldwide.
A beloved family medicine practitioner who devoted his career to helping Louisiana families, Smith developed an appreciation for the critical role of physics and medicine while undergoing lifesaving cancer treatment. Motivated to ensure access to the same quality of care in his home state of Louisiana, Smith established the Dr. Charles M. Smith Chair in Medical Physics at LSU in 2006, shortly after LSU and Mary Bird Perkins announced his commitment to significantly enhancing the medical physics education and research programs.
The LSU-Mary Bird Perkins partnership was forged under the leadership of LSU Professor Emeritus Kenneth Hogstrom and the Cancer Center’s president and CEO, Todd Stevens. Stevens recruited Hogstrom, his former colleague at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, as well as Kevin Carman, former dean of what is now LSU’s College of Science. This innovative partnership is one of the only medical physics programs in the country that marries a university basic science department and a cancer center. Over the past 15 years, the joint program has achieved full accreditation, has become one of a handful of accredited graduate medical physics programs in the country and is now one of the leading programs in the world for providing highly qualified and trained medical physicists. Smith’s initial gift was a catalyst for Hogstrom, Stevens and Carman’s vision and provided crucial funding for the program to grow. Smith’s visionary legacy investment will be recognized through the naming of the LSU-Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center Dr. Charles M. Smith Medical and Health Physics Program.
LSU President William F. Tate IV said, “When Dr. Smith committed this gift to LSU, he shared that his aspiration for the program is that it becomes the best medical physics program in the world. His enthusiasm for investing in research while educating and recruiting faculty and students who drive innovation has propelled our collaboration with Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center for the last 15 years. This gift ensures that Dr. Smith’s legacy will foster transformative advancements in the diagnosis of disease, cancer therapy and quality treatment.”
At LSU, Smith’s gift will establish new endowment funds within the College of Science’s Department of Physics & Astronomy to advance LSU and the Cancer Center’s joint academic and research programs: the Dr. Charles M. Smith Medical Physics Endowed Fund, providing year-after-year funding in support of faculty, students and staff in LSU’s Medical and Health Physics Program; the Dr. Charles M. Smith Distinguished Professorship in Medical Physics, supporting recruitment and retention of faculty and adjunct faculty; and the Dr. Charles M. Smith Superior Graduate Scholarship, supporting graduate students to ensure a continued pipeline of highly qualified medical physicists. Additionally, a portion of Smith’s gift will be dedicated to a new LSU Interdisciplinary Science Building that will bring together students, faculty and researchers in a world-class space for scientific inquiry, discovery and collaboration.
“Medical physics touches every patient in every community we serve, and it allows us to provide the most effective, individualized treatment plans possible. This type of robust clinical and academic training is a rarity in most mid-sized cities, but our collaboration with LSU helps push the boundaries of modern medicine,” said Stevens. “Dr. Smith’s generous gift will live in perpetuity within Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Foundation, propelling cancer care forward in Louisiana and beyond for generations to come.”
Through Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Foundation, Smith’s estate will establish a Chief of Physics Award to support research and educational activities, a directorship and multiple Scholar Awards to assist graduate student research, as well as an Educational Fund to support graduate education programs. These funds will directly enhance medical physics initiatives now and in the future by fostering education and innovation among students and physicists, advancing research opportunities that will enhance treatments and recruiting the highest quality clinicians in this highly specialized discipline.
“As a physician and cancer survivor, Dr. Smith was fiercely committed to quality patient care, and he recognized that scientific discoveries emerge from the collaborative work of a community of researchers who build upon each other’s efforts over time. He believed in this program and envisioned its potential,” said LSU College of Science Dean Cynthia Peterson, who is also the LSU president’s special advisor on science and serves as a member of the Mary Bird Perkins Board of Directors. “We’re proud that Dr. Smith was able to see the LSU-MBPCC partnership flourish, and we’re honored to celebrate his legacy by continuing to transform cancer treatment for the benefit of every Louisianan and communities around the world.”
Smith, a native of Bogalusa, La., was born on Aug. 24, 1930, and passed away Sept. 15, 2020. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Sciences from LSU in 1951 and his medical degree from LSU Medical School in New Orleans in 1955. He was a flight surgeon in the U.S. Air Force for two years, then opened his medical practice in Sulphur in 1957, practicing for 35 years and serving as coroner for Calcasieu Parish for more than 20 years. An active community volunteer, he was devoted to the arts and was a generous philanthropist who, in addition to his investments in LSU and the Cancer Center, supported local children and families and invested in educational access through local scholarships.
Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center is a leading cancer care organization that has been fighting cancer for 50 years. The organization provides care across nine regional centers in Baton Rouge, Covington, Gonzales, Hammond, Houma, Zachary and Natchez, Mississippi, and its service area encompasses southeast Louisiana and southwest Mississippi regions. Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Foundation secures the future of cancer care by building an endowment to provide long-term sustainability – ultimately advancing cancer care for generations to come. For information on the Cancer Center, please visit marybird.org and for more on the Foundation, visit marybirdfoundation.org.
Smith’s legacy investment in LSU is part of the university’s $1.5 billion Fierce for the Future Campaign, the largest campaign for higher education in the history of Louisiana. Fierce for the Future unites LSU’s campuses statewide in pursuit of a common goal: to generate solutions for the people in Louisiana that hold the promise of making profoundly positive impacts around the world. To learn more, please visit fierceforthefuturecampaign.org.