The respiratory care profession lost a giant in the field when former NBRC CEO and Executive Director Gary A. Smith, BS, RRT(HON), FAARC, passed away on May 14. Smith was known throughout the respiratory care community for his vision and excellence and is widely credited with making a monumental impact on the respiratory care credentialing process.
From hospital management to the NBRC
Gary Smith’s history in the respiratory care profession dates back to the mid-1960s, a time when the profession was growing rapidly and young therapists with the right stuff could quickly rise up the ranks. By 1966 he was serving as director of the respiratory therapy department at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, GA, and he went on to serve in that capacity at several other hospitals in Georgia as well.
He earned his associate’s degree from Albany Junior College in 1974 and his bachelor’s degree from Ottawa University in 1988.
Smith was active in the Georgia Society for Respiratory Care (GSRC), serving as president in 1978. He was a member of the NBRC Board of Trustees from 1979 to 1983 and was president in 1982.
When his term in office ended in 1983, he became director of testing and development at the NBRC. Subsequently, he served the NBRC as associate executive director from 1986 to 2001 before being named CEO and executive director in 2002, a position he held until his retirement in 2018.
His accomplishments during his time with the NBRC are too numerous to cite here, but some highlights include implementing the NBRC’s hierarchical examination structure and designing the NBRC’s first electronic integrated examination management system.
He was also instrumental in forming Applied Measurement Professionals, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of the NBRC that became a premier national testing agency, providing examination development and administration services to more than 100 professional and occupational certification organizations. In addition, he played a key role in the sale of AMP in 2015, a move that allowed the NBRC to focus solely on its mission to assure the minimum competency of respiratory therapists.
Smith led the NRBC into the digital age in 2000, when he spearheaded the successful effort to transition the NBRC examinations to a computer-based delivery.
Wide ranging contributions
Smith held academic appointments at the Medical College of Georgia School of Allied Health Sciences, Emory University School of Medicine, the Biosystems Institute, Inc., and the Medical Center of Central Georgia.
He shared his expertise through numerous presentations to groups inside and outside of the profession as well. In addition, he authored articles and papers in publications ranging from Anesthesia and Analgesia to Respiratory Care.
He is widely recognized for serving as the editor of the book Respiratory Care—Evolution of a Profession.
Smith received several honors over the years, including the Morton B. Duggan Distinguished Service Award from the GSRC. He was a long-time trustee at the American Respiratory Care Foundation (ARCF) and served as secretary/treasurer from 1996 to 2017. The NBRC established an endowment for the NBRC Gary A. Smith Educational Award for Innovation in Education Achievement at the ARCF in 2014 to honor his contributions to the profession.
Smith, who had been an AARC member since 1969, was also named a Fellow of the American Association for Respiratory Care.
Champion for the profession
Throughout it all, Gary Smith remained a champion of respiratory care who always insisted on maintaining the integrity of the NBRC exams, which helped elevate the respiratory therapy profession.
Those he worked with remember him as someone always willing to lend a helping hand. Current NBRC CEO Lori M. Tinkler, MBA, counts herself among that number.
“Gary played many important roles in my life, from a father figure to a friend, a mentor, a boss, a colleague, and the list goes on,” she said. “He took a chance on me and afforded me many opportunities in my career and groomed me to be his successor, for which I am forever grateful. He left an indelible mark on the respiratory care profession that will never be forgotten.”
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