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The Smith siblings (from left): Jackie, Matthew, Devon and Blake

A Generation of Community Ties

August 31, 2020
GBMC and Sinclair Broadcast Group entered the Baltimore community landscape at around the same time. Even though the latter has grown to national prominence, its ties to the Baltimore community remain as strong as ever. The Smith Family, whose patriarch Julian Sinclair Smith founded the broadcasting company and left a legacy in his four sons, have been involved with GBMC for generations.

Julian's granddaughter, Devon, has become an active volunteer leader for GBMC within the last 18 months after attending GBMC's annual Donor Recognition event in April 2019, and the reconnection with a fellow community institution has led Devon and her three siblings to express their appreciation and support of GBMC in a big way.

"The ties make us want to support the organization," Devon said. "That's where it's so important for the community to support the hospital because if we didn’t, it wouldn't maintain the reputation that it has. The amount of support that GBMC has gotten from the community shows you how much the community believes in GBMC and wants GBMC to continue to be the amazing hospital that it is."

And that begins with an investment in making sure it can be competitive and nimble, growing and innovating to meet the changing needs of the community it serves. Devon and her three siblings – Blake, Jackie and Matthew – manage the David D. Smith Family Foundation. And because GBMC has been with the family for generations, in times both happy and sad, it was never a question for them to support GBMC's recent capital campaign with a generous $1 million pledge, graduating them into GBMC's highest recognition society, the exclusive 1965 Society.

"You can't maintain the reputation that GBMC has amongst the community and within the community without continually updating and modernizing," Devon said. "You have to have those things – it draws people in, it makes people feel like GBMC is the hospital that feels like a home but where I'm also going to be getting the best care."

All four Smith siblings were born at GBMC and the oldest Smith child, Blake, continued the legacy when he chose to start his family there as well. Devon's grandmother was also taken care of by Gilchrist when Devon was in college. It was what inspired Devon's mother to make a generous gift through her own family foundation and Devon to serve on the planning committee for the Gilchrist Ball this year.

The biannual event is a large undertaking, but in addition to Devon's busy schedule as a veterinarian, she also took on leadership roles with GBMC's Philanthropy Committee and HealthCare Board of Directors. Furthermore, she also serves as the chair of GBMC's newest fundraising event – the Samuel F. Heffner Memorial Clay Shoot, which benefits the H. Norman Baetjer, Jr. and Jeanne H. Baetjer Center for Nursing Excellence. This volunteer effort hit particularly close to home for Devon in her role in medicine.

"There's a lot to be said for the similarities in human and veterinarian medicine and one of the things I think is a point of improvement for both industries is how our support staff – particularly our nurses – are perceived and treated, not only by patients but by physicians as well," Devon said. "My nurses are my line to my patients. I'm busy making phone calls, talking to clients, and writing prescriptions, so they interact directly with the patients more than I do. It's the same with the human field. The nurses are on the floor with the patients all day, every day. The value and the importance of those roles is often overlooked and aren't always supported the way that they deserve.

"With the Clay Shoot, not only is it a sport that I really enjoy, this GBMC event recognizes nurses and shows our support for them through continuing education."

Information and techniques in medicine are constantly changing, which Devon sees in veterinary work as well, especially in her role onboarding new graduates. Even three or four years out of school, techniques and skills she saw being brought into the profession were significantly different and could potentially change how patients were treated for the better. The parallels in hospitals are the same. Being able to offer continuing education to nurses at GBMC, who are at the front lines of patient care and the main conduit and communication vehicles for patients, is significant.

Devon is passionate about supporting nurses, continuing education and the role GBMC plays in the community because she has seen it in action.

"As a family, we realized how important GBMC has been to us, how important it is to the community and we see the value in the hospital," Devon, who has become an active volunteer leader for GBMC within the last year and a half, said. "It's a duty to give back whether it's time or money – I think both are equally invaluable. That's how you show your appreciation. … Your actions reflect the things that you support and love or care about. It's just what you do as a person who wants to acknowledge the value and importance of something in your life, whether it's a person or a structure – an organization like GBMC."

Which is why when COVID-19 hit, Devon didn't hesitate to think of all the frontline workers at GBMC who were putting in tireless, sacrificial hours for the pandemic cause. She funded meals for the entire GBMC and Gilchrist nurses to show her appreciation.

For the Smith family, it is about supporting GBMC as an institution, but also the people who make it run – day in and day out. And Devon and her siblings are one shining example of how that relationship will continue for generations to come.
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