Fast 15: Lisa Smith

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 1,337 views 

Growing up in Colorado, Lisa Smith learned life, like farming, has good and bad seasons.

Her father, a dryland farmer, taught the Dove Creek native how to persevere and to work hard.

“I’ve really learned some good skills from my childhood,” Smith said.

About 10 years ago, she moved to Northwest Arkansas to attend John Brown University. She knew she wanted to work in a field that would affect the community, leading her to earn a bachelor’s degree in family and human services in 2010. In June, she expects to earn a master’s degree in business administration, with an emphasis on leadership and ethics.

Initially, Smith didn’t intend to work in healthcare. But five years ago, while working on a children’s study, she not only developed a relationship with her current supervisor, Pearl McElfish, but also an interest in public health.

About three years ago, she joined the Northwest Arkansas campus of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences as project manager, working in the Office of Community Health and Research. Her first project was to research diabetes in the Marshallese community in Northwest Arkansas.

In two years, the office has received more than $10 million in grants and grown from a staff of a few people to 32 project directors, researchers and grant writers. In that same period, Smith was promoted to associate director and to her current position, overseeing the office.

The office has been successful because of the grant writers’ and staff’s ability to identify needs and research gaps, Smith said. “Success doesn’t come from a centralized leader who does everything.”

Smith has been successful because she’s been given opportunities and taken them, she said. The highlight of her career has been the opportunity to be in a position “where I can tangibly and physically see change in people’s lives.”

Before she started working at UAMS, Smith was manager of community impact at the United Way of Northwest Arkansas and evaluated applications along with community volunteers before distributing grant money.

She previously was resident manager for Saving Grace, a transitional living and life skills home to young women who aged out of foster care. Smith continues to serve as a mentor for the organization.

She enjoys spending time outdoors and loves hiking.