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In Tribute – Honoring the life and legacy of friend and colleague Dr. Gloria R. Smith

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) honors and remembers the life and contributions of Dr. Gloria R. Smith, a former vice president for health programs, who passed away on Jan. 14 at age 78 in Battle Creek, Mich. Her dedication to improving the health of children, families and communities throughout her lifetime has left a lasting legacy.

“Gloria was a leader that combined practical wisdom with a passionate, caring approach for her work and for people. Her commitment to working alongside communities made her a vibrant contributor to the mission of the Kellogg Foundation,” said Executive Vice President for Operations and Treasurer La June Montgomery Tabron.

Smith began her career as a public health nurse in Detroit in 1955. She was dean at the University of Oklahoma and from there became the first nurse to head the State of Michigan’s Department of Public Health. In 1988, Dr. Smith became the dean of Wayne State University College of Nursing in Detroit. She was also a member of the faculties of Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Ala., and Albany State College in Albany, Ga. After joining the Kellogg Foundation in 1991 as coordinator for programs in health, she became vice president for health programs in 1995, serving until her retirement in 2001.

Dr. Smith was instrumental in a number of major WKKF-funded health initiatives that strengthened community-driven and community-based health services delivery. These included: Community Partnerships in Health Professions Education; Community-Based Public Health; and Comprehensive Community Health Models of Michigan. She also led the Turning Point public health initiative which was co-funded by WKKF and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the major effort to increase access to health care in thirteen learning laboratories around the country called Community Voices: HealthCare for the Underserved.

Each project sought to improve access to high quality, cost-effective and culturally competent health care in medically underserved communities. The projects underscored the importance of multidisciplinary collaboration and further highlighted the critical roles and contributions of nurses in expanding health access to vulnerable children and families in the United States, southern Africa and South America. She was also the co-author of “The W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Nursing Profession: Shared Values, Shared Legacy,” published in 2007.

Smith earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing at Wayne State University, Detroit, and her master’s degree in public health at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich. She completed her master’s in anthropology from the University of Oklahoma in Norman, Okla., and her doctorate in anthropology from the Union for Experimenting Colleges and Universities in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Dr. Smith was elected to membership in the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences in 1997. Her numerous professional memberships included the American Public Health Association, the Michigan Public Health Association, the National League for Nursing, the American Academy of Nursing, the National Black Nurses Association, the Michigan Nurses Association and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. She was also a board member of the Better Homes Fund for the Homeless and Battle Creek Health Systems.

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