Dantwan Smith, MD ’18, MBA, MS, is proud to call Mississippi home. After earning his medical degree at Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM), the Mississippi native returned home to advocate for health literacy, equity, and education. Now a fellow at the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s cardiology program, he recalls how his early experiences there inspired him to begin a career in medicine and why he returned to practice in his home state.
During his childhood, Smith became intrigued with cardiology after an uncle who had congestive heart failure required a valve repair. His uncle’s doctor educated the family on open-heart surgery and treatments, such as blood thinners. Tragically, his uncle passed away. “Since then, I was focused on learning about the field of medicine and heart health education. The heart is the powerhouse of the body and the rest of the body cannot function without it. That’s what I want to emphasize in patient education—preventative care to keep the heart and the entire body healthy.”
Breaking down long-held barriers in career advancement for Black physicians, Smith was the first African American man to be accepted into the internal medicine residency program at Magnolia Regional Health Center in Corinth, Mississippi. He was named Intern Resident of the Year in the 2018-2019 academic year and was also awarded the Magnolia Regional Health Center Humanism Award for the 2019-2020 academic year.
“I feel like my training at Magnolia has given me an appreciation for the power of basic health education,” says Smith. “My mission is expanding health information from the hospital out into the community and focusing on prevention and health maintenance. An office appointment doesn’t provide enough time to give the kind of information that can really improve a patient’s health. If we start now, we can reach entire families and foster healthy, new habits for their children. Taking the extra time to talk to people and make sure they understand how to protect their health is how community improvement from a health standpoint works.”
Smith has a deep affection for his patients and the Jackson, Mississippi area. “The community I practice in is diverse—people of all races, ethnicities, and backgrounds come to the hospital for treatment. People come in with uncontrolled hypertension, hyperlipidemia heart failure, valve disease, and arrhythmias. Many are Black, and many do not have insurance, which deters them from coming in for care when they desperately need it. I want to help educate them, so they can have a better grasp on controlling their disease and take charge of their health. When I completed my degree at RUSM, I knew I wanted to serve the area I’m from and be a benefit to my community back in Mississippi. It’s my home.”
Smith isn’t afraid to go the extra mile to make sure his patients have what they need for effective treatment. During his residency, he stepped forward to offer to fund a CPAP machine for a patient with sleep apnea.
Furthering his mission to bring health education to the community, Smith leads a non-profit organization, The Inspirational MD. Founded in 2018, its mission is to promote health in underrepresented communities and motivate young adults to develop careers. The organization provides a platform to mentor, speak, and perform community service for nonprofit organizations, churches, fraternities and sororities, and schools across the southern US. He also assists in organizing health fairs and health screenings to discuss topics like hypertension and diabetes.
A lifelong learner, Smith’s future aspiration is to become a structural heart disease cardiologist. “As a fellow, I’m learning about advanced heart failure, transplant cardiology, invasive cardiology, valve repairs—a host of diagnostics to treat patients with heart disease.”
Smith credits RUSM for where he is today. “Ross Med equipped me with the tools I needed to master the curriculum and excel in my exams, like tutoring and counseling, and with resources — like the Academy for Teaching and Learning — that taught me study techniques. The systems-based approach made sense, and real-life simulations in the lab reinforced my learning. The support and approach at RUSM created the right environment for my academic success.”
The RUSM Alumni Humanitarian Award recognizes those physicians who have made significant contributions of leadership or service to enrich the well-being of others. Learn more selection criteria for our Alumni awards.