A longtime Bangor-area OB/GYN specialist is leaving his post this spring as doctor at one of the city’s independent obstetrics and gynecology practices.
Dr. Paul Smith announced he will retire from his position at Bangor OB/GYN on Memorial Day, after practicing for 45 years during which he delivered as many as 8,000 babies.
Smith, 71, moved to Bangor 19 years ago after his hospital in Tacoma, Washington, closed its labor and delivery ward. Prior to that, Smith served as an Army OB/GYN specialist for 22 years, work that took him to Germany, South Korea, Washington and Texas.
Smith said he devoted his life to women’s health because the field can be “vulnerable, invasive, uncomfortable and icky, and to help a woman get through that as gently as possible is the kind thing to do.”
“Even after 45 years, delivering a baby is still a miracle,” Smith said. “All the pieces that God or Mother Nature or whoever your divine force is come together and there’s a brand new human being there. It’s amazing.”
Over 45 years, Smith said the most exciting and valuable advancement he has witnessed is ultrasound imaging technology.
When he was completing his residency at Walter Reed military hospital near Washington, D.C., he said the ultrasound machine’s screen was about the size of an iPhone and showed only how the fetus was positioned, if the heart was beating and the placenta’s location.
Smith said the level of information modern ultrasound machines provide “has transformed the specialty and is valuable beyond words.”
While technology has advanced by leaps and bounds, Smith said he’s concerned about medical committees that enforce policies on doctors that dictate what treatments patients should receive. Smith said those policies “encroach on the judgment of someone who’s been doing this for decades and I think that’s a hazard.”
“People who sit in committee meetings have tried to tell me not to do a pap test before age 21 for any reason whatsoever,” Smith said, but he knows delaying standard tests can have consequences that threaten patients’ health.
Smith said he conducted a pap test — a procedure that tests for cervical cancer — on a 19-year-old patient years ago that came back positive. He was able to remove the cancer through a noninvasive surgery.
“If we had waited two more years to do a pap test, she would’ve had an invasive disease,” Smith said. “I think our society is struggling with how to do good medicine and not go broke doing good medicine.”
Following his retirement, Smith said he plans to visit family and work on various home improvement projects. He also wants to get the GloveLite, a glove with a built-in flashlight for which he holds the patent, on store shelves. The product is supposed to help people avoid the challenge of juggling a flashlight while working with their hands in dark spaces.
Correction: An earlier version of this article contained inaccurate information about future arrangements for Dr. Paul Smith’s patients.