Sherea Smith’s rehabilitation career began at an early age. Her very first patient was her twin sister, who had been diagnosed with cerebral palsy. By the age of 5, Smith would spend her playtime helping her sister with sitting balance and reaching skills. When trying to work on her sister’s gross motor skills with walking supported, it was not uncommon for them to end up sprawled on the floor laughing after a tumble. Over the years, she became fascinated with learning more about her sister’s stretches, bracing and most importantly all her exciting “toys.” These mostly consisted of learning to “pop wheelies” in her sister’s manual wheelchair or practicing her driving skills in her power wheelchair. Smith assures us that no walls suffered permanent damage in the course of this important research.
Due to the interest that Smith gained during her childhood in the field of medicine, after high school, she started out on a traditional path of becoming a physician. She completed her bachelor’s degree in Biology at Missouri University of Science & Technology and then went on to medical school at the University of Missouri – Columbia. However, from there she has often been asked how she ended up on a less traditional path of completing two residencies. Despite having experienced the field of physiatry, as a family member of a patient, she had not yet seen the breadth of the field from the perspective of a physician. Since she knew she enjoyed working with children, she decided to apply to pediatric residency programs across the country. However, in February of her fourth year of medical school, just as interview season had finished and match lists were due, she had the opportunity to rotate with the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation group at the University of Missouri. In the final week, she rotated with the pediatric rehab team and instantly became captivated by the field. She recalls following a young teenager who had sustained a spinal cord injury. As the week progressed, so did the young girl’s motor recovery. By the end of the week, she witnessed the momentous occasion of the girl taking her first steps since her accident; it was then that Smith realized being a part of a team helping patients gain developmental and functional skills that were impaired from either congenital or acquired etiologies was what she wanted to do. Smith went on to match at St. Louis University Pediatric residency program followed by her second residency at University of Missouri – Columbia in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.
After completing training, Smith, her husband and their dog, Riley, were all excited to move back to St. Louis, which they consider to be home. Riley was exceptionally pleased, as they moved into a house with a large backyard where they enjoy spending time together as a family. It also doesn’t hurt that on any given day, the entire cast of Bambi is seen and able to be barked and chased after. Smith started working at St. Louis Children’s Hospital in August 2020 where she has had the opportunity to assist in building the Pediatric Rehabilitation Medicine program with a remarkable colleague Jared Levin, MD. She primarily spends her time on the inpatient side in assisting children with developmental delays or that have acquired injuries that have resulted in significant functional impairments, working in collaboration with the medical, surgical and therapy teams to optimize functional recovery and quality of life. Smith is truly grateful to have the opportunity to assist in providing rehabilitation care for children and their families in St. Louis and the surrounding areas.