The Ohio State University Alumni Association

Healthy ties to alma mater

College of Public Health and Health Services Management and Policy program are on the receiving end of Steve Smith’s service.

Steve Smith ’77, recipient of this year’s Ralph Davenport Mershon Award from The Ohio State University Alumni Association, steps up again and again to help his alma mater.

In the four decades since he graduated from Ohio State, Steve Smith has stepped up again and again to help students and alumni in the Health Services Management and Policy program and the College of Public Health.

His efforts have led to stronger bonds within the program and the college at a time when public health problems such as obesity and the opioid crisis are commanding attention.

Smith, of North Barrington, Illinois, began his career with the professional services firm Ernst & Young. He then helped found Accretive Health, a provider of revenue management and physician advisory services. The Chicago-based firm went public in 2010.

Throughout, Smith mentored students and recruited graduates from Ohio State. He also provided career counseling for those between jobs and connected them with potential employers. Retired since 2011, he currently serves on the alumni council that advises Ohio State President Michael V. Drake.

When Smith graduated in 1977, the HSMP program was housed in the College of Medicine. It’s now a division within the College of Public Health, which was established in 2007.

Smith is a past president of the Health Services Management and Policy Alumni Society, which is approaching its 45th anniversary. Given his experience, he was a popular choice several years ago to lead the drive to reinvigorate and grow the Public Health Alumni Society.

"Many decades of alumni know and respect Steve, and he was in a unique position to make something special happen,” says Rick Goins, a 2003 graduate and immediate past president of the HSMP Alumni Society.

Smith helped the revived Public Health Alumni Society develop structure and attract members, Goins notes. He also served as president for two years.

“One thing the HSMP people did very well was have a connection between students and alumni who are leading practitioners in the field,” Smith says. “We wanted to bring the same kind of bond to the College of Public Health.”

Smith’s name also rose to the top when the HSMP Alumni Society decided to establish a $1 million scholarship to honor William O. Cleverley, a beloved former professor.

“Steve wrote the first check, then he started calling alumni and getting people involved,” Goins says. The Cleverley scholarship, the largest in the College of Public Health, has made the HSMP program more competitive, Goins adds. “A lot of bright students are seeing Ohio State as a viable option because we can now offer them support.”

Smith notes that when he was a student, the curriculum emphasized acute care for hospital patients. Today, he says, the focus has shifted to population health management, with the recognition that conditions such as obesity and addiction have multiple and far-reaching effects on well-being.

One way the Public Health Alumni Society is addressing that is through a competition in which students from several universities and a variety of disciplines brainstorm strategies to address public health issues. Smith chaired the first competition last year and continues to act as an advisor.

“Steve is retired; he could ride off into the sunset and never be seen or heard from again,” Goins said. “But he still takes time to return to Ohio State, and he gives back constantly. I see him as a role model of what alumni should be doing.”