College honours pioneering doctor who worked through AIDS crisis to save lives

June 14, 2022

With a career spanning multiple decades, Dr. John Richard Middleton (Dick) Smith has made an enduring mark on the 2SLGBTQIA+ community in Winnipeg.

Smith was one of the first doctors in Winnipeg to support patients diagnosed with HIV and AIDS, saving countless lives through treatment and education. Now, RRC Polytech is celebrating his efforts by presenting him with an honorary diploma in Community Development.

“Dr. Smith represents the embodiment of caring and giving back to your community — a value we work to instil into every one of our grads,” says Fred Meier, President and CEO of RRC Polytech.

“We are proud to honour Dr. Smith for his tireless work advocating for the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. His work teaches us if something doesn’t yet exist in the world but is necessary and positive, then be fearless and pursue it.”

Smith moved to Winnipeg from England in 1972. After seeing the need for specialized health care and safe spaces, he helped found the Winnipeg Gay Community Health Centre, the Village Clinic and Nine Circles Community Health Centre. He brought his activism and leadership to other roles as President of the Manitoba College of Family Physicians and President of Medical Staff for Misericordia Hospital.

“Receiving this recognition from RRC Polytech is a great honour,” says Dr. Smith. “Working with people has been the touchstone of my career and I’ve been so fortunate to forge many valuable connections here in Winnipeg while doing something I love. I hope that RRC Polytech graduates find something they love to do and find wonderful people to work alongside.”

In 2016, Dr. Smith came out of retirement to help open a multidisciplinary organization called Our Own Health Centre, which specializes in providing medical and well-being care to members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community.

A brave pioneer, a determined activist, an empathetic and nurturing caregiver, a committed leader, a philanthropist, and treasured member of the queer community, Dr. Smith serves as an incredible example to students, faculty, and alumni of RRC Polytech.

“Dr. Smith cannot be commended enough for the positive impact his inspirational journey has made. From healing the sick, to educating others about accepting all people and their chosen identities, to influencing systemic change — his passion for improving the lives of those around him has never wavered,” says Dr. Christine Watson, Vice-President, Academic and Tributes Committee Chair.

“RRC Polytech has made a commitment in our new Strategic Plan to incorporate equity, diversity and inclusion into everything we do. Dr. Smith’s legacy reinforces why this commitment is so important and serves as a reminder that systemic change is not only necessary, but achievable.”