Making medicine and peacekeeping her mission

AVM Dr Tracy Smart


With a belief that authenticity is the key to good leadership, Air Vice-Marshal Dr Tracy Smart AM has dedicated 34 years of service to medicine and to the Australian Defence Force, including important peacekeeping missions around the world.

In 1981 AVM Smart (BMBS ’87) began her medical degree at Flinders University as a painfully shy country girl.

She says, ‘I was so shy that for many months I ate my lunch in the car rather than interact on the campus. It’s hard to reconcile that image with what I do now. University made me grow into adulthood and become much more confident in life.’

In the fifth year of her degree AVM Smart joined the Royal Australian Air Force. On completion of her Intern year at Flinders Medical Centre and a Resident Medical Officer year at the Repat, she went into full time service.

Over the next 30 years AVM Smart rose through the ranks of the Australian Defence Force to become Surgeon General and Commander Joint Health, with the rank of Air Vice-Marshal.

‘In this role I found my “Ikigai”, a Japanese concept that means “reason for being”,’ says AVM Smart. ‘It is the intersection between what you are passionate about, what you are good at, what the world needs and what you can get paid for.’

A career highlight includes serving as Aeromedical Evacuation Coordinator as part of the 1995 Australian Services Contingent to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda.

AVM Smart says, ‘I look at how Rwanda has emerged from its dark days of genocide to now being one of the most progressive countries in Africa, and I reflect that we really did make a difference.’

She was the Investigating Medical Officer in the fatal RAAF F 111 accident investigation in Malaysia in 1999 (for which she was awarded a Chief of Air Force Gold Commendation), and Chief Health Officer in the Peacekeeping Force Headquarters in Timor Leste in 2002. She also commanded all RAAF operational health elements from 2004 to 2007.

In addition to her professional leadership, she is a notable leader in Lesbian and Gay rights, and has led the Australian Defence Force contingent at the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

‘My Flinders degree was the fundamental building block for my career,’ says AVM Smart. ‘The modern approach to medical training at Flinders helped me with broader skills such as problem solving, flexibility and taking a multi-disciplinary, whole-of-person approach to patients.’

Air Vice-Marshal Dr Tracy Smart AM was awarded a 2018 Flinders University Distinguished Alumni Award for her outstanding leadership and service to medicine within the Australian Defence Force.

Flinders graduates have global reach and international impact, read more

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