Dr. A. Dwight Smith was born in Monticello, Iowa, in 1885. He graduated with an M.D. degree from Hahnemann Medical College in Chicago in 1912, and in 1921 moved to Glendale, California. After spending a period in the Army Medical Corps he did a residency at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia specializing in pediatrics. During his many years of practice he was president for one year and secretary-treasurer for thirteen years of the International Hahnemannian Association. He also served as editor of the Homeopathic Recorder, for thirteen years. Dr. Smith also held the position of editor of the Pacific Coast Homeopathic Bulletin for over forty years.
Dr. A. Dwight Smith
Duffy: Tell me about your background and education, how you got into homeopathy.
Dr. Smith: I was born September 1885, in Iowa. We had two doctors. One was a homeopath, and one was a regular. The regular attended our church, so Mother always felt kind of an obligation to him, but we had far better results from the homeopathic one. Just after I graduated high school I had to have an operation for appendicitis. They took me to Hahnemann Hospital in Chicago and I have been impressed with homeopathy ever since. I have been practicing steady since I was in the Army in the first World War Medical Corps, except for one year in Children’s Homeopathic Hospital, Philadelphia, 1925-26.
Duffy – Did you have much contact with tropical diseases at all?
S- Well, malaria, and things of that kind. I hadn’t been in my post a day or two and the commanding officer wanted to see me because he had just heard I was a homeopath, and he was so glad. He had always had a homeopath, had tried the other doctors, but they hadn’t helped him and would I prescribe for him. I did and cleared him right up. He insisted on all of his officers coming to me after that.
Duffy – Were you active in any of the area homeopathic organizations, the American Institute of Homeopathy.
Dr. Smith – I have been a member of that ever since. I was a member of the International Hahnemannian, which has been consolidated, for thirty years. Before, I was president of it, one year. I was secretary and treasurer of it for thirteen years. I published the Homeopathic Recorder, their official magazine for thirteen years.
The International Hahnemannian had members all over the world. The man who was president was Sir John Weir, the Queen’s physician. He couldn’t come at the time. There was trouble with the Prince of Wales having his wife trouble, and so I called him up that day in London and he came down in his big limousine and chauffeur and took my wife and I all over London one night.
Duffy – What were the circumstances that led to the merging of the two homeopathy groups?
Dr. Smith – The homeopaths were getting so small in number there wasn’t enough of them to carry on both. At one time I would go to the American Institute meetings and there were 1,000 members there in attendance. It kept dropping off. The biggest blow came to homeopathy when the A.M. A. opened up and tried to get all of our people to join their society. The A.M.A. kept trying to get them in, and then they would keep still about homeopathy. One of the biggest mistakes I think the homeopaths ever made was to let the A.M.A. grade their colleges. They would come and grade them, and they would say, “No, well, if you don’t put so-and-so in, and some they would let in, until they got enough of their men in, and then they would take them over, and they practically got all the colleges away from us. Hahnemann in Philadelphia was the last one. My son graduated from there. We had a lot of homeopathic colleges, and they gradually took them away in some form or another. They have done everything they can to kill homeopathy. They have [done that] all my years of practice, and it is ending up my fifty-sixth year of practice.
Duffy – Do you think that the rise of what we might call “scientific medicine” and that is a poor term, I realize, tended to undermine some of the power of homeopathy?
Dr. Smith – The only real scientific medicine is homeopathy. All the wonderful new drugs come out and they play them up for the money back of it. They tell you how many new drugs come out in a year, but they don’t tell you that in two to five years eighty percent of them are discarded because they have done too much harm. I’ve got [homeopathy] medical material in my library that is 150 years old. Everything in them is true today. You can add to it, but you don’t have to take anything away.
Duffy – Do you consider yourself a pure homeopath?
Dr. Smith -Yes. I use both, but mainly homeopathy. I am a strict homeopath and have been all my life.
D.- Now as a homeopath I assume that you would accept surgical intervention where necessary.
Dr. Smith – We enjoy curing a case without surgery, if we can, but if they need surgery, we have it. I have always had very good cooperation from the regular physicians.
Duffy – Well, you seem to be in remarkably good shape. You would be a good advertisement for homeopathy here.
Dr. Smith – I will be 83 next month. I try and hold my work down to 14 hours a day now. When I was young and first talked of studying medicine, I was sick so much when I was a boy people said I was too puny to be a doctor. But as a physician I don’t think I have lost a day for sickness for thirty years.
Duffy – What is your attitude toward antibiotics?
Dr. Smith – Well, I don’t use them but about once for every twenty five times the others do. I don’t feel that they are an absolute cure. And a lot more chance of recurrence, than if you cure it homeopathic.
Duffy – I get the impression that if any new therapeutic comes out that your group feels has value, you will use it.
Dr. Smith – We usually have both in our training, but the better you know homeopathy, the less you use the other thing. And there are all the side effects. I have a case now, terrible reaction. I think it started through antibiotics. My son was treating it, and I treated it. While I was away, she wanted an antibiotic, so he gave it to her and it turned into a terrible case of shingles. She was allergic to it.
Duffy – What are the fundamental tenets or principles of homeopathy?
Dr. Smith – Well, it is a scientific law, similar cures similar. All the drugs are proven on healthy people to find out their action, and when you find that symptom you treat the patient, not the disease. You have to take the whole patient into consideration. We will bring out symptoms in homeopathy, and bring them to the surface when they are suppressed. An example of that years ago there was a little boy nine years old. He was in the Children’s Hospital and they had operated on him for the bile obstruction, but the wound wouldn’t heal, so they sent him home and said he was hopeless. So his parents called me and in going over his case, I asked just a routine question: “Have you ever had sweaty feet?” They said, “Yes, very bad.” I said: “When did this stop?” They said it stopped just as his trouble began. I said I will probably have to bring it back. In a weeks’ time he was up and around. I think in about two weeks the visiting nurse from the Children’s Hospital came to see if he was still alive, and he was around playing.
Duffy – One of the criticisms that has been leveled against the homeopaths is that there has never been adequate clinical testing of homeopathic remedies.
Dr. Smith : I don’t know how you would have any better. They test it on every patient. We have had big epidemics and the homeopaths have gotten better results. In the big flu epidemic of 1918 we didn’t lose one in twenty-five of what the regular school did. Cholera, yellow fever, all of those things, homeopathically there has been no comparison in the mortality rate between the two. The homeopaths have been so much lower [death rates].
Duffy – The argument has been raised that there has not been enough clinical testing.
Dr. Smith – Well, I don’t know where you would have any better proving than taking the cases and treating them. Now one [homeopathic] doctor that was head of Montgomery Ward Company’s medical department gave treatment in that epidemic; he had a couple of [homeopathic] doctors helping him. They worked night and day there with the flu epidemic, and they lost two cases. They gave a flu remedy, Gelsemium. The patients of the surrounding doctors and nurses were dying, and he wasn’t losing any. Then in the epidemic the regulars were buying more Gelsemium than the homeopaths! But the allopaths soon got away from it, though. You can’t practice medicine with one remedy that way. And the flu, all those things, there is no question you have to get the remedy they need. A bunch of remedies may be indicated; you have to find the right one.