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Smith, Ian

Ian Smith

1970(?)—

Diet and fitness expert, author

Dr. Ian Smith combined his medical training with his interests in journalism and sports to become a television celebrity and bestselling author. As he told Tony Felton of the New York Beacon in 1999: "There is so much to do, and so much that I want to do. I want to taste all the ‘flavors’ of life. I want to smell all the aromas." By 2006 "Dr. Ian" was hosting television's most popular diet show and had published bestselling diet books as well as a detective novel. As a TV reporter and medical columnist Smith addressed healthcare disparities and medical issues that were of particular concern to the black community.

Studied Medicine

Ian Keith Smith and his twin brother Dana were raised in Danbury, Connecticut, by their divorced mother, Rena Cherry Bustion, a human resources manager for an alternative energy company. In a 2004 Men's Health feature Smith wrote about the peculiarities of growing up as an identical twin. His earliest memory was of his grandfather telling them on the way to nursery school: "There are only the two of you. Learn how to protect each other from the rest of the world." Smith wrote: "My identical twin is a physical duplicate and a portal into my mind. But most of all, he's the competitor I can't shake." In the fifth grade the boys decided to forge individual identities. They stopped dressing alike and chose different friends. Ian would be the scholar and Dana the athlete. However their competitiveness reached new heights when they were both starters on their high-school basketball team. By their senior year, they had learned to work together and led the team to the conference finals. The Smith brothers continued to play basketball as undergraduates at Harvard. When Dana took a year off from college, Ian did too because he couldn't imagine graduating ahead of his brother.

Smith's vocation was evident early on. He told Felton: "When I was nine years old, I read in Ebony magazine that there was a paucity of neurosurgeons in this country. After reading that article, I decided I wanted to be a doctor. Soon I began dissecting insects." Smith was also a self-described "news junkie."

After graduating from Harvard Smith earned his master's in science education at Columbia University. At Dartmouth Medical School he established a mentoring program for minority students. He told Felton: "It started as a challenge for me at first, the challenge of accepting the leadership role of trying to get Afro-American students interested in medicine…I want to engineer and facilitate programs for the disadvantaged. To encourage and educate young people about the endless opportunities that are out there, and not just in medicine." Smith graduated from the University of Chicago's Pritzker School of Medicine. He told Felton: "The worst of times for me was the geographic separation from my family…. No one really understood the demands…. But I can tell you this, after you've completed medical school, you get the feeling that you can do…almost anything."

Turned to Journalism

Smith had interned in a newsroom while still in medical school. After completing a surgical internship in orthopedics at the Albert Einstein Medical School Hospitals, he became a medical reporter for WNBC-TV News in New York City and a medical columnist for Time magazine. His stories began appearing on NBC's Nightly News. At a party Smith approached the vice president of WNBC-News with his dream of becoming an anchorman. She decided to give him a chance and Smith began co-anchoring the weekend news broadcasts.

Within a couple of years Smith had become medical correspondent for NBC's Today Show and was penning a weekly health column in the New York Daily News. He told Ayana Jones of the Philadelphia Tribune in 2002 that "journalism allows me to get important health messages to a wide array of people."

Recognizing that the Internet had become an invaluable medical resource for the public, but that it was also awash with misleading and contradictory information and outright misinformation, Smith published his Guide to Medical Websites in 2001. He ranked sites on a scale of one to three according to the legitimacy of their sources, ease of navigation, ability to answer individual questions, and overall quality.

Smith took a break from television to concentrate on writing. His detective novel, The Blackbird Papers, is set at Dartmouth. When a Nobel-Prize-winning black scientist is murdered, his estranged brother, Sterling Bledsoe, a hardboiled New York City FBI agent, takes over the case. The bodies pile up. Michael Agger wrote in the New York Times Book Review: "The investigation advances smoothly until it becomes clear Sterling has a problem: he's being mercilessly pursued by cliché." Other reviewers were much more enthusiastic and Essence magazine picked it as a "best beach book" of 2004.

Became a Diet Expert

Smith's 2001 The Take-Control Diet was a straightforward guide to gradual weight loss and long-term weight control through sound nutrition, portion control, and exercise. Readers designed their own eating and exercise plans to fit their lifestyles and preferences. On the NBC Nightly News Smith covered four individuals who were following his diet.

At a Glance …

Born Ian Keith Smith in 1970(?) in Danbury, CT; married Triste Noelle Lieteau, 2005; children: one. Education: Harvard College, AB, 1992; Teacher's College of Columbia University, MS, science education, 1993; Dartmouth Medical School; University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, MD, 1997(?).

Career: Albert Einstein College of Medicine Hospitals, New York City, surgical intern, orthopedics, 1997-99(?); Time magazine, medical columnist, 1999-2001; WNBC-TV News, New York City, medical reporter, 1999(?)-2002, news anchor, 1999; NBC News, Nightly News, Today Show, medical correspondent, 2001(?)-03; New York Daily News, weekly health columnist, 2001-04(?); Men's Health, columnist and contributing editor, 2003-; VH1, Celebrity Fit Club, diet/medical expert, 2004-; ABC, The View, medical contributor; American Urban Radio Networks, HealthWatch, host, 2006(?)-; BET, Meet the Faith, host, 2006-; 50 Million Pound Challenge, organizer, 2007-.

Selected memberships: American Council on Exercise, board member; Cancer Research Foundation of America, board member; Henry H. Kessler Foundation, trustee; New York City Mission Society, board member; New York Council for the Humanities, board member.

Selected awards: National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, 2001; Support Network, Inc., Excellence in Education Award, 2001; Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA) Honor Book Award for Fiction, 2005; African American Literary Awards Show, Inc., for The Fat Smash Diet (self-help), 2006; Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Maxine W. Smith Literary Award, 2006.

Addresses: Office—P.O. Box 765, FDR Station, New York, NY 10150.

When first asked to appear on VH1's Celebrity Fit Club in 2004, Smith declined, not wanting to hurt his credibility as a medical journalist. The show's producer talked him into it. He told Bobbi Booker of the Philadelphia Tribune in 2006: "It was one of the best random decision/gambles that I've ever taken…. I have a much bigger practice because I have millions of people whom I dispense advice and information to and in some way I impact them, I hope, in a positive manner." One of the most-watched shows in the history of cable television, the Fit Club was a reality series in which eight minor celebrities competed to lose weight and get in shape over a 100-day period. Smith told Booker: "to see celebrities put on a pedestal battle the same kind of issues that we battle and to suffer the same types of failures that we suffer is very interesting to us and we like to see it for all kinds of reasons…. I want African Americans to look in the mirror and realize that we are a beautiful, strong, powerful and capable people, but that there are things that we can change to make ourselves even more beautiful, more powerful, healthier and happier."

Smith developed his "fat smash" diet for Celebrity Fit Club. His book quickly topped the New York Times bestseller list. In April of 2007 VH1, Rodale, Inc., and St. Martin's Press launched an on-line subscription weight-loss and fitness program based on the fat smash diet.

Although The Fat Smash Diet was subtitled The Last Diet You'll Ever Need, the following year Smith published his Extreme Fat Smash Diet. In contrast to his other diets, which emphasized gradual weight loss, the extreme fat smash was a radical plan for losing 12 pounds in three weeks. Unlike the original fat smash, the extreme fat smash was a very specific diet that had to be strictly adhered to. Smith explained that "extreme fat smash is for people who are determined to reach what they might've considered unthinkable success in a weight-loss journey. The idea is simple: if you want big results, then you'll have to push yourself beyond the normal limits to attain them."

Attained Celebrity Status

In 2001 Ebony named Smith one of the "29 most eligible super bachelors." He told the magazine: "I want someone who knows what [she wants] and then goes for it. I like the idea of a woman being strong." In May of 2005 Smith married his college sweetheart, Triste Noelle Lieteau. With a law degree from the University of Chicago and a medical degree from Harvard, Lieteau was director of government relations and associate general counsel at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

By 2007 Smith had embarked on a hectic schedule of lectures and television appearances. He was a commentator on National Public Radio's The Tavis Smiley Show and a contributor to ABC's The View. He hosted the nationally syndicated HealthWatch on American Urban Radio Networks and the weekly talk show Meet the Faith on BET. As a columnist and contributing editor for Men's Health, Smith gave advice on sports injuries. His second novel was due out in 2008.

Smith was evangelical on the issue of obesity. "Our very existence is in jeopardy; our futures are ominous," he wrote in Ebony in 2006. "We are dying too fast and too painfully, and in many respects the power to turn the tide resides within our control. But will we summon our epoch courage, wisdom, and strength to defeat an enemy that, in many ways, we have created? The answer to this question is the answer to our very future." Smith worked hard to help people tackle the problem of obesity. On April 7, 2007, Smith launched one of the largest black health initiatives in history. His "50 Million Pound Challenge" was a nationwide crusade to fight obesity in the black community. Smith calculated that if one-quarter of the 20 million overweight black Americans lost ten pounds each, it would equal 50 million pounds. He kicked off his star-studded 14-city tour at the Mall in Washington with a one-mile walk and health screenings. Within the first week more than 20,000 people had signed on.

Selected writings

Books

Dr. Ian Smith's Guide to Medical Websites, Random House, 2001.

The Take-Control Diet: A Life Plan for Thinking People, Ballantine, 2001.

The Blackbird Papers, Doubleday, 2004.

The Fat Smash Diet, St. Martin's Griffin, 2006.

Extreme Fat Smash Diet, St. Martin's Griffin, 2007.

Periodicals

"Black Women Are Dying from Neglect," Savoy, May 2001, pp. 33-34.

"Death by 100 Degrees," Time, Vol. 158, No. 6, August 13, 2001, p. 66.

"This Has Never Happened Before!" Savoy, Vol. 2, No. 4, May 2002, p. 50.

"World of Hurt," Men's Health, Vol. 19, No. 2, March 2004, pp. 130-137.

"Being Double," Men's Health, Vol. 19, No. 6, July/August 2004, pp. 100, 102.

"Life or Death? It's Your Choice!" Ebony, Vol. 61, No. 12, October 2006, p. 50.

Sources

Periodicals

Black Book Review, January-February 2005, p. 35.

Ebony, June 2001, pp. 50-58.

In Style, October 4, 2005, p. 292.

New York Beacon, February 24, 1999, p. 12; December 16-22, 2004, p. 16.

New York Times, January 15, 2002, p. F7; May 29, 2006, p. 12.

New York Times Book Review, July 4, 2004, p. 16.

Philadelphia Tribune, February 12, 2002, p. 4B; October 1, 2006, p. 1D.

Washington Post, April 12, 2007, p. T3.

On-line

Celebrity Fit Club,www.celebrityfitclub.com/www/xnt/cfc/pages/Splash.aspx (July 5, 2007).

"The Diet Channel Interviews VH1's Celebrity Fit Club Diet Expert Dr. Ian Smith, Author of ‘The Fat Smash Diet,’" The Diet Channel,www.thedietchannel.com/VH1-Celebrity-Fit-Club-Diet-Expert-Dr-Ian-Smith-Fat-Smash-Diet-Interview.htm (July 5, 2007).

Dr. Ian Smith,www.doctoriansmith.com (July 5, 2007).

The 50 Million Pound Challenge,www.50millionpounds.com (July 5, 2007).

"Get Celebrity Fit with the Fat Smash Diet," diet.ivillage,http://diet.ivillage.com/celebprog/0,,962-g6pll,00.html (July 5, 2007).

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