David Smith in his Chief Petty Officer uniform. David “Dave” Smith in his Chief Petty Officer uniform. (Photo Provided)

“Nothing happens if we don’t try,” said the late David “Dave” Smith when he gave the fiscal year 2022 (FY22) Spinal Cord Injury Research Program (SCIRP) Moment of Silence. Dave served as a SCIRP consumer peer reviewer from FY19-FY22. Dave was a retired Navy Chief Petty Officer who served 15 years before being medically retired after sustaining a C4 complete SCI during an ATV accident that rendered him paralyzed from the shoulders down.

“Like all who endure the difficulties in life [living] with disabilities, Dave was determined to do all he could to make a difference in the lives of others,” Saida Smith said fondly of her late husband.

David Smith in his Chief Petty Officer uniform. David “Dave” Smith operating a remote-controlled car during a monthly Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) excursion in a local park, a program that the PVA has replicated nationwide. (Photo Provided)

Dave was on the Cal-Diego Chapter of the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) board of directors and served as Vice President for a term. He was also an accessibility advocate for Access 2 Independence (A2I) and spoke at many educational venues, advocating for disability awareness, particularly in aspects of city and building planning. When Dave was not advocating for SCI, he loved working on cars, particularly Baja Buggies and remote-controlled (RC) cars. He brought his love of RC cars to the PVA, where he initiated monthly RC car excursions for Veterans who are wheelchair users at local parks, translating his passion to an activity that could be enjoyed by all. This initiative caught the attention of the PVA national chapter and is now being implemented in chapters across the nation. It was through the PVA that Dave was nominated to participate in SCIRP peer review. Saida noted that Dave “loved [participating in SCIRP]” and that he was “honored to represent the PVA and fellow consumer reviewers.”

David “Dave” Smith and his wife Saida David “Dave” Smith and his wife Saida. (Photo Provided)

“For now, there is no one cure for the many different levels of spinal cord injury,” Dave said during the FY22 Moment of Silence.

Despite fierce advocacy and significant research and technological advances, therapeutic strategies, particularly those promoting neural recovery, are lacking in SCI, according to a Journal of Neurosurgery article.1 This deficiency is due in part to the complexity of understanding unique mechanisms of individual SCIs and the difficulty of translating these findings from the laboratory to the clinic. However, these limitations did not discourage Dave and his family. Saida noted that they both felt “pride and humility” in Dave’s contributions to SCIRP; they were consistently “in awe” of the research being done on behalf of all individuals living with SCI.

“Each successful research [project] becomes an individual contribution that improves our collective quality of life,” Dave said.

He expressed gratitude for the support from the VA Center in San Diego, the PVA, and the SCIRP, which provided him with the resources and opportunities to “have a very fulfilling and rewarding life.”

The views, opinions, and/or findings contained in this paper are those of the author(s) and should not be construed as an official Department of Defense position, policy or decision.

1. Badhiwala JH, Ahuja CS, and Fehlings MG. 2019. Time is spine: A review of translational advances in spinal cord injury. Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine SPI 30(1), 1-18.

Last updated Friday, July 21, 2023