Professor Helen Smith

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Professor Helen Smith 

Professor of Family Medicine and Primary Care

Laboratory Staff

  • Charlene Soon Siew Lee, Research AssociateCharlene Soon Siew Lee, Research Associate


Prof Smith is the Professor of Family Medicine and Primary Care in the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, Nanyang Technological University. She graduated in medicine from the University of Nottingham, United Kingdom (UK) and later trained in epidemiology and health services research at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and at the University of British Columbia. She has dual accreditation in General Practice and Public Health Medicine and has experience of working in academic, hospital and general practice settings, both in the UK and Canada.  Prior to this post, Prof Smith was the foundation professor of Primary Care at Brighton and Sussex Medical School and was Head of the Division of Public Health and Primary Care.
Prof Smith, as one of the leading exponents of Primary Care Research Networks, has made major contributions to Primary Care internationally.  She has developed initiatives to expand research capacity in the specialty and through rigorous trials, strengthened the evidence to improve the care family physicians provide to their patients.  The Primary Care Research Network she established in the south of England was the first of its kind and was cited as an example of good practice in the Department of Health’s Strategic Review of Primary Care. Subsequently, similar research networks were replicated throughout the UK.  Prof Smith was foundation chair of the UK Federation of Primary Care Networks and also co-founded the International Federation, an organisation under the umbrella of World Organisation of Family Doctors (WONCA).  Her advice on the development of academic family medicine and building of research capacity has been sought by many countries.
Throughout her career, Prof Smith’s research has focused on the evaluation of novel ways of delivering health services and ‘new technologies’ for primary health care.  For example, her trials in the organisation of health care transformed the provision of out-of-hours care, improved the provision of minor surgery services in the community and changed the appointment booking system for patients wishing to see their general practitioner.  She has over 170 publications in peer reviewed journals and has a strong track record of attracting research and research infrastructure grants, particularly with multidisciplinary teams.
Research Focus

Prof Smith’s research expertise is in the design of randomised controlled trials and mixed method (qualitative and quantitative) evaluation.  She is currently focussing on a program of research on the management of atopic disorders in the non-specialist setting.  Her research has developed in response to the increasing prevalence of allergy-related conditions, the recognition that allergy impacts significantly on patients’ quality of life and that it may impair the academic performance of children. 
Her work on the evaluation of psychological interventions cuts across different clinical areas (including respiratory, obstetrics and psychiatry). The current management of many disorders focuses principally on pharmacological treatments, frequently with a strong underlying evidence base. However, in clinical practice, poor symptom control can remain problematic for patients.  Whilst individual case reports and some trials support the use of psychological interventions as an adjunct to pharmacological therapy, the evidence is not consistent and when synthesised in meta-analyses, no firm conclusions can be drawn.  A program of rigorous research is needed to improve on the methodology of existing evaluations.
Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine is committed to the development of the discipline of academic family medicine and primary care for Singapore.  In preparation for this, Prof Smith plans to conduct a mapping and scoping exercise of existing research in primary care within the region.  This, together with a survey of Family Physicians and General Practitioners, will help inform the design and implementation of a Primary Care Research Network for Singapore.

Key Publications

1. Lattimer V, Sassi F, George S, Moore M, Turnbill J, Mullee M, Smith H (2000) Cost analysis of nurse telephone consultation in out of hours primary care: evidence from a randomised controlled trial. British Medical Journal. 320:1053-7. [PMID: 10764368]
2. Smith H, Pickering RM, Struthers A, Simpson I, Mant D (2000) Biochemical diagnosis of ventricular dysfunction in elderly patients in general practice: observational study. British Medical Journal. 320:906-8. [PMID: 10741999]
3. McColl A, Roderick P, Wilkinson E, Smith H, Moore M, Exworthy M, Gabbay J (2000) Clinical governance in primary care groups: the feasibility of deriving evidence-based performance indicators. Quality in Health Care. 9:90-7. [PMID: 11067257]
4. Smith H, White P, Annila I, Poole J, Andre C, Frew A (2004) Randomized controlled trial of high-dose sublingual immunotherapy to treat seasonal allergic rhinitis. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 114:831-7. [PMID: 15480323]
5. Yardley L, Donovan-Hall M, Smith HE, Walsh BM, Mullee M, Bronstein A (2004) Effectiveness of primary care-based vestibular rehabilitation for chronic dizziness. Annals of Internal Medicine. 141:598-605. [PMID: 15492339]
6. Smith H, Hogger C, Lallemant C, Crook D, Frew AJ. (2009) Is structured allergy history sufficient when assessing patients with asthma and rhinitis in general practice? Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 123; 646-50. [PMID: 19135237]
7. Ford E, Nicholson A, Koeling R, Tate R, Carroll J, Axelrod L, Smith H, Rait G, Davies K, Petersen I, Williams T, Cassell J (2013) Optimising the use of electronic health records to estimate the incidence of rheumatoid arthritis in primary care: What information is hidden in free text? BMC Medical Research Methodology.13:105 
8. Smith H, Hankins M, Jones J, Theadom A, Bowskill R, Horne R, Frew A (2015). Does expressive writing improve outcomes in adults with asthma? A double blind randomised controlled trial. Psychosomatic Medicine. 77;429-437
9. Smith H, Horney D, Raza A, Goubet S, Jones CJ, White P, Frew AJ (2015)  A pragmatic randomised controlled trial of an allergy intervention for adults with asthma and rhinitis in general practice. Allergy. 70, 203-211
10. Smith H, Wade J, Frew A (2016) What proportion of adult allergy referrals to secondary care could be dealt with in primary care by a GP with special interest? Clinical and Translational Allergy. 6:3, DOI: 10.1186/s13601-016-0091-1