Dr. Peter Russell Smith

Dr. Peter Russell Smith, M.D., passed away suddenly on Feb. 17, 2023, along with his beloved wife, Dr. Patricia O’Neill. 

Peter was born in Queens, N.Y., to Harold Smith and Jeanette Geller on May 21, 1942. He grew up in Yonkers and graduated from Yonkers High School in 1960. He completed his B.S. in biology at City College of New York in 1964, receiving honors as well as the Biology Medal and membership in Phi Beta Kappa. He received the prestigious Jonas Salk scholarship for medical education and went on to earn his M.D. from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1968. His residency and fellowship training were in internal medicine and pulmonology care. 

Dr. Smith held leadership roles at Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn, including chief of pulmonary medicine, co-director of the Thoracic Center, co-director of the Asthma Center, director of the Adult Cystic Fibrosis Center and director of the Smoking Cessation Center. He was also professor of clinical medicine at SUNY-Downstate Medical Center; fellow of the American College of Physicians and of the American College of Chest Physicians; and a member of the American Thoracic Society, the Society of Critical Care Medicine and the New York Academy of Sciences. Peter served as president and member of the board of directors of the American Lung Association of Brooklyn and president of the American Lung Association of New York City. His clinical skills were recognized by his inclusion in the “Best Doctors in New York” (New York Magazine), “The Best Doctors – New York Metro Area” (Castle Connolly Guide) and “The Best Doctors in America” (Woodward White Guide). 

Dr. Smith was widely published and contributed significantly to medical research. He was a naturally gifted teacher who served as a mentor to scores of young physicians who benefited from his vast knowledge and experience. He leaves behind a legacy of excellence in medicine, a reputation for compassion and kindness, and a long list of grateful patients and colleagues.

Peter always saw being a physician as a calling for social justice and health care equity. Upon retirement, Peter became very active with Physicians for a National Health Plan, serving on the board of directors of the PNHP-NY Metro chapter and many of its committees. As chair of the Education and Outreach Working Group he advocated for single-payer health care at the local, state and federal levels. 

Peter was also a consummate lover of art and antiques, and a talented visual artist and photographer. His intimate knowledge of 18th- through early 20th-century painting and statuary was unparalleled, and he eagerly shared his knowledge. Accompanying him to a museum or antique store would always become a lesson in art appreciation and history. He was bright, funny, warm and welcoming. Peter maintained many deep lifelong friendships. His hospitality as well as his generosity in sharing his antique store finds will be lasting impressions for all fortunate enough to have known him.

Peter adored Patricia and loved being part of her large extended family. He is survived by his cousins, Dr. Ellen Averett (Dr. Peter G. Smith) of Leawood, Kan., and Rita Averett (Rabbi Henry Balser) of Lake Worth, Fla. 

The family received visitors Feb. 23 at DeFriest-Grattan Funeral Home in Mattituck. Funeral services were held Feb. 24 at Our Lady of Good Counsel R.C. Church in Mattituck, with Monsignor Joseph W. Staudt officiating. Interment followed at Orient Central Cemetery.

Donations in his memory may be made to PNHP (; Oysterponds Historical Society (; or a charity of your choice. 

A memorial for Drs. Peter R. Smith and Patricia O’Neill will be held later this spring.

This is a paid notice.