“I Always Say I’m in Heart Heaven Here”

May 26, 2022

When South Texas Health System Heart opened in 1996 as the nation’s first freestanding facility of its kind dedicated to cardiac care, Libby Smith transferred from South Texas Health System McAllen — then known as McAllen Medical Center — to help care for patients recovering from open heart surgery.

Eventually, she was promoted to Intensive Care Unit Director and, ultimately, she became the facility’s Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) — a position from which she recently retired after more than 30 years of service with South Texas Health System.

“I always say I’m in heart heaven here,” Smith says. “We’ve just been so blessed at STHS Heart. We’ve been blessed with wonderful, caring, compassionate staff. We’ve been blessed with having great patient outcomes.”

Making History

Apart from holding the title of first dedicated heart hospital, South Texas Health System Heart has celebrated many more milestones along the way, and Smith has played an integral role in many of them.

In addition to having received numerous accreditations and awards, this acclaimed cardiac facility has introduced many new programs and services to the region. That includes the Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation (ICR) initiative — a comprehensive lifestyle-changing program for individuals with severe heart disease or those who have recently undergone a heart-related procedure.

“It’s all about patient-centered care and bringing these services to the patient,” Smith says. “We did our first TAVR here in 2020 and opened the Intensive Cardiac Rehab program. We continued to expand our services despite the challenges presented by COVID,” she says. “There have been lots of great moments here.”

A Friendly Atmosphere

Though a challenging profession, her colleagues or “work family” (many of whom have been with the facility as long as Smith), have made the years fly by.

“I think it’s all about the environment,” she says. “Healthcare is hard, but if you know you’re going to come to work and you like your boss and you like your coworkers, it makes it all worthwhile.”

Smith looks forward to enjoying peace and relaxation in her retirement but plans to still be around for anyone who needs her. As she was leaving, she reminded everyone she’s only a phone call away.

“I love my work,” Smith says. “I’ve had the time of my life here. It’s been my honor to serve here and work alongside this great team.”

“The culture in this building is palpable. You can sense that people care about and take care of each other. You see lots of smiles. For me, that’s what makes it such a great place to be.”