Why You Need to Know Him:

Because he runs the largest U.S. physician search and consulting firm at a time when doctor shortages are expected to become more pronounced.

Irving-based Merritt Hawkins conducts about 3,000 permanent physician recruiting assignments annually. “This is the greatest amount of change I’ve seen in my 25 years [at Merritt Hawkins],” Smith says. “We are bringing 25-30 million [uninsured] into daylight of the healthcare system [because of the Affordable Care Act]. At the same time, we have the graying of America. The entire U.S. will have the same demographics in 2025 as Florida does today. It is going to be an avalanche [of demand].”

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the U.S. will have a shortage of more than 90,000 physicians by 2020. The challenge Smith’s firm faces is that younger physicians want to work fewer hours than baby boomer doctors who are fading into retirement.

“Today’s doctors want a different lifestyle,” he says. “It’s not that different than the general marketplace. Millennials look at it very differently. They see their parents work 60-70 hours a week and say, ‘I’m not going to do what you did.’ They have a different expectation of workload. Women comprise more than 50 percent of medical students. Statistically, they work 20 percent fewer hours and retire earlier. It’s not a one-to-one full-time equivalent swap.”

Smith is one of the most widely quoted experts on healthcare staffing. His comments and guest opinions have appeared in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Forbes, and The Washington Post. He also testified before the House Committee on Small Business in July 2012 about the decline of the small and solo physician practices.

Smith, 51, lives in Flower Mound and commutes to his second home near Destin, Fla., on summer weekends. He hopes to eventually retire in that area. “It’s great family time,” he says. “I can sneak down to the beach and decompress. Otherwise, all I can say is that I own golf clubs and get a [club membership] bill every month.”