Sudden cardiac events are the leading cause of firefighter line-of-duty deaths, but it also leads to early retirements and non-fatal events on the fireground or during operations. Dr. Smith’s works to detect cardiovascular disease and managing the risk factors we can decrease the burden of cardiovascular disease in the fire service. Important risk factors such as high blood pressure, high blood glucose, high cholesterol, excess body weight, and physical inactivity can be identified in a medical evaluation so you can decrease those risks.

Dr. Denise Smith

Denise L. Smith, Ph.D. is a Professor of Health and Exercise Sciences at Skidmore College where she directs the First Responder Health and Safety Laboratory, and a Research Scientist at the University of Illinois Fire Service Institute. She is a passionate advocate for firefighter health and safety and routinely lectures at national and international conferences.

She is a fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), a member of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Fire Service Occupational Safety and Health committee, an investigator for the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) firefighter fatality investigation and prevention program, and an Honorary Battalion Chief at Hanover Park FD.

She completed her doctorate in Exercise Physiology at The University of Illinois. Denise has coauthored an Exercise Physiology textbook, an Advanced Cardiovascular Exercise Physiology textbook, seven book chapters, and nearly scientific papers. She has received over $12 million in federal funding from FEMA-AFG, DHS S&T, NIOSH and DOD to pursue her research agenda aimed at understanding the physiological strain of firefighting and the health risks it imposes on firefighters. Specifically, her research is focused on the cardiac, vascular, and coagulatory changes that occur during emergency operations and how these changes increase the risk of sudden cardiac events.

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About the Series

Inspiration for the Next Generation of Fire Service Leadership

The Legacies in Leadership video series captures thoughts from fire service leaders with advice for the next generation of leaders. Viewers will hear how the nation's fire service legacies started their careers, learn about the impact of notable emergency incidents, and perspectives on how the fire service has changed and what the future holds.

Meet the Speakers