When he speaks to osteopathic medical students, Mark A. Baker, DO, likes to quote Timbuk3, the ’80s one-hit wonder who penned “The Future’s So Bright.” “I tell our students that the future of osteopathic medicine is so bright, they need to wear shades,” he says, often playing the song and swapping his horn-rimmed spectacles for bright red sunglasses during speeches.
“Osteopathic medicine is one of the fastest-growing segments of the health care professions in the U.S.,” notes Dr. Baker, the 2017-2018 president of the AOA. “Our profession is becoming significantly younger and more diverse. Imagine what we could do if we harnessed that energy and passion and directed it toward some common goals.”
That’s what Dr. Baker hopes to do in the coming year as AOA president. The veteran leader’s top goals for the year include:
- Taking steps to further unite the osteopathic family, by partnering with younger DOs and creating more leadership opportunities for them. “More than half of all DOs are younger than 45,” Dr. Baker notes. “We need to hear from them. What do they want this profession to be as they move into their future?”
- Connecting with affiliate organizations to discuss shared goals and how to achieve them. “I am committed to meeting both the Association of Osteopathic State Executive Directors and the Society of Osteopathic Specialty Executives twice this year,” he says. “I’d like to sit down with them so that we can share our concerns and improve our relationship.”
- Beginning the process of giving OMED a facelift. “I plan to create a task force to look into ways to improve OMED and make the conference more relevant to our members,” he says.
‘An expert leader’
A longtime leader in the osteopathic medical profession, Dr. Baker, a radiologist, also has more than 30 years of clinical practice experience and nearly 30 years of teaching experience at the University of North Texas Health Science Center-Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine (UNTHSC/TCOM), his alma mater. For these reasons and more, he’s an excellent choice to lead the AOA in 2017, says Marc Hahn, DO, president and CEO of Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences.
“Dr. Baker is an expert leader,” says Dr. Hahn, who collaborated closely with Dr. Baker during the 2000s while both worked for UNTHSC/TCOM. “He’s spent time on the national scene and on the state scene. He understands the importance of clinical medicine, of education, and of telling the story of the 125-year history of osteopathic medicine in the U.S. He has a high amount of integrity. These things combined with his professional experience will make him an ideal leader at a very challenging time for medicine in the U.S.”
Osteopathic roots, osteopathic life
Before Dr. Baker became a DO himself, he grew up in an osteopathic household. His father was a DO, and the family DO tradition has continued into a third generation as his daughter, Carrie Baker, DO, just completed a pediatrics residency in Oklahoma.
Dr. Carrie Baker has been heavily influenced by her father’s commitment to the DO philosophy and holistic, patient-centered care, she says.
“My dad always taught me to let the patient talk, and they would tell you their story,” she says. “If you just let them talk, they will tell you everything you need to know. He taught me the saying, ‘Patients don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.’ In pediatrics, it has been true. To earn a parent’s trust is huge. Once you do, they’ll believe in you and will let you guide their child’s care.”
Introduced to radiology during a summer hospital job before medical school, Dr. Baker says he was drawn to its mix of technology, diagnosis and patient care. People often ask him how osteopathic radiologists are different, he says.
“As a radiologist, you can choose to have more or less interaction with patients,” he says. “For many years, I did mammography, where you have the opportunity to develop relationships with patients that last for years. And you can give them the empathy and caring treatment that DOs provide. When you do that, they’ll really appreciate it, and they’ll ask for you by name when they have follow-ups.”