Alumnus brings broad views as DMU Board chair

Larry Baker knows health care from micro to mile-high levels.


As medical director of the emergency medicine department of UnityPoint Health (formerly Iowa Health System) in central Iowa, Larry Baker, D.O.’77, oversees delivery of round-the-clock urgent care services at three major hospitals. He’s served on the board of the organization’s foundation since 1995 and directed emergency medical services of the Des Moines Fire Department from 1987 to 2000. A member of several professional organizations, he’s also worked in private enterprise.

Baker commands a similar range of insights on DMU. His father, Joseph Baker, D.O., graduated from the University in 1950 and served on its board for many years. After Larry Baker graduated from DMU, he began taking on students at Iowa Lutheran Hospital and, in 2000, joined the University’s board. Ten years ago, he chaired the fundraising effort for the 131,205-square-foot Student Education Center, a multi-purpose facility that transformed the campus.

Chair of the DMU Board over the past year, Baker strives to use his diverse perspectives and experiences to increase value – in what health care provides today’s consumers, in how DMU prepares students, and in how they will serve patients and their professions in the future.

“Treatment care teams need to be vastly different from in the past. We have to provide value to our patients, students and health care itself,” he says. “That means we must be conversant in the language of medicine and other disciplines.”

Baker describes the challenges that boards of academic institutions face, from accreditation to faculty rank and tenure. Managing them within the board’s scope of responsibility and without “micro-managing” requires analysis, planning, diplomacy and application of best practices in board governance.

“As a board, we want to do what we do in medicine – start with a history and an exam, because we want to start with the truth,” he says.

DMU’s biggest challenge, he notes, is reducing its dependence on tuition, which creates burdens on students.

“We’re working hard as a University and board to manage that,” he says. “We need to engage new constituencies and get out a good message about what DMU is. It’s important that our University be part of the greater community.”

Baker’s engagement in that community is just one asset he brings to the DMU Board, says President Angela Walker Franklin, Ph.D. The two meet twice a month and communicate often by phone and e-mail.

“Dr. Baker was well prepared to ascend to the board chair, after a deliberate and engaged effort to learn best practices in board governance,” President Franklin says. “He takes his role very seriously and is conscientious, thoughtful and strategic.

“He loves DMU, and his commitment is genuine,” she adds. “We work really well together in advancing the University’s mission and vision.”

Serving on the DMU Board is “a privilege,” Baker emphasizes.

“I became involved at the University out of a sense of gratitude for what DMU has allowed me to do, but my board membership is not about me,” he adds. “It is about our University, our students and about health care. There’s incredible power in the impact of a medical school, and we’re a medical/health sciences institution. This University is a diamond.”

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