During a career at WMed that has spanned 14 years, Dr. Joanne K. Baker has taken on many roles in her work to grow and nurture the medical school’s Internal Medicine Residency Program.
In 2003, she became director of Osteopathic Medical Education at the Michigan State University Kalamazoo Center for Medical Studies, the predecessor to WMed, and also served as Osteopathic Internal Medicine Program Director. Since 2012. She has been a professor for Internal Medicine at the medical school.
Now, Dr. Baker has been named the program director of WMed’s Internal Medicine Residency Program.
“I feel very fortunate,” Dr. Baker said recently. “I feel like I have the best job. I get to do the teaching I enjoy, the mentorships I enjoy … There are no boring days.”
Dr. Baker’s new role at WMed became official on May 8. She takes over for Dr. Mark Loehrke who previously served as program director and chair of the medical school’s Department of Medicine.
Dr. Loehrke will continue his duties as department chair and now serves as associate program director for Internal Medicine. Dr. Baker said the transition will allow for her and Dr. Loehrke to continue to work together on the important tasks of recruitment, leadership and mentorship for the residency program.
“The people in this program really provide the glue and cement of this program,” Dr. Baker said. “It makes what can be very crazy days still enjoyable because our residents are friends and the faculty really get to know the residents.”
Dr. Baker is a native of Southwest Michigan and a graduate of Portage Central High School, and she is an alumna of Central Michigan University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Biology with minors in Chemistry and Psychology.
In 1991, she graduated from the Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine and went on to complete a three-year Internal Medicine residency at what is now known as the Genesys Regional Medical Center in Flint. After residency, Dr. Baker remained in Flint where she worked in private practice and, later, as a hospitalist.
She and her family returned to Southwest Michigan in 2001 when Dr. Baker began working as a hospitalist at Borgess Medical Center in Kalamazoo. She said it was the fall of 2002 when she and Dr. Loehrke, and Dr. William Allen, a longtime program director for the medical school’s Family Medicine Residency Program, first talked about starting an osteopathic medicine training program for Internal Medicine and Family Medicine.
By 2003, Dr. Baker said she was working part-time as the Director of Osteopathic Medical Education.
As she settles in as the Program Director for Internal Medicine, Dr. Baker said she is building upon what is already a very strong training program. The three-year residency at WMed now boasts 12 new residents per year and the residents complete rotations at Borgess Medical Center, Bronson Methodist Hospital, the West Michigan Cancer Center, the Battle Creek VA Medical Center and local office practices where they gain experience in several subspecialties.
Dr. Baker said she doesn’t foresee making any big changes to the residency program going forward. However, she said she plans to meet one-on-one with residents and hold meetings with faculty to see if there are any specific areas that can be fine tuned or improved to make the residency program even stronger.
Dr. Baker said she is also looking forward to her continued work with the program’s residents and the new class of residents that is set to arrive to WMed this summer.
“You just continually see that growth after they come in,” Dr. Baker said. “We have such a diverse residency, which to me is a strength in our program. We have international graduates, local graduates and people from out of state and I think that’s what adds the strength because everyone brings something in their experience that adds something to the whole.”