UW-CTRI Research Director Dr. Tim Baker has been named the recipient of the 2016 Ove Ferno Award, honoring scientists who have made groundbreaking advances in clinical research. The award recognizes those who have made a significant impact on the understanding of nicotine addiction and treatments to help patients quit tobacco use.
Baker will receive the award next year at the annual meeting of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco in Chicago. A professor of medicine at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, he has been director of research at UW-CTRI since its inception in 1992. In 2008, the National Cancer Institute awarded Baker a five-year career scientist award.
Baker has made significant contributions to psychological clinical science, elucidating the behavioral, cognitive, and affective processes involved in tobacco dependence, cessation, and relapse and the degree to which treatments affect these processes. He served as the senior scientist on all three panels that produced the United States Public Health Service Clinical Practice Guideline: Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence (1996, 2000, 2008). This document provides a gold standard for healthcare providers on evidence-based treatment of tobacco use. Baker has published more than 200 peer-reviewed articles, including recent ground-breaking research on how genetics relate to nicotine addiction. He has served as PI or co-PI on five major NIH center grants and has led a rigorous, transdisciplinary, and translational program of research on addiction for more than three decades. Baker uses state-of-the-art methods and collaborates with peers at universities across the country. A former editor of the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, one of the top psychology journals, Baker has worked to develop and promote the Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System.
One of Baker’s most impressive accomplishments is the impact of his students on the field of tobacco-dependence research. They have gone on to publish papers, edit journals, garner grants, and win awards. They include the following Ph.Ds: Thomas Brandon, Jessica Cook, Lisa Fucito, Peter Hendricks, Sandra Japuntich, Douglas Jorenby, Susan Kenford, Danielle McCarthy, Thomas Piasecki, Megan Piper, Stevens Smith, Stephen Tiffany, David Wetter, Diane Zelman, and Michael Zinser.
“Perhaps less obvious than—but at least as important as—Tim’s direct scientific contributions to the field is his enduring impact upon subsequent generations of tobacco researchers,” said Brandon (left). “His former trainees—doctoral students, postdocs, and junior faculty—owe much of their success to Tim’s instruction, his critical thinking, his modeling, his high expectations, his support, and his friendship. And his legacy continues with each new generation of researchers. Current students who are two to five generations removed from Tim may not realize how much their training is still influenced by Tim, but they are most certainly benefiting from the training model that he established. The Baker family line is strong and still growing within tobacco research.”
Piasecki, now a professor at the University of Missouri, agreed. “As a young graduate student, I once asked Tim why he was slogging through so many grants for the NIDA study section he served on for many years. I wondered, ‘Why would you do all that work—or at least why do it year after year—if you don’t really have to?’ Tim’s response has stuck with me: He said he did it because he enjoyed learning from the other members of the study section and, beyond that, he felt it was his obligation to give something back and that it was a privilege to be able to shape the field by participating in the selection of funded treatment research proposals. Tim has helped to shape our field in many ways. If all of these contributions could be precisely quantified, the result would be staggeringly impressive.”
“I feel mind-bogglingly proud to have had the opportunity to learn from Tim Baker,” said Wetter. Virtually everything I do as a scientist and manager I learned from him and Mike Fiore.”
“Tim is not only a brilliant scientist, he is an amazing man,” Piper said. “He has a wonderful sense of humor and knows more completely appropriate, but random, quotes from famous people than you would think possible. His dedication to his family is obvious, demonstrated by the way he carried his various Hello Kitty wallets from his daughters for years. He may also have the smallest ego of any academic I’ve ever met. He’s always interested in, and open to, feedback on different projects from everyone who would like to contribute. He may not be the most fashionable dresser (unless dressed by one of his artistically inclined family members), but his warmth, smile, and joy for life definitely makes an impression.”
UW-CTRI Director Dr. Michael Fiore summed it up this way: “Tim Baker is the total package—brilliant without peer, uncommon in clarity of communication, intellectually generous, remarkably practical, with a laser focus on outcomes and impact. His modest shoulders have quietly carried the UW-CTRI research enterprise for almost three decades. I am profoundly grateful to Tim for what he has done for UW-CTRI and for his extraordinary friendship.”