There are many challenges Dr Philip Baker looks forward to as the University of Alberta’s new Dean of Medicine and Dentistry when he begins his term on 1 September. But there are a few obstacles for which the British native admits he is unprepared.
“I have to be honest: I usually visit Edmonton in the summer. I got my first taste of the Edmonton winter a couple of visits ago. It was cold,” he said with a chuckle. “I realize that my wardrobe is going to have to change, absolutely.”
Luckily, the portfolio for Dean of Medicine and Dentistry is ambivalent concerning the ability to cope with low temperatures. It is, however, quite clear on its medical requirements, but those have Baker less concerned.
Trained as a gynecologist and obstetrician at the University of Nottingham Medical School, he began to develop an interest in pregnancy complications, which he pursued through research at various institutions throughout North America and the United Kingdom.
Throughout the 1980s, Baker did his research at the University of Cambridge before moving to the position of Research Chair at the University of Nottingham, and arrived in Pittsburgh at the Magee-Womens Research Institute as the result of an American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Travelling Research Fellowship.
Baker currently holds positions as a professor of maternal and fetal health at St Mary’s Hospital at the University of Manchester and as the director of the Manchester Biomedical Research Centre. He also recently finished aiding in the establishment of the National Institute for Health Research in Manchester, the completion of which prompted his latest job search and subsequent agreement to come to the U of A.
Regarding the future of the U of A’s medical community, Baker anticipates a mixture of maintaining current practices as well as making an effort to increase the faculty’s national and international network.
“In many respects, the faculty is doing well. My job is to build on what’s good and see if we can push on,” Baker said.
“I’d like to see the faculty optimizing its opportunities with other faculties within the University [and] reaching out both in teaching and in research to other institutions around the world, taking an international perspective.”
Harsh weather conditions aside, entering the unfamiliar cultural landscape of Edmonton doesn’t worry Baker. He professed that the easiest way to acclimatize oneself to a new country and job is to “throw yourself into things.”
“I think you have to try and embrace the places of culture that you’re moving to. I think it makes a statement—the fact that the U of A’s gone and recruited somebody from the other side of the world,” he surmised.
“There is obviously an expectation that I’ll have a different perspective on how I want things to happen. Culturally, there are differences in the way that medical schools function and run on different sides [of the Atlantic].”
But even the excitement of a new job on a new continent can’t dampen the heartache caused by soon-to-be-distant English commodities.
“Another great sadness for me, of course, is that you don’t really have soccer. I’m a furious soccer fan. That is something I can’t pretend I won’t miss dearly,” Baker said with a sigh.
“And with the time difference, they’ll be playing at 8am on Saturday. Although I suppose there are worse things than lying in bed watching football on a Saturday morning.”