I.M. a Resident: Sarah M. Baker, MD, PhD, MSc

Sarah M. Baker, MD, PhD, MSc

Sarah M. Baker, MD, PhD, MSc
University of Washington
Third year, infectious diseases fellow

In which program year of residency are you currently in?

I am currently a third-year Infectious Diseases Fellow at the University of Washington.

Why did you choose internal medicine?

Internal medicine (IM) requires an in-depth understanding of the anatomy, physiology, and biochemistry of the human body. Training in IM allowed me to translate that knowledge into evidence-based clinical practice while pursuing a career in infectious diseases. Infectious diseases as a subspecialty emphasizes a combination of science and clinical medicine, allowing me to combine my intellectual curiosity and love of research with my passion for an interdisciplinary approach to medicine.

What lesson(s) did you learn in residency that can help you for the rest of your career?

Residency emphasized to me the importance of always being thoughtful and curious when approaching a differential diagnosis. I believe in the adage that every patient tells a story and, by listening closely, you may uncover clues that lead to a diagnosis and treatment. My clinical experiences caring for immunocompromised and immunosuppressed patients help me understand the impact that bench science can have on the individual patient. By being thoughtful and inquisitive, by listening to a patient’s needs, I can not only guide treatment in the short term but can also identify opportunities for research that can eventually be translated to bedside.

What are your plans for after residency? Are you becoming a chief, going into fellowship, or starting as an attending? What factors or advice from mentors contributed to your decision?

I am planning a career as an academic physician–scientist. My clinical practice encompasses both general infectious diseases as well as infectious diseases in the immunocompromised host. This clinical work complements my research, which focuses on pulmonary mucosal immunology and bacterial host–pathogen interactions, particularly opportunistic pulmonary pathogens. Some of the most useful advice I received is to surround yourself with mentors who will be your champions: find mentors who will put your name forward for opportunities, who want you to succeed, and are invested in helping you identify and achieve your goals.

How has being a member of ACP helped you in your professional life? What resources have been most helpful to you?

Throughout my education, I have been fortunate to find mentors who strike a balance between providing guidance and allowing for autonomy. These relationships are critical to the success of any physician–scientist, and I am inspired by those I have worked with to mentor future physicians and scientists. Academic medicine is appealing to me in this way, as I enjoy the congenial atmosphere of teaching and the collaborative nature of scientific discovery. ACP has several resources available to help identify mentors and cultivate these long-term relationships, including both ACP meetings as well as residency career counseling.