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“Ronald K. Baker PhD, MD was a resident in the Department of Anesthesiology at the University of Arizona in the late 70s when I was a junior faculty member. We did many cases together, and I remember him well, and fondly, as an excellent resident and physician, always on top of things. He had an engaging personality, scraggly mustache, and a wry (sometimes smirky) smile and sense of humor. Like me, he was a bit quirky, with esoteric interests (I wasn’t surprised to learn he cared for distressed ferrets). He had excellent hands for procedures, but roughly hewn, as if he worked on cars or other labor-intensive hobbies in his spare time.
He had been a chemist and I queried him about van der Waals forces, the subtle quantum interactions by which anesthetic gases erase consciousness, still mysterious to this day. Favoring true ‘chemical’ bonds, Ron disdained the weak and evanescent quantum forces, and we debated their importance. I pressed him about microtubules inside neurons, which I believed (and still believe) mediate consciousness and anesthetic action. At that, Ron just smiled and smirked even more wryly.
The Department was new, having been a Division of Surgery until the mid 70s, and led by its founding Chairman, Burnell R. Brown Jr. PhD, MD. Like me, Ron had been recruited into Anesthesiology through Burnell’s broad-based intellect, humor and passion about the future of the field. Burnell joined in our discussions about anesthetic action, chemistry and physics, and a broad range of other topics, often between cases in the ‘doctor’s lounge’, literally a smoke-filled room with a large, central ash tray (how times have changed!). The field of Anesthesiology was also new, emerging from its role as ‘surgeon’s handmaiden’ into a specialty of its own. Our tools were primitive, before the days of pulse oximetry, capnography, automatic blood pressure cuffs, propofol, LMAs, ultrasound and ventilators. We spent much of our intra-operative time squeezing the ventilation bag and blood pressure cuff bulbs, a finger on the pulse, and an eye on the color of the lips and tongue.
I lost touch with Ron after his residency, but from what I’ve read, he had a happy and successful life and career in Colorado. I imagine he adapted well to the many advances in Anesthesiology, but presumed he remained, like me, ‘old school’ at heart.
Ron passed away in 2017 and generously bequeathed 8.8 million dollars to the University of Arizona College of Medicine and Department of Anesthesiology.
– Dr. Stuart Hameroff, MD
The Department of Anesthesiology moved into its new operating rooms on Monday April 9th that are located on the 3rd floor of the recently dedicated Tower 1, a 9 story, 670,000 square foot hospital, part of the Banner University Medical Center Tucson expansion project. The new peri-operative space includes 22 state of the art operating rooms, including 2 hybrid ORs, dedicated regional block and procedure rooms, office space for the Board Runner, Peri-Operative Medical Director
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