American Surgical Association Transactions

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1938 - 2021

J. Dennis Baker, MD, 1938-2021

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Dr. J. Dennis Baker, MD, Professor Emeritus of Surgery at UCLA, on January 26, 2021, due to heart failure. Dr. Baker was a gifted surgeon, educator, mentor, administrator, and a dedicated researcher in vascular physiologic testing and imaging. He was devoted to his patients and trainees and was beloved at the Los Angeles Veterans Administration Hospital. He served the VA for over 46 years as a surgeon, chief of vascular surgery, and in several administrative positions. He received a commendation and the distinguished service award from the VA for his outstanding care of veterans and his service to them.

Though born in Michigan, Denny was raised in Cuba after his parents became teachers at Ruston Academy in Havana. Upon graduating from Ruston, Denny attended Haverford College and received his medical degree from Columbia University. He joined the US Public Health Service in 1967 and served in Panama for two years, using both his medical skills and fluent Spanish to care for American Peace Corps Volunteers and native Panamanian communities alike.

After Panama, he completed his internship at Bellevue Hospital in New York, his General Surgery Residency at Tufts-New England Medical Center, and his Vascular Surgery Fellowship at Henry Ford Hospital. In 1975, Dr. Baker moved to Los Angeles when he joined the vascular surgery section of the UCLA Department of Surgery; he was stationed primarily at the Veterans Administration hospital.

Dr. Baker was a member of many national and international surgical societies and served on numerous committees for most of those organizations. He was president of the Western Vascular Society, the Southern California Vascular Society, and the Intersocietal Commission for Accreditation of Vascular Labs. He published numerous peer reviewed articles, was on the editorial boards and was a reviewer for many vascular and imaging journals. He was an early supporter of the Society for Clinical Vascular Surgery and served in multiple leadership positions, including President. For his contributions he was awarded the Society for Clinical Vascular Surgery Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010.

After 36 years, Dr. Baker officially retired from clinical activities at the VA, but stayed on in the office of the Chief of Surgery as an administrative advisor and mentor, until 2020. His 46 truly dedicated years to the VA were marked by his institutional knowledge and acumen, and his sense of humor was unmatched.

Most importantly, Denny was a loving husband, father, and grandfather. He is survived by his wife of 45 years, Kay, sons Chris (Julie) and Mark (Caitlin), brother Chris (Karen) and four grandchildren (James, Abby, Kerrigan and Quinn). Denny spoke several languages and traveled widely, making lifelong friends from France to New Zealand. He and Kay visited six continents in their travels and especially relished traveling with Chris and Mark to see the world, and visiting his extended family. He loved the water and could swim, snorkel, and sail with equal skill. He spent his retirement explaining the finer points of raising Samoyed dogs to his sons, and reading to his grandchildren.