Dr. Baker to receive Amistad Award from Rancho

DOWNEY - Dr. Lucinda L. Baker, who was honored last year with the Rancho Los Amigos Rehabilitation Center Lifetime Achievement Award, will receive another accolade from the Rancho Foundation on March 8 with the Amistad Award. The members of her nominating committee said Dr. Baker is being honored "for demonstrating outstanding service to Rancho Los Amigos throughout her long and notable career, and for having had a significant and positive impact on patient care via her mentorship of the speech, occupational and physical therapy departments" at the famed hospital.

Further, the committee cited Dr. Baker "as a renowned pioneer in the use of physical agent modalities for the rehabilitation of patients with physical disabilities across disciplines."

The committee also noted her position as a faculty member for the physical department at USC, as well as her "continual commitment to research that will make the biggest improvement in patients' lives."

Left unsaid was such research elevates the level of understanding of the subject which can lead to unsuspected neuromuscular breakthroughs. Indeed, Dr. Baker, who got her BS (1972), MS (1977), and PhD (1985) degrees in physical therapy all from USC, has devoted her whole life to the field and related areas: as a therapist, clinician, researcher, consultant, mentor, professor, and department chair.

She began her rich and productive career as a staff physical therapist, then as a research therapist, then adjunct professor, physical therapy consultant, neurophysiology consultant and researcher, then assistant professor (at one point appointed as acting chair of the department), and, finally associate professor, which along with her other functions keeps her plate full today.

Her keen interest in FES (or functional electrical stimulation and, later, neuromuscular electrical stimulation, in the clinic) led her and her other colleagues into holding numerous two-day lectures/workshops, from 1979 to 2004, around the U.S., Canada, Tunis, Australia, New Zealand, Taipei, Italy and Finland. Recalling their travels, Dr. Baker says, "We were all over the place," adding that at one time she also worked with a group of therapists in Ethiopia.

She says she enjoyed her early years while working on her master's "while living at Rancho, taking classes at both USC and Rancho - and seeing patients all at the same time."

"What a treat to have access to all of Rancho's facilities and staff, and all of USC's staff as well," she says. Long known as a chronic-disease hospital, Rancho was accredited in 1970 as an inpatient rehabilitation facility.

Right before USC would offer the first physical therapy doctorate in the nation starting in 1979, Dr. Baker would later relive what she was doing at that particular time: "Now that I'm working at Rancho, I'm really learning, because I'm teaching students, patients, and staff all the time."

Dr. Baker, recognized as a renowned expert in neuromuscular stimulation (NMES), is also the author of a book, "Neuro-Muscular Electrical Stimulation: A practical Guide," which "has served as a foundation of NMES practice at Rancho." Considered as a seminal text, it is believed in use at other medical facilities.

She says her favorite subject in school was physics. Thus her passion for neuromuscular research: it combines physics ("electricity") and physiology ("living tissue"}.

The list of her publications, abstracts, chapters and monographs on electrical stimulation and related topics occupies quite a few pages.

Acknowledged as a leading authority on physical therapy, she maintains active membership in the American Physical Therapy Association.

She says her present focus is on the therapeutic uses of electrical stimulation by the use of "BION," which is a form of implanted stimulation ("with a long needle") and doesn't require surgery--"for therapy and function."

At the same time, her staff has been "working on speech and language pathologies for a long time now for stimulation purposes, especially where brain damage or spinal cord injury has occurred." The office she occupies now was once part of the original hospital run by Dr. Jacqueline Perry.

Dr. Baker's ancestry is Welsh-Irish on her dad's side, while French-German blood was contributed by her mom, Louise. Her dad, who passed away ten years ago, was a "5th generation Southern Californian from Pomona," while her mom, who now lives with her in Downey, comes from the San Fernando Valley.

Dr. Baker points out that her great-great grandfather was the founding pastor of the First Baptist Church of Downey.

"So, you see," she says, "I had ties to Downey long before I got here." A Downey resident since 1973, Dr. Baker has served, by her reckoning, as prayer coordinator at the church for the past 15 years.

She is the middle of three siblings: Loy, the eldest, is a deputy sheriff in Northern California, while Lila, the youngest, is editor of the Newhall Signal. For relaxation, she says she likes to do handwork, particularly crocheting.

********** Published: Feb. 20, 2014 - Volume 12 - Issue 45