Fueling progress in orthopedic surgery

Couple funds first endowed professorship in pediatric orthopedics

By Kristi Ruggles

Credit: Matt MillerAlumna Lindley Wall, MD, examines the arms, wrists and hands of Alexander Trudo, 9, at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. Wall is the inaugural holder of the Jacqueline N. Baker and W. Randolph Baker Professorship in Pediatric Orthopaedics.

Jackie Neibert was introduced to the School of Medicine research enterprise in the early 1970s, when she was hired as an administrative assistant to the head of what is now the Department of Cell Biology & Physiology.

During her time in the department, she met and married Randy Baker, then a young Anheuser-Busch executive.

In early 1977, Jackie became pregnant and subsequently displayed a handful of inexplicable symptoms. That October, she prematurely delivered twin daughters who were transferred to the St. Louis Children’s Hospital neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for extended stays.

Jackie and Randy Baker

The tenacity and expertise that the care team displayed for Jackie and the couple’s twin daughters resonated. Later, the couple also sought care from physicians in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Both underwent hip replacement and rehabilitation due to arthritis pain and loss of mobility. Ultimately, the couple developed a deep appreciation for — and philanthropic interest in — the scientific investigation that drives exceptional patient care.

“As we got to know the physicians, we learned about their research interests and pioneering work and wanted to support where we felt it could make an impact,” said Randy, who retired from Anheuser-Busch in 2008.

The Bakers’ initial gifts were focused on neonatology in the form of an endowed neonatal neurology fellowship and endowed funds named for their five grandchildren to support therapy programming for neonatal patients. They later provided crucial funding for the formation of Washington University’s Living Well Center, which offers a multidisciplinary, lifestyle-centered approach to treating musculoskeletal disorders and other acute and chronic conditions. More recently, they established an endowed fund for the Living Well Center and a separate fund for its COVID-19 long-term program.

The Bakers also have contributed important financial support for orthopedic research and clinical care. Their gifts have accelerated the study of hip preservation and replacement and established a fellowship for advanced training in orthopedic clinical research.

Their most recent gift — a $2 million contribution to endow the Jacqueline N. Baker and W. Randolph Baker Professorship in Pediatric Orthopaedics — will further enhance the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery’s national reputation. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) already ranks the department among the best-funded orthopedics research centers. The department’s residency program is rated No. 3 by Doximity, and U.S. News & World Report consistently recognizes the Division of Pediatric and Adolescent Orthopaedic Surgery as one of the top programs in the nation.

Despite the department’s prestigious profile, it has not had a dedicated pediatric orthopedics professorship. Such positions are powerful tools for recruiting and retaining world-class faculty members who drive research innovations and train future leaders in medicine, said department head Regis J. O’Keefe, MD, PhD, the Fred C. Reynolds Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery. In addition, income generated from professorship endowments can be used to bolster recipients’ clinical and research programs.

“An endowed professorship in pediatric orthopedic surgery was one of the most critical needs we had,” O’Keefe said. “As is so often the case with the Bakers, they saw a need and stepped up to meet it. This gift will keep the department at the forefront of pediatric orthopedic care.”

Forward-thinking philanthropists

The inaugural recipient of the Baker Professorship is Lindley B. Wall, MD, professor of orthopedic surgery, member of the department’s hand and microsurgery service and chief of the Division of Pediatric and Adolescent Orthopaedic Surgery. Wall earned a medical degree at Washington University in 2006. She also completed an orthopedics residency at the university in 2011 and earned a master’s degree in clinical investigation in 2017. She is a national leader in the treatment of pediatric hand and upper-extremity congenital deformities and spasticity conditions.

“I am excited and honored to be named the first Baker Professor,” Wall said. “This recognition is meaningful to me personally and professionally. It inspires me to work harder to elevate care for our pediatric patients and their families.”

The Bakers hope Wall and future recipients of their professorship will further the field of pediatric orthopedic surgery and advance discoveries that could improve the lives of their grandchildren and, of course, children they will never meet.

“St. Louis is stronger because of Washington University School of Medicine,” Jackie said. “And health care far beyond St. Louis is better as a result of the work done here.”

Charles A. Goldfarb, MD, is professor and executive vice chair of orthopedic surgery and Wall’s predecessor as chief of pediatric and adolescent orthopedics. He has come to know and appreciate the Bakers as one of Jackie’s physicians and through the couple’s partnership with the School of Medicine. He describes them as forward-thinking philanthropists.

“Their support has made it possible for the department to provide care that is really ahead of its time,” he said. “Their generosity will allow us to continue moving the needle in the field of orthopedics.”

Published in the Spring 2023 issue