July 6, 2022 — After contributing more than three decades of scientific research and leadership at the UF College of Medicine, Henry V. Baker, Ph.D., the Hazel Kitzman professor of genetics and chair of the department of molecular genetics and microbiology from 2003-22, has retired.
Baker, whose lifelong passion for biology stemmed from playing in the stream on his family property outside of Baltimore as a child, earned undergraduate degrees in biology and psychology before completing his doctoral research in bacteriology and gene expression and pursuing postdoctoral research at Harvard Medical School.
He joined the UF College of Medicine faculty in 1987 as an assistant professor in what was previously known as the department of immunology and medical microbiology, and was then home to eight faculty members.
“I was excited to have the opportunity to come into what was a small department at the time and make a big impact,” he said.
Baker, who was also a professor in the department of surgery, frequently collaborated with colleagues in clinical departments on research that focused on developing gene expression classifiers that could be used to diagnose illnesses and predict clinical courses and therapy responsiveness.
During his time on faculty, Baker took on a series of leadership roles under the guidance of then-dean Kenneth Berns, Ph.D., and then-department chair Richard Moyer, Ph.D. In addition to becoming a full professor, Baker became an associate department chair under Moyer and went on to become the first director of the advanced genetics concentration in the College of Medicine’s Interdisciplinary Program in Biomedical Sciences (now the Graduate Program in Biomedical Sciences) from 1995 to 2008. He also served as the associate director of the UF Genetics Institute.
By the time Baker was appointed chair of the department of molecular genetics and microbiology in 2008 — having served as interim chair since 2003 — his team had grown to include 17 faculty members. His efforts as chair included recruiting several new faculty with a wide range of interests in microbiology and genetics. As of his retirement, the department had 21 faculty members.
“Our department has a great group of people,” he said. “Everyone has always pulled together to work toward our mission.”
Baker said he tried to be an effective leader by getting as much input from others as he could before making decisions.
“It sounds silly, but my greatest accomplishment as chair was probably being a cheerleader for my faculty,” he said.
In retirement, Baker said he looks forward to taking his 35-foot sailboat, Fantasea, on a trip to the Caribbean and Chesapeake Bay.
“With a top speed of 7 mph, it’s hard to get very far when you’re working,” he said. “So, I am looking forward to being able to take my time and do some traveling.”