For thirty-six years, Dr. Larry Baker has been performing surgery on Walker Countians. Now he’s content to pass the baton to his son.
Words by Terrell Manasco | Image by Al Blanton
Before he was a surgeon, Dr. Larry Baker was a tiller of the soil.
“I was a farmer, so you get to use your hands doing things,” he says, relaxing in teal scrubs on an office couch. “I think that’s what attracted me to surgery more than anything.”
Since 1980, Dr. Baker has been using those hands to fix people. “I used to like to do the trauma cases, injured people,” he says. “Of course, I don’t do much of that anymore since they have the Trauma Center. You feel like you’ve got a person that can be fixed back like they were.”
Sitting behind a desk near Dr. Baker is a young man with soulful eyes and reddish-brown hair, a near facsimile of the seasoned physician. “The biggest thing, for me, especially for surgery, is just being able to actually fix something,” says Dr. Ike Baker, his son. “That’s kind of a unique thing for surgery. You can actually go in and take out something that’s causing somebody an issue.”
Ike’s father has specialized in general surgery across four decades at Walker Baptist Medical Center. He’s performed appendectomies, colon and rectal surgeries, mastectomies, gall bladder removal, breast surgeries, wound dressing and repair, esophageal surgeries, hernia repair, lung surgeries, and more. Ironically, he almost chose another branch of medicine. “I initially was going to do an OB-GYN residency but I decided I liked surgery better, so I did a surgery residency at Carraway,” the elder Dr. Baker says. “Then a couple of my friends were practicing here; Dr. Billy Richardson and Dr. Barry McKernon. I went into practice with them and I’ve been here ever since.”
Like his dad, Ike considered other options before ultimately choosing to be a surgeon. “At one point I wanted to be a lawyer and some other things, but I always kind of enjoyed the idea of being a physician, and I always liked watching my dad do what he did and how he was able to affect people.”
Medical technology has changed dramatically since the senior Baker first picked up a scalpel. “When I began, all the surgery was open,” he says. “You made incisions. It gradually evolved into cutting little holes and putting cameras inside people. Now they do it with a robotic arm, which the surgeon manipulates to do the surgery.”
Recently Dr. Baker decided it was time to pass the stethoscope down to his son. As of Sept. 1, 2016, Ike officially took over the practice, but his dad will still be around to assist him in surgery. “With the rapport and the history that Dad has here, for me, it was [important] to make sure there was some continuity with his patients,” Ike says. “I’m hoping that me being here will give them some trust in who’s here.”
The elder Dr. Baker is confident his patients are in good hands.“I tell my patients, I think they’ll like my son because he’s younger and better looking.” 78