LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 11, 2021) — At age 13, Robert Baumann began working at a children’s camp owned by his family, shaping his desire to find a career in which he could help children. “I also thought the brain and neurology were just fascinating. So, it turned out to be the only logical combination.”
The one-time camp counselor now finds himself known as Dr. Baumann and is receiving the Brumback Lifetime Achievement Award from the Child Neurology Society (CNS) after nearly a half-century of work at the University of Kentucky.
Baumann was born in Chicago, Illinois. He received his undergraduate degree from Tufts University before going on to attend medical school at Western Reserve University (now known as Case Western Reserve). Baumann then was able to really work on his specialty as he focused on pediatrics and neurology at the University of Chicago. His training there was interrupted for two years due to service with the United States Air Force. Upon completing his training, he joined the University of Kentucky in 1972. It was a hire that has not only greatly impacted the university but also the entire eastern region of Kentucky.
He remembers vividly the process of his hiring and the goal set for him from the start. “David Clark, who was the first chair of Neurology at UK and one of the best-known child neurologists in America, was also a University of Chicago graduate. In those days you didn’t’ advertise for jobs … you just called your friends. So, Dr. Clark called University of Chicago faculty to see if they had anybody. They had me.”
Clark hired Baumann to establish an outreach program in Eastern Kentucky for the underserved Appalachian counties - The UK HealthCare Child Neurology Satellite Clinics.
Those clinics helping patients – all under the age of 21 - in the outlying parts of the state get the care they need after physicians began seeing a trend of patients not showing up for needed follow-up appointments.
"We found that a lot of patients could make it to Lexington once or twice, but they just couldn't keep coming in," Baumann said.
Through a partnership with the Division of Maternal and Child Health and local health departments, Baumann was able to establish the first two clinics in Pikeville and Manchester. Baumann and his staff would travel to the satellite locations the night before, then start clinics at 8 a.m. the following morning. After running the clinics for the entire day, the group would pack up and travel back to Lexington.
Initially, the clinics would average 15 kids per day. With two clinics a month, around 300 patients were seen each year.
After joining with the Commission for Children's Health Care Needs in the 1980s, Baumann was able to make the clinics permanent and reach more patients.
"We now have local nurses, social workers, clerks, therapists and other staff members who are dedicated to each clinic," Baumann said. In addition to Manchester and Pikeville, clinics are now held in Ashland, Prestonsburg, Barbourville, Hazard, Morehead and Somerset.
Achieving and expanding on the goal set for him as a young doctor fresh out of his training - running satellite clinics - has been the main highlight of his career and has led to the second highlight of his career, teaching the next generation of doctors. With the clinics utilizing medical students and residents, Baumann says they provided a greatly needed teaching benefit.
“There is an enormous shortage of child neurologists and it is a real problem for families with children who either have a neurologic disease or are worried they might have a neurologic disease,” explained Baumann.
Baumann laughingly notes that with his 45+ years at an academic medical facility like UK, he has trained multiple new generations of doctors, “They are energetic. They are interested. They are highly motivated, and they think of interesting questions to ask. They are just a pleasure to work with.”
The third thing Baumann considers a highlight has been being able to advance knowledge in his field of choice through publishing research and serving on committees and boards, “It has always been my goal to advance child neurology.”
Keeping all of those things in mind and where this journey started – working at a children’s camp – receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award for the work to which he has dedicated his life is extremely rewarding. “To have people in your own field feel that what you’ve done have been major achievements is very gratifying.”
Baumann is grateful for the confidence David Clark had in him early on which put him in a place where he could grow and succeed for years to come. “UK is a very supportive and friendly place to work. People care about each other and people help each other out. In the children’s hospital, there is a real feeling of community. Everybody just wants to help families and their children. It just makes it a pleasure to go to work.”
Neurology Department Chair Dr. Larry Goldstein said that proposing Dr. Baumann as a candidate for this recognition was a “no brainer.” “Dr. Baumann’s achievements, dedication to the ideals of our profession and academic medicine, and commitment to optimizing the health of Kentucky’s children place him in a class of his own. We are immensely proud to have him as a member of our faculty.”
Baumann will be formally recognized and honored during the 50th CNS Annual Meeting set to be held this fall in Boston.
In 2015, the Robert J. Baumann, MD Fund for Neurology Residents was established to support the goals of the neurology resident program. Dr. Baumann truly embodies the teaching mission and his devotion to the field of medicine and training the next generation of providers is truly second to none. For more information on how to honor Dr. Baumann for his recent accomplishment, click here.
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