Health Partner Profile: Dr. Diana Baker, California Advanced Imaging Medical Associates


Dr. Diana Baker_2

Samaritan House Director of Development, Mary Dunbar, recently sat down with Dr. Diana Baker of California Advanced Imaging Medical Associates (CAIMA) to talk about CAIMA’s commitment to the health and well-being of our neighbors in need. CAIMA donates upwards of $90,000 worth of imaging services to Samaritan House each year, so that the volunteer doctors at our two free healthcare clinics have the tools they need to adequately diagnose and treat the patients in their care.

Mary Dunbar: Diana, I’m so glad that you’re here.
Dr. Diana Baker: Thank you for having me.
MD: Tell us a bit about CAIMA and how long have you been partnering with Samaritan House?
DB: I’m a partner at California Advanced Imaging Medical Associates, which is a group of radiologists in the Bay Area. We work with several hospitals in the Bay Area including Mills-Peninsula Medical Center, San Mateo Medical Center and Sequoia Hospital among others! Between Mills-Peninsula and Sequoia Hospitals, we donate $90,000 of professional services to Samaritan House each year. We’ve been working with Samaritan House and donating free professional services for as long as any of us can remember, it’s probably close to 25 years.

Our Samaritan house patients are seen during our regular hours, alongside all of our other patients. The Samaritan House clinician orders whatever imaging study they feel is important for that particular patient’s care, whether that is a chest X-ray, CT scan, MRI, ultrasound etc. The professional services for that exam is then donated by us for free.  Each of us participates.

MD: Wow. First of all, that’s incredibly generous. Thank you.
DB: It’s our pleasure.
MD: The partnership with the CAIMA doctors is so important, because radiology alone is quite a major expense when you think about it.
DB: It is so important for people to be able to get the imaging studies that they need, whatever they may be. Imaging studies are expensive but they can be incredibly important.
MD: I heard a story that the doctors at CAIMA were donating the pro bono services and it comes out their bonuses, is that true?
DB: It does come out of our personal salary which includes bonuses. We split it evenly among the partners.
MD: That’s incredibly generous when you think about how it impacts the doctors financially. That makes it an even more special and unique gift to the community.
DB: Certainly, and we are thrilled to do it. We all live in this community. We all are really happy to help and it is a valuable service that we can uniquely provide.
MD: Your expertise is obviously something that’s highly needed. Have you had any personal experiences with the Samaritan House patients you see? Is there one story that stands out?
DB: Several Samaritan House patients come to mind! I remember a few years ago there was a patient who had been experiencing episodes of severe abdominal pain for several months but had not had the time to see a doctor. The episodes were so severe that she was often unable to work. She finally sought care at the Samaritan House, and the clinician ordered an abdominal ultrasound.  We found that she had gallstones and had even developed a serious complication from them.  She had surgery and has fully recovered!
MD: What inspired you to get into radiology?
DB: In medical school, at first, I thought I wanted to be a surgeon, and I did a lot of surgical rotations and research. I found myself in every single one of those rotations most interested in going down to the Radiology department and looking at the patients’ images.   I realized “wow, when I am working in OB/GYN I’m most interested in looking at the ultrasound pictures. When I do surgery I’m most interested in looking at the CT …“ That is how my interest in radiology began.  I signed up for radiology rotations and fell in love with it!

The other thing I love about radiology is that we see everything. We can help to diagnose a brain tumor one minute and the next moment we may be looking at an ultrasound of an unborn baby to be sure that is developing normally. The following day we may be reading mammograms. We are involved with every aspect of healthcare from beginning to end, and I love that. I love the images. I’m a visual person.

MD: Oh, that’s great. So it’s not just about diagnosing people with illness. It’s also about preventative care.
DB: That’s right. Much of what we do is preventative care.  A great example is screening mammography.  I also love developing relationships and interacting with patients. Many people think that radiologists sit behind a computer screen and never see patients! People are surprised to hear that we perform many of the exams ourselves, including breast ultrasound and interventional procedures such as biopsies, etc.
MD: Great, so you get a little bit of both. Just out of curiosity, how do you learn to become a doctor of radiology? You go through medical school like everybody else, but what’s the actual specialty?
DB: You do medical school which is four years and then you do a one year internship, typically in internal medicine, or surgery. That is followed by four more years of dedicated radiology, including night and weekend call.  In our group we have all also done an additional one or two year fellowship to specialize within the field of Radiology. Fellowships might be in Neuroradiology, Body Imaging, Breast Imaging, Ultrasound etc. My fellowship was in Ultrasound.
MD: Do you sometimes feel a bit like an investigator or a detective?
DB: Absolutely. Every day and every patient is different too, so you start looking at a case you never know what you’re going to find. It’s interesting. It’s never boring.
MD: Were you raised here on the Peninsula?
DB: No. I’m from North Carolina and I came out here when I was 17 to go to Stanford.
MD: Wow, 17!
DB: I came here and fell in love with the Bay Area. I went to Stanford for undergrad and I got a master’s degree there, stayed for medical school, and then I went to UCSF for residency and fellowship. I settled between the two in San Mateo at Mills-Peninsula with California Advanced Imaging, so here I am.
MD: That’s great. After you did your residency at UCSF and your fellowship, where did you go?
DB: Straight to work with CAIMA! This was my first job out of fellowship and I have been here for 14 years!
  Personally, I know all of us, including myself, have roles that we play in our community outside of work. I work with my daughter with National Charity League and I work with my son with Young Men’s Service League, outside of my professional world. The CAIMA radiologists do a lot of community service outside of donating our professional services, each one of us in our own way.
MD: You mentioned that you were here for something to do with a drive of some kind?
DB: Yes! My daughter and her friends got together and did a coat drive years ago. We collected coats and brought them all in. We then toured the facility and were amazed. It’s I think incredible for our kids to see what is happening in our community and to help.
MD: That’s powerful.
DB: All of us at CAIMA try to serve our community outside of work as well. Personally, I have three children who are 11, 13 and 15 years old. We are very involved in National Charity League and Young Men’s Service League. In fact, I am the incoming VP of Philanthropy for our National Charity League chapter. Of course, the kids also have their own schoolwork, sports and activities and I love to exercise and read in my spare time.
MD: That’s a lot. I don’t know how you manage that.
DB: It’s busy. It’s very busy but it’s fun.
MD: That’s good. But do you sleep?
DB: Yes, sleep is so important!
MD: It is! I don’t know if you’re aware, but both NCL and YMSL are both huge supporters of Samaritan House.
DB: Yes, we are so thankful for this partnership and absolutely love working with Samaritan House
MD: What inspired you to be so civic minded and philanthropic?
DB: I have always been involved in community service and I feel it is so important for young people to give back and serve their community. I wanted to share those experiences with my kids. I personally found it difficult as a working parent.  That is why I am so happy to be able to donate my professional services to Samaritan House.  Also, working with NCL and YMSL with my kids has been a wonderful and meaningful experience.
MD: And so you get to do a little bit of everything.
DB: Yes. I try to get the kids involved in many different kinds of community service. I hope they will develop a lifelong commitment to our community.
MD: Wow, that’s neat. You truly are a community leader then, leading by example for your children.
DB: It’s happened organically, just as a result of wanting them to get involved.
MD: Is there anything else that you’d like to share about CAIMA, your group, and the good works that you do in the community, about your practice?
DB: California Advanced Imaging like I said before is separated into divisions at different hospitals in the Bay Area. Each division is like a family. It’s nice for us to, as a family, feel like we’re helping and doing things for our own community. We’re a very close knit group of equal partners, so for us it’s definitely a community within a community.
MD: After learning more about what you do for the community, I think you qualify as one of our health heroes.
DB: Thank you. I think I can speak for my partners at CAIMA when I say that we really value our relationship with our Samaritan House patients and are so happy that we can contribute our specialized expertise!
MD: And your superpower is radiology.
DB: Ha! Thank you!