Health Department supervisor LaRisha Baker named Public Health Genius for dedication to preventing colon cancer
The Oregon Public Health Institute (OPHI) has named Multnomah County program supervisor LaRisha Baker a Public Health Genius for her commitment to public health and dedication to preventing colorectal cancer.
In 2008, Baker, a program supervisor in the Health Department, and her sisters Marsha, Michell and Andrea Baker, founded the Steve Baker Colorectal Cancer Alliance (SBCCA). The center is named after the Baker sisters’ father who died of the disease in 2008 at age 56.
By the time Steve Baker was diagnosed, cancer had apparently been present in his body for 10 years. Though he complained of bowel trouble, he had never been referred for a colonoscopy that would have detected the disease early. He died just 10 months after first becoming ill.
The Baker sisters speak to church groups, social clubs, and in the workplace educating the community on the importance of early detection and prevention of colorectal cancer. They have begun dialogues called “Rear View Lunch and Learn Program,” to further encourage healthy lifestyle changes, to help health provider and patient dialogue and to promote colorectal cancer awareness.
Baker joined the National Colon Cancer Alliance, testifying before Congress, meeting with legislators and policy makers and adapting the national strategies for a local audience. She is also a former Robert Wood Johnson fellow whose work focused on achieving health equity in the Pacific Northwest.
Wendy Lear, health department business services director, lauded Baker’s commitment to health equity.
“Whether working to educate others in the fight to defeat colorectal cancer; or ensuring her leadership development program includes a diversity component; or by promoting equity opportunities and working on solutions for minority- and women-owned businesses, LaRisha continues to be a leader in her efforts to make this community a healthier and more equitable one for all,” Lear said.
Baker will be honored on Friday, Oct. 19 where she will be named the 2012 Billi Odegaard Public Health Genius in the Emerging Leader category.