New ABIM leader looks forward to changes, challenges

The American Board of Internal Medicine's incoming president and CEO discusses his medical career and personal influences.

Richard Baron, MD, MACP

Occupation: Incoming president and CEO, American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) and the ABIM Foundation.

Courtesy of Richard Baron MD MACP
Courtesy of Richard Baron, MD, MACP

Age: 59.

Current residence: Philadelphia.

Hometown: New York City.

Family: Married 35 years to Jane, a law professor at Temple University; two children, Zachary, a freelance journalist in New York, and Ruth, a senior Web editor for Oprah Winfrey and author of “Defriended,” a new young-adult novel.

Medical school: Yale University.

Residency: New York University-Bellevue.

Something I wish I'd learned in medical school: How to lead teams.

I became an internist because: I wanted to take care of patients.

First job: With the National Health Service Corps, as the only physician in the western half of a rural county in southeast Tennessee. To get an internal medicine subspecialist, you had to go 50 or 60 miles to Chattanooga.

Most meaningful professional accomplishment: Founding a community-based medical practice of internal medicine and geriatrics and practicing in it for 25 years.

Hardest medical lesson learned: Practicing medicine and taking care of patients is deeply rewarding but really hard work.

Future goals: Society's expectations of what a good doctor is and what we know and what we do are changing pretty dramatically. ABIM is a very important vehicle for translating those changing expectations into training and into practice. My goal will be for diplomates going through the board certification and maintenance of certification process to experience something that is relevant, that is valuable and that is an opportunity for self-development.

Most rewarding aspect of your job: Getting to work with health care leaders and outstanding internists to create a health system that better meets the needs of patients by assuring they have access to well-trained capable internists.

Most challenging aspect of your job: In a world with a lot of change, people can become fearful and have trouble accepting change and moving forward toward things that might be better, so the most challenging aspect will be managing change both among the diplomates and at [ABIM] itself.

Personal heroes: Andrew Carnegie, Abraham Lincoln, William Osler. They were all people who had a values-driven vision of a better world and were able to work effectively with very diverse groups of people to make that happen.

Pet peeves: They make it really hard to open things that are plastic-wrapped.

Favorite way to spend free time: Backpacking with my wife.

Favorite author: William Faulkner. I wrote my undergraduate thesis on him when I was an English major.

Books on my nightstand: “Washington: The Indispensable Man” by James Thomas Flexner and “Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity” by Katherine Boo.

Most surprising thing about me: I won the best-rester award in nursery school in recognition of my napping skills. It's the most important award I've ever won. It's a core life skill.

Something I regret: I wish I'd spent more time in Paris.

If I weren't a physician, I would be: A writer.