Meet UNMC Distinguished Scientist Bernard Timothy Baxter, M.D.

February 13, 2009

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Bernard Timothy Baxter, M.D.
UNMC researcher Bernard Timothy Baxter, M.D., answers questions about his work, life and interests.

NOTE: This profile is part of a series highlighting the 23 researchers who were named UNMC Distinguished Scientists or New Investigators for 2008. Each of these researchers will be profiled in UNMC Today leading up to a March 16 ceremony to recognize their achievements.

  • Name: Bernard Timothy Baxter, M.D.
  • Title: Professor of surgery
  • Joined UNMC: 1990
  • Hometown: Canon City, Colo.

Describe your research in laymen less.

Our research goal is to develop a drug to prevent aneurysm progression. An aneurysm is an enlargement of an artery that can lead to rupture and death.

What led you to pursue this area of research?

Many aneurysms are discovered at a small size and serial ultrasound observation is offered rather than definitive treatment. This approach is very unsettling to patients. One can see the strain on their face when they are told about their aneurysm. A medical treatment could alleviate this anxiety and prevent the deaths from aneurysm rupture

How do you see your research contributing to science?

The changes in the aorta when someone has an aneurysm are very similar to changes found in the lung with emphysema and changes seen with skin diseases. When we understand and can block the progressive changes of an aneurysm, we will have new information about how to treat many other conditions.

Why did you become a scientist?

Big advances in science rarely occur in a large step. They come about from thousands of small discoveries that add new pieces to the puzzle. The excitement of making these small discoveries is wonderful. Clinical medicine has its rewards also, but uncovering a new secret of nature is very gratifying.

What is your hope for the next generation of scientists?

That they can have the same sense of satisfaction from the discovery.

Beyond grant funding, how do you measure success?

By the enjoyment of the work, the success of students and colleagues and knowing that we are making progress that will change the treatment of aneurysms for patients.

What would you tell a student interested in a research career?

It is an exciting career with many, many avenues to success. Some are discouraged by the difficulty of getting public funding. Research in industry can be very rewarding and this is the source of many important discoveries. The analytic skills learned in becoming a researcher are applicable to a wide variety of fields.

Do you have a hero/role model? If so, what do you admire most about this person?

Dr. Judah Folkman, a pediatric surgeon who worked on angiogenesis in tumors. His early hypotheses and grant proposals were often ignored. Angiogenesis is now a primary target in the treatment of most cancers.

Tell us about your family and hobbies outside of the lab.

My wife, Barb, and I have four children, Laura, 19, Anna 18, Bernie, 15, and Olivia. 12. They keep us busy but they are great fun.

List three things few people know about you.

I love to ride my bike, tinker with old cars and drink a beer now and then.

Click here to see the UNMC Honors Web site, which features photos of profiles of the medical center's Distinguished Scientists and New Investigators.