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SIOP Award Winners: Meet David Baker, Winner of the Distinguished Professional Contributions Award

Liberty J. Munson

As part of our ongoing series to provide visibility into what it takes to earn a SIOP award or grant, we highlight a diverse class of award winners in each edition of TIP. We hope that this insight encourages you to consider applying for a SIOP award or grant because you are probably doing something amazing that can and should be recognized by your peers in I-O psychology!

This quarter, we are highlighting the winner of the Distinguished Professional Contributions Award, David P. Baker, Executive Vice President, IMPAQ International, LLC.


What award did you win? Why did you apply?

I won the 2019 Distinguished Professional Contributions Award. I applied because I felt the work I have participated in/led was consistent with the award criteria. After working for close to 30 years, it was a goal of mine to win the award.


Share a little a bit about who you are and what you do.

I am the executive vice president of IMPAQ Health at IMPAQ International, LLC. We are located in Columbia, MD. I lead a 150-person health policy and research enterprise that tackles critical initiatives associated with transitioning care from fee for service to value-based reimbursement. Our work is primarily funded by the federal government. I am only one of four I-O psychologists that work in IMPAQ Health. Most staff have a public policy, health policy, or health economics background.


Describe the research/work that you did that resulted in this award. What led to your idea?

When I left graduate school, I worked for Eduardo Salas at the Naval Training System Center (now the Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division) in a research lab focused on teamwork and team training in naval aircrews. I also worked with many commercial airlines on improving team performance upon leaving the Navy. In 1999, the Institute of Medicine released a report entitled, “To Err is Human.” It reported that 98,000 patients die each year in hospitals because of poor care and poor team performance. It specifically highlighted the progress made in aviation to reduce harm through better teamwork and training, and proposed that healthcare adopt such programs. In 2002, a procurement was led by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) to evaluate medical team training programs in the Department of Defense (DoD). I led the proposal team that won that project, which led to a 5-year research and development program focused on teamwork and team training in healthcare. Based on this research, I led the contract team that did much of the design and development work for AHRQ’s TeamSTEPPS® training program. Finally, I led the team that designed and implemented a national rollout of the TeamSTEPPS training program. Training centers were established throughout the US to train healthcare professionals as master trainers who then trained others. Since inception, hundreds of thousands of healthcare professionals around the world have been trained to work better as a team using TeamSTEPPS. Ed Salas would argue it is the most consumed team training program in the world.


What do you think was key to you winning this award?

As a past SIOP Awards Chair, it was clear to me that the biggest challenge for practitioners who apply for SIOP awards is to quantify reach and uptake of an I-O intervention. This is true regarding both the Early Career and Distinguished Professional Contributions Awards. In the case of TeamSTEPPS, however, it is easy to establish its reach, which is an important criterion of the Distinguished Professional Contributions Award. The AHRQ national implementation program for TeamSTEPPS, which I designed, trained over 10,000 master trainers who then trained others. Some healthcare systems reported training staffs of 50,000 or more. The use of TeamSTEPPS has amazed all involved with the program.


What did you learn that surprised you? Did you have an “aha” moment? What was it?

I wouldn’t call it an “aha” moment, but I would call it a humbling moment. To think that you had a hand in something that is used all of over the globe is humbling and quite a surprise. TeamSTEPPS has been translated into multiple languages. I have taught TeamSTEPPS to hospitals in Taipei and Barcelona, as well as throughout the US. Others have conducted the training in South America and Europe. TeamSTEPPS has been used in Australia since 2007. I receive emails from researchers all over the world asking if they can use my research in a project they are doing. I even found a group of healthcare workers who made a music video to TeamSTEPPS. How many I-O psychologists can say that?!? See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X7X-uchPHig

Finally, TeamSTEPPS has stimulated research and consulting firms. Since 2002, research on the topic of teamwork in healthcare has grown dramatically. Several consulting firms base their work on providing TeamSTEPPS training.

One of the key success factors of all of this was, because it was federally funded, we were able to give it away for free. In addition, I would argue that basing TeamSTEPPS on the science of teams and training was critical to its success.

Another “aha” moment along the way has been the importance of taking a step back to celebrate the work and its success. I am thankful to have been along for this ride!


What do you see as the lasting/unique contribution of this work to our discipline? How can it be used to drive changes in organizations, the employee experience, and so on?

I think TeamSTEPPS and the importance of teamwork in delivery of care has already had a significant, lasting contribution. For example, medical students and other health professional students now learn together in joint classes to enhance teamwork. New assessment strategies by AAMC target softer skills in addition to hard-science skills in the admission process for medical school. Quality, patient safety, and care coordination are now prevalent themes in the new value-based reimbursement strategies used by insurers and the federal government.   Healthcare more and more pays based on quality, and TeamSTEPPS can directly contribute to quality improvement.

Finally, TeamSTEPPS is not just team training but an organizational-culture change initiative. If you know Ed Salas’ work, training transfer is the hardest outcome to achieve. Organizations must value and reinforce teamwork for programs like TeamSTEPPS to work. A major component of the curriculum focuses on organizational change/culture change.


How did others become aware of your award-winning work/research? 

Within SIOP, I-O’s contributions to healthcare have been visible over the last 10 years. Certainly, Ed’s work on teams in high-risk industries has received tremendous uptake, and healthcare is a high-risk industry. TeamSTEPPS was recognized with the M. Scott Myers Award in 2007, and even though TeamSTEPPS is an applied training program, we published and presented many papers on TeamSTEPPS and training healthcare teams.


Who would you say was the biggest advocate of your research/work that resulted in the award? How did that person become aware of your work?

There are three advocates. Programmatically, Jim Battles (AHRQ) and Heidi King (DoD) were key. They provided the funding and had a vision to create a program that was freely available. Ed Salas, of course, has been a long-term mentor and friend.


To what extent would you say this work/research was interdisciplinary? 

The development of TeamSTEPPS was highly interdisciplinary. It involved the combination of training, teamwork, and clinical experts. We worked specifically with clinicians from Beth Israel Medical Center in Boston to develop the initial TeamSTEPPS curriculum. One of the big challenges was adopting our terminology to a clinical environment. In teams, the concept of back-up behavior and cross monitoring are commonplace. In a clinical environment, they had a different meaning, and we had to select new terms —mutual support and situation monitoring—that were appropriate. We also relied greatly on clinicians to provide examples and context for the program. Finally, clinician buy-in and promotion was critical to TeamSTEPPS’ ultimate success.


Are you still doing work/research in the same area where you won the award? If so, what are you currently working on in this space? If not, what are you working on now and how did you move into this different work/research area? 

As the executive vice president over IMPAQ Health, my role has dramatically changed over the last 15 years. That said, many aspects of the work with TeamSTEPPS continue to contribute to my work in and oversight of other patient safety and quality improvement programs. Having a true understanding of the evidence and research around teamwork skills, measurement principles, and culture change components are all important to the ongoing work to improve healthcare delivery.


What’s a fun fact about yourself (something that people may not know)?

Some of my favorite activities outside work are ice hockey and golf. Until recently, I played men’s league hockey and now I manage the schedule for my son’s hockey club. I plan the game schedule for 20-plus teams, which is over 400 games. It often reminds me of my service to SIOP when I was Awards Chair: lots of details and lots of things to coordinate.


What piece of advice would you give to someone new to I-O psychology? (If you knew then what you know now…)

Regarding advice, I have a couple of nuggets. First, I-O psychology has value in many places. I would have never thought I would have led a health policy group, but healthcare has many I-O challenges: quality measurement, paying for performance, redesigning jobs, culture change, and so on. Second, never take any project or research opportunity for granted, as you never know where it might lead to next. TeamSTEPPS started as a small qualitative evaluation of existing team-training programs in the DoD and a literature review. Fifteen years later, it has had a significant impact across the globe on how healthcare is delivered.


About the author:

Liberty Munson is currently the principal psychometrician of the Microsoft Technical Certification and Employability programs in the Worldwide Learning organization. She is responsible for ensuring the validity and reliability of Microsoft’s certification and professional programs. Her passion is for finding innovative solutions to business challenges that balance the science of assessment design and development with the realities of budget, time, and schedule constraints. Most recently, she has been presenting on the future of testing and how technology can change the way we assess skills.\

Liberty loves to bake, hike, backpack, and camp with her husband, Scott, and miniature schnauzer, Apex. If she’s not at work, you’ll find her enjoying the great outdoors, or she’s in her kitchen tweaking some recipe just to see what happens.

Her advice to someone new to I-O psychology?  Statistics, statistics, statistics—knowing data analytic techniques will open A LOT of doors in this field and beyond!

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