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12 People You Need to Know in 2012: Dr. Jennifer Baker

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As a clinical psychologist, Dr. Jennifer Baker is in the business of helping people build better relationships, which she says can touch all areas of life.

“Relationships are not neutral,” Baker says, noting an employee divorce can cost an employer thousands of dollars in lost productivity.

“When an employee goes through a divorce, he or she will lose sleep and weight, get sick more often, miss work and confide in other employees while on the job,” she says, also pointing to challenges with court dates.

Since 1999, Baker has worked at the School of Professional Psychology at Forest Institute, where she also earned her doctorate. After roles as an instructor, assistant professor and associate professor, she was named vice president for the school’s Center for Innovation and Community Health in July 2011.

In October 2011, she was promoted, adding the role of director for Forest Institute’s Robert J. Murney Clinic, a teaching clinic where services are provided by supervised trainees and interns, and licensed psychologists and counselors.

Baker has spearheaded several programs aimed at fostering healthy relationships, including Operation Us, which focuses on community outreach programs to couples and families. In November 2011, Baker received a $5,000 grant from the Community Foundation of the Ozarks to fund Hitched (or Not) and Hatched, which focuses on parenting and partnering. Other programs include Mystery Date Night and Better Connections at Work and Home, according to OperationUs.org.

A favorite program of Baker’s for the past four years is the Mental Health and Corrections Conference, she says. It brings together more than 100 federal and state prison and parole officials to help them prepare the 700,000 American inmates who are released each year for successful relationships in society.

If Baker gets her wish, a $2.5 million grant will be approved in 2012 by the National Institutes of Health to finance research about the correlation between intervention and relationship outcomes, she says.

As Baker does her part to boost healthy relationships, she says employers can help, too, namely by incorporating wellness programs that look at the big picture.

“When you talk about wellness, people tend to think in terms of diet and exercise,” Baker says. “The missing piece of the puzzle is relationship wellness.”
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