Acclaimed safety researcher reflects on pioneers in injury field

News Release

Susan P. Baker, MPH, Sc.D.
Associate Chair and Professor
Department of Health and Policy Management
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

CHAPEL HILL — Dr. Susan P. Baker, the founding director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy, reflected on leaders who have paved the way in safety research at the 2005 Patricia F. Waller Lecture.

A few of the greats covered in the lecture included:

  • Colonel (Dr.) John Stapp: Stapp became known as the "fastest human on earth" by strapping himself to a rocket sled in order to study human tolerance to deceleration and protection from crash forces.
  • John Birrell: As an Australian police surgeon, Birrell fought for and successfully adopted the use of alcohol testing of drivers and seat belt laws.
  • William Haddon: The first administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and founder of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Haddon developed the Haddon Matrix to itemize potential countermeasures for traffic safety issues.

The UNC Injury Prevention Research Center, the UNC Highway Safety Research Center and the department of psychology, in the College of Arts and Sciences, sponsor the lecture.

Baker is an epidemiologist specializing in injury prevention with a wide variety of focus areas, including motor vehicle occupant and pedestrian deaths among children and adults, carbon monoxide poisoning, childhood asphyxiation, falls among the elderly and injury severity scoring.

She is well-known for developing the widely used Injury Severity Score and for writing the "Injury Fact Book," produced by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

Baker's experience as a licensed pilot has expanded her work to include analyses of crashes in the Colorado Rockies, and research on commuter aircraft crashes and on crashes of instructional flights.

She is an advocate of policy changes that will prevent injuries. Much of her teaching and research is designed to influence legislators, administrators, the media and others whose decisions can determine the likelihood of injury for thousands of people.

Baker holds joint appointments at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in the departments of pediatrics and emergency medicine.

Dr. Patricia Fossum Waller, who died in 2003, received her doctorate in psychology from UNC. She worked for nearly two decades as a researcher at the UNC Highway Safety Research Center, where she developed the concept for graduated licensing that would become adopted nationwide.

She launched the Injury Prevention Research Center with a vision merging her background in traffic safety with public health perspectives on injury control. The multidisciplinary federally funded center, founded in 1987, brings together faculty experts from numerous schools and departments at UNC.

Waller later was director of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institution and professor of public health policy and administration. She retired to Chapel Hill in 1999.


UNC Highway Safety Research Center contact: Katy Jones, (919) 843-7007 or

News Services contact: Deb Saine, (919) 962-8415 or

More Information:

Patricia F. Waller: A Tribute

Media Contacts

Caroline Dickson

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