Nichole Baker

Nichole Baker

Philanthropic Pathology Nerd, Trail Chaser, Travel Enthusiast

Born and raised in Jackson, Michigan, Nichole Baker has found her true passion in cancer diagnostics as a Pathologist’s Assistant. A professional anatomist, Nichole lives with two humans and a SCOBY (think: combo of yeast and bacteria people often use to make Kombucha) they consider their 4th roommate. She specializes in the study of tissues, and uses her skills to further cancer research in the field; last year she did philanthropic work in Haiti, Uganda and Kenya, and she’s even started a nonprofit called Path of Logic dedicated to improving pathology services in underserved countries. As if that weren’t enough, she’s also a badass mountain biker.

What drew you to the specific field of Pathology? What do you enjoy most about your work? Pathology has always been lingering in the background of my work. Histology was a large component of research in my previous career at the University of Michigan, but pathology is the weird unglamorous part of science. It’s raw and assessed at a microscopic level, which seems very abstract from a distance. It wasn’t until I was forced to switch careers from my passion of research to something that could I do in mountain town that I fell in love with pathology. Biology and chemistry in a mountain town seemed like a long shot. Chance led me to histology. In my search, I accepted an entry-level position in a lab at Durango’s local hospital, which highlighted the impact of pathology in medicine at the oncologic level. I was hooked, and as I studied and started taking courses, I knew that those strange little cells were at the core of diagnosing cancer and my brain was captivated by the science. I lost a very dear friend, and my boyfriend at the time, when I was 21 years old to non-hodgkin lymphoma. It feels special to have a behind-the-scenes role in cases very similar to Steve’s. My heart and mind are drawn to my career and I feel profoundly lucky to be where I am working in anatomic pathology as a PA. When and how did you start Path of Logic? Path of Logic is new and became a 501 c 3 tax-exempt charity in November of 2016. In May of 2016, I traveled to Cap Haitien, Haiti to assist with Equal Health International’s goal of starting a remote histology laboratory. I was the first volunteer to arrive and struggled physically and emotionally with the obstacles I experienced there. Medicine in third world countries is not pretty. At the core of treating patients, pathology is needed, and understanding the underrepresentation of pathology is frightening in those places. I returned from Haiti heart broken and with a fire to make a difference to educate, to bring awareness, and to DO something - anything to help. I considered fund raising immediately and started the application process after I was invited to attend a women’s leadership retreat, Wild Women’s Project. It was at this event that I was given the confidence to push forward with my dream by inspiring outdoor women, all with one thing in common: the ability to push through once demarcated lines, to do achieve their aspirations.

What specifically will you be doing in Mbarara, Uganda this year? I have many goals for this next trip in January. I will be teaching anatomic dissections to the four residents working with the Mbarara University of Science and Technology. I’ll continue to build relationships and trust with the staff to enhance procedural standards, boost lab efficiency, and update laboratory equipment. I also have the goal of supporting the next resident in the program by providing income to cover living expense needs for the year.

When did you develop biking as a passion, and has that intersected with your oncology work at all? My first mountain bike ride was in 2009. I was a trail runner, and two of my colleagues at the University of Michigan convinced me to try trail riding. That first ride at Potawatomi trail I walked almost every hill, crashed half a dozen times, and the rest is history. My pup Jack and I started riding regularly, and I immediately started racing cross-country in our local Michigan race series. Now at 31 I am an ambassador for a biking company, and my connection to single track and the mountains feeds and inspires me. Intersection? YES! My energy and best ideas have come in the saddle and on single track. Now I’m involved in the outdoor industry with riding and photo projects, and I strive to find creative ways to use those connections to raise awareness and even help with fund raising. I have been shocked by the support I’ve had and am proud to work with companies like Yeti Cycles, and now MPOWERD that are helping me stand grounded in my efforts. I want to push and see if I can integrate my passions to experience the beauty of giving more intimately.