Sam Baker | KERA News

Sam Baker

Senior Editor and Morning Edition Host

Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.

Sam worked in commercial television at NBC and CBS affiliates for six years before moving to public broadcasting. He was news director and Morning Edition host at KWGS-FM in Tulsa, Okla., for three years and moved to KERA in 1991. He has served on the board of Public Radio News Directors Inc. and is a member of the Dallas-Fort Worth Association of Black Communicators.

As a volunteer, Sam for seven years produced a weekly series, Jazz in Words and Music, for Reading and Radio Resources, an agency serving the visually impaired. He is also a former member on the board of Southwest Transplant Alliance, a private non-profit organization that provides organs and tissues for transplantation.

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About 5 million people in the U.S. live with a condition causing the heart to weaken over time. Exercise can reduce the risk of heart failure, but a new study from cardiologists at U-T Southwestern Medical Center suggests adults need more exercise than the recommended federal minimum for a significant reduction.

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A new study of nearly 1,400 patients with an average age of 60 has identified midlife obesity as a risk factor for early onset Alzheimer’s Disease.

Dr. Angela Bentle, a geriatrics and internal medicine specialist with Methodist Charlton Medical Center, has concerns about the results. But she says it’s still a reason enough to watch your weight.

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About 120 over 80 is considered normal blood pressure. But blood pressure can run higher as you get older – around 140.  Doctors wanting to lower that systolic number finally have an ideal target thanks to a study of more than 9,300 seniors called SPRINT.

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In this edition of Vital Signs: caffeine. Rather than use the natural caffeine you get in food or drinks for stimulation, some instead mix in man-made caffeine powder for a bigger jolt.

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New research from the University of Texas at Austin found girls in the juvenile justice system tend to serve longer sentences than boys.  

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In this edition of Vital Signs, treating children with asthma. Doctors usually choose between two steroids to treat acute attacks that require a hospital stay. But a new study in the "Journal of Pediatrics" found one of the steroids – dexamethasone -- had additional benefits for hospitals, patients and their parents.

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Under pressure to show the U.S. will join European efforts to resettle Syrian refugees, President Obama has told his administration to take in at least 10,000 over the next year. Refugee Services of Texas has resettled 72 Syrians across Texas. 

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In this edition of our series, Vital Signs, a synthetic drug that’s caused chaos in Florida and has begun to show up in Texas. Flakka is a highly addictive substance sold cheaply over the Internet, and it’s posing a serious risk for the young people who use it. 

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In this edition of our series on real-life health issues, Vital Signs: Children suffering from pain. The Food and Drug Administration has approved OxyContin for use with children ages 11 through 16. 

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More than half of about 1,200 bills state lawmakers passed in 2015 become law September 1. Among them: One law allows doctors to be paid for seeing students in the state’s Medicaid program at school over a sophisticated form of video chat. 

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We examine real-life health issues in our series, Vital Signs, and in this edition - saturated fats. We’ve long been told eating less of it prevents heart disease. But a study out this month in the journal BMJ (formerly British Medical Journal) says it’s not that simple. Caroline Susie, a registered dietitian with Methodist Health System, explains.

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The majority of patients with depression have problems with sleep, usually insomnia. But about 10 to 12 percent have the opposite problem.

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College students, like grade schoolers, also face vaccinations before heading off to school. After hundreds of cases reported on college campuses a few years ago, Texas in 2011 required a shot against bacterial meningitis for all college students.

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Rick Perry is still on the campaign trail amid financial problems. Low fundraising has left the former governor unable to pay his staff, although his campaign manager says only one staff member has left, so far.

Abby Livingston is Washington Bureau Chief for the Texas Tribune. She says  Perry ran into two major problems.

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In this segment of Vital Signs, some new hope for patients with vitiligo. It's an auto-immune disease that causes you to lose color in your skin. Vitiligo isn't life-threatening for the two million people in the U-S who have it, but it can be very stressful.

Dr. Amit Pandya, a professor of Dermatology at UT Southwestern Medical Center, talked about vitiligo and a treatment he’s refined to restore the discoloration.

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The medical journal Pediatrics recently published study results on a new tool developed to help doctors identify children under two with abusive head trauma. Some call it shaken baby syndrome.

Dr. Glenn Hardesty has witnessed such cases as an emergency room physician at Texas Health Arlington Memorial. He explained the medical and legal reasons for the new tool.

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Many just roll up pot and light a match. But  a growing  number of people are going to dangerous lengths to get a greater buzz.  It involves extracting the active ingredient from marijuana and turning it into a wax-like substance. You then heat a small bit or “dab” of it and inhale the vapor.

In this edition of Vital Signs, Dr. Ashley Haynes of the North Texas Poison Center explained to why pot dabbing is a bad idea.

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 The drought’s over for now, but not statewide needs for more water. The Texas Water Development Board votes Thursday (7/23) on loans for projects that address future needs in the state’s water plan. Nine of the 21 applications came from North Texas.

Jeff Walker, Deputy Executive Administrator for the Water Supply and Infrastructure Division of the Texas Water Development Board, says the North Texas projects range from a six-figure wastewater system improvement to a $440 million pipeline project.

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In this edition of Vital Signs, a growing trend in social media called sunburn art: Using various materials and deliberate overexposure in the sun to create patterns on the body.

Dr. Travis Vandergriff is an attending Dermatologist with Parkland Hospital System and an Assistant Professor in the Dermatology department of UT Southwestern Medical Center. He explained how sunburn art works and why he considers it dangerous.

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In this edition of the KERA series, Vital Signs, the risk of drowning in portable pools.  The Consumer Product Safety Commission has estimated one death every five days during warm weather months occurs in portable pools - from above-ground types to the small inflatable or "kiddie" pools.

Shelli Stephens-Stidham, Director of the Injury Prevention Center of Greater Dallas at Parkland Hospital System, talks about what leads to such incidents.

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State health officials have reported dozens of cases statewide this summer of stomach-related illnesses from cyclospora, a parasite. Several of those cases have been in North Texas.

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Hospital stays can be stressful for anyone. Worse, though, for about seven million patients each year who suffer from delirium. It’s a sudden state of confusion that can last from hours to days and well after release.

Megan Wheeler, an adult clinical nurse specialist, has been involved in Baylor Scott White Health’s research on preventing delirium in elderly patients. She spoke with Sam Baker for our series, Vital Signs.

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Texans surveyed in a UT/Texas Tribune poll out this week agree discrimination’s a problem. But they disagree on who’s the target of it. People of color made the list, but James Henson, co-director of the poll and head of the Texas Politics Project at University of Texas at Austin, said some of the respondents believe whites are victims of discrimination.

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About 17,000 people are diagnosed with cancer that began in or next to the brain every year in the United States. These are called primary brain cancers.

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In our series about real life health, Vital Signs, another look at delayed cord clamping.

Many doctors believe waiting as long as two or three minutes before cutting the umbilical cord provides a newborn with extra blood that can prevent iron deficiency.  But a new study of four year olds who had delayed cord clamping found a slight improvement in boys of social and motor skills.  

KERA’s Sam Baker talked about this with Dr. Sheri Puffer, an OB-GYN with Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital.

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There have been at least two dozen deaths from recent flash flooding in Texas.

Some of those helping state teams search for flood victims work in UT-Southwestern’s emergency medicine department.

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Gov. Greg Abbott got most of what he wanted out of his first legislative session as the state's chief executive.  However, not all Republicans share his enthusiasm.

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State lawmakers can go into the final weekend stretch of their legislative session now that they’ve cleared a procedural deadline this week for considering bills.  

Ross Ramsey, executive editor of The Texas Tribune, talks about which bills did and did not make the cut.

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Last week's segment of our consumer health series, Vital Signs, told you about fragility fractures, and how they often can be a first sign of the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis. Your diet can boost good bone health. 

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In our consumer health series, Vital Signs: Fragility fractures. Fall from a standing height or less and your body should be able to withstand it without fracturing a bone. When injury does occur, it may mean you have osteoporosis.

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