Skip to main content
<p>IU School of Medicine student Elizabeth Baker is a 500 Festival Princess and is completing over 100 hours on community projects including a blood drive for the 7Elements Student Interest Group. She also volunteers at the Student Outreach Clinic using her Spanish skills.</p>

IU medical student Elizabeth Baker having a ball as 500 Festival Princess

Elizabeth Baker in white shirt wearing her princess tiara and sash

Medical student Elizabeth Baker in her 500 Festival Princess attire

Here’s something you don’t see in a Disney princess movie — the tiara-topped heroine smiling as blood flows from her arm into a collection bag. Arranging a blood drive at the Indiana University School of Medicine on May 7 is among several community outreach events first-year medical student Elizabeth Baker has initiated as a 500 Festival Princess.

“I will spend over 100 hours at princess program events between February and May,” Baker said. “So far, my outbound outreaches have been with the nonprofit organizations Down Syndrome Indiana, the American Red Cross and Keep Indianapolis Beautiful. I have plans to continue to do volunteer work in the Indianapolis area, as well as attend events in my hometown of Noblesville, Indiana.”

Elizabeth Baker at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in a red pacecarBaker is among 33 collegiate women selected for this leadership development program of the 500 Festival — a monthlong celebration leading up to the Indianapolis 500. She stands out as the only medical student among the princesses and considers the honor “an amazing way to meet other career-driven women while enriching communities around my home state.”

Baker was inspired to study medicine by her late grandfather, Thomas J. Baker, MD, who graduated from IU School of Medicine in 1949 and became a pioneer in aesthetic plastic surgery. Her parents, both lawyers, inspired her love of IndyCar racing.

“I have been to every Indianapolis 500 since I was 10 years old, making this my 14th consecutive year in attendance,” she said. “In my home, the race is a family tradition, with Memorial Day weekend marking our annual family reunion. This tradition can be attributed mainly to my dad, who has been to the race 33 years in a row.”

Elizabeth Baker with her dad in front of a Lions Club banner holding a certificate for speakingBaker’s parents suggested she apply for the princess program, which focuses on professional development, mentorship, scholarship and community service.

“I joke that my parents are more excited about me becoming a 500 princess than they were about me getting into medical school,” Baker said.


Exploring global health through service learning

At IU School of Medicine, Baker is a global projects leader with the 7Elements student interest group, which collaborates with global and local organizations to help improve access to the seven human security elements: economic, food, health, environmental, personal, community and political. Last winter, Baker traveled to the Dominican Republic along with 22 other IU medical students as part of a service-learning trip to the 7Elements Inc. facility, where students engaged in culturally appropriate projects related to the human securities.

It was her second trip to that location. Her first was as an undergrad student at Indiana University, where she earned two bachelor’s degrees, in Spanish and human biology.

Elizabeth Baker works on the wood frame of a bottle house in the Dominican Republic.“My view of where I would fit into the medical field did not become clear to me until my study of Spanish led me to study abroad in the Dominican Republic, where I became set on pursuing a career in global health,” she said.

A group of IU School of Medicine students first visited 7Elements in 2017, but COVID and budget restrictions canceled the annual trip for two years. The opportunity resumed in 2022, and Baker is among students helping rebuild the 7Elements student organization, said Niki Messmore, director of service learning at IU School of Medicine.

“When Elizabeth was on our trip in December, as someone with advanced Spanish skills, she notably was a great support in helping her peers cross the language barrier when working with patients,” Messmore said.

Elizabeth at an IUPUI podium on stage with a large screen behind showing the Student Outreach ClinicNow, as an Indianapolis medical student, Baker uses her language skills to help translate for Spanish-speaking patients at the free Student Outreach Clinic on the city’s near east side.

“That’s when I actually feel most helpful,” Baker said. “As a first-year student, my medical skills are still developing, but I can take a medical history in Spanish and translate for the physical exam.”

Volunteering at the outreach clinic is what Baker chose to speak about at the 500 Festival Princess Reception held on the IU Indianapolis campus April 20, where princesses were asked to present on “something you’re proud of.”

Baker is the first IU School of Medicine student to become a 500 Festival Princess while in medical school; however, she’s not the school’s first princess. First-year medical student Supriya Chittajallu was a princess in 2020 while on the pre-med track at IUPUI, and Gloria Xue became a princess in 2021 while she was completing her master’s in cellular and integrative physiology. Xue is now in the Medical Scientist Training Program pursuing a combined MD/PhD.

Elizabeth Baker holding flowers, posing with her mentor Nicole Paulk

“The 500 Festival Princess program gave me the opportunity to connect with 32 intelligent, driven young women, and for that, I will always be grateful,” said Xue, who is now serving in a leadership position with the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) as chair-elect for the Organization of Student Representatives. 

Every princess is assigned a mentor from the 500 Festival Board of Directors who is a leader in their field, and Xue’s mentor was Indiana University Health President and CEO Dennis Murphy. Baker’s mentor is Nicole Paulk, senior vice president and chief strategy officer at IU Health.

“The princess program is a great way to network with prominent leaders in Indiana,” Baker said.

In addition to the blood drive at IU School of Medicine, Baker organized a collection drive in Speedway. She also planned a dance party for World Down Syndrome Day in April and presented an Indianapolis 500-related lesson to students at her former Noblesville elementary school.


Elizabeth Baker, wearing her tiara and sash, in a chair at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway donating blood

May 2024 500 Festival Princess events 

Baker will be busy this May as she wraps up her first year of medical school. On May 4, she and the other princesses will staff water stations for the 500 Festival Mini Marathon — an event Baker has attended as a participant in the past.

She especially encourages people in the IU School of Medicine community to sign up for the 7Elements Blood Drive on May 7 in the Van Nuys Building on the IU Indianapolis campus — everyone is welcome.

Other upcoming events for Baker include the Riley Prom at Riley Hospital for Children on May 10, 500 Festival Kids’ Day on Monument Circle on May 11, Breakfast at the Brickyard with Mario Andretti on May 18, the 500 Festival Parade on May 25, and of course, the 108th running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 26.

Default Author Avatar IUSM Logo

Laura Gates

Laura is senior writer with the Office of Strategic Communications and loves to tell the stories of outstanding students, faculty and staff at IU School of Medicine. A native Hoosier, she has over 25 years of experience in communications, having worked with newspapers and other media organizations in Indiana and Florida, along with small businesses, community groups and non-profit organizations. Before joining IU School of Medicine in January 2020, she was editor-in-chief of a lifestyle magazine serving the community of Estero, Florida.

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.