News Release: December 01, 2003
Neal Baer to Receive Valentine Davies Award from Writers Guild of America, west
2004 Award Recipient
Balancing the roles of pediatrician, volunteer, health advocate, and acclaimed television writer/producer, prolific multi-hyphenate Neal Baer will be awarded the Valentine Davies Award for public service from the Writers Guild of America, west at the Guild's first-annual Honorary Service Awards luncheon on Wednesday, December 3, 2003.
"Neal lives and breathes the inspiring values of the Guild's Valentine Davies Award, generously offering his time and talents to a wide range of community service, " said WGAw president Victoria Riskin. "Neal accomplishes much more than most of us are able or willing to on a daily basis, and all without fanfare. Intelligent, caring, and selfless, he embodies the highest qualities of Guild members, as a tireless artist, advocate, and humanitarian."
Currently helming hit series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (SVU) as executive producer, Baer (a 14-year Guild member) spent several seasons as executive producer and writer on the Emmy-winning series ER. A member of that show's original staff, Baer shared five Emmy nominations for Outstanding Drama Series as producer while creating a culture of medical accuracy and groundbreaking realism that revolutionized the primetime landscape.
Baer first earned master's degrees from both Harvard Graduate School of Education and Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in Sociology. Launching his TV career, he wrote and directed two acclaimed documentaries, which aired on PBS, later becoming a science producer for ABC, with a fellowship from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Before working in television, Baer spent a year at the American Film Institute as a directing fellow. In 1984, Baer landed his first major TV project: co-writing and directing the ABC after-school special, Private Affairs, exploring the kind of medical themes which would define Baer's zeal to provide health information to the American public via the television medium. (The Association of Women in Film and Television named the program as Best Children's Drama of the Year.) In the late '80s, Baer was hired as a freelance writer on China Beach, resulting in Baer's first Writers Guild Award nomination for co-writing the episode "Warriors" (1990).
Realizing his lifelong passion for helping others, Baer enrolled in Harvard Medical School in 1991 to become a pediatrician -- until he was invited to join the writing staff of ER, combining his duel passions for medicine and writing. After writing and producing on ER for seven years, receiving his second Writers Guild Award nomination for his 1997 episode "Whose Appy Now?" (Emmy nominated for Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series, as well as his 1995 episode "Hell and High Water"), Baer left in 2000 to join crime-drama Law & Order: SVU as executive producer. During his tenure, the drama series has won the Shine Award, Prism Award, and the Media Access Award, among others. Baer's passion for medical accuracy has paid dividends to the American public, as a recent Harvard study revealed most Americans learn more about health-related problems and treatment from series television like SVU than from their own doctors. (In addition, Baer has written The Doctors Corps, a feature film for 20th Century Fox, "Outreach," a pilot for the WB Network, which he also produced, and "The Edge," a pilot for CBS.)
Yet Baer chose not to abandon his medical training despite a prolific writing career, graduating from Harvard Medical School in 1996, completing his internship in Pediatrics at Children's Hospital in Los Angeles and even serving as a pediatrician during hiatus. Continuing his work as a public-health advocate, in 2002 Baer joined WGAw president Victoria Riskin as co-chair of Hollywood, Health, and Society (HH&S), a joint venture among the Annenberg School of Communications, the Norman Lear Center, the Center for Disease Control, and the Writers Guild, to educate writers on a wide range of medical issues. Baer is a trustee on the Writers Guild Health and Pension Fund, as well as on the board of associates at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research. Baer also currently serves on the boards of many health-care related organizations, including RAND Health, Children Now, the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS), The Media Project, and the Venice Family Clinic, where he often treats children without medical insurance as a volunteer physician on weekends. Baer also finds time to teach Health Communications at USC, inspiring a whole new generation of students in both medical and entertainment fields.
The Valentine Davies Award is given to writers who have contributed to the entertainment industry, as well as the community at large, and who have brought dignity and honor to the profession of writing everywhere. Past recipients of the Valentine Davies Award include: Fay and Michael Kanin, Garry Marshall, Hal Kanter, Phil Alden Robinson, Norman Lear, Ray Bradbury, Barry Kemp, Philip Dunne, Alan Alda, David Angell, and last year's recipient, Aaron Ruben.