DeBaun named Ferring Family Chair in Pediatric Cancer and Related Disorders

Michael R. DeBaun, M.D., M.P.H., has been named the Ferring Family Chair in Pediatric Cancer and Related Disorders at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

Michael DeBaun
Michael DeBaun

The endowed chair was established by John and Alison Ferring of St. Louis.

DeBaun is professor of pediatrics, of biostatistics and of neurology at the School of Medicine and a pediatric hematologist/oncologist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

“Receiving this endowed chair is an honor,” DeBaun says. “It represents the body of work our team has completed over the last 18 years and is external validation of the scientific journey that we started in 1990.”

DeBaun is a St. Louis native who earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Howard University in Washington, D.C. He then earned a medical degree and master’s degree in health services research from Stanford University School of Medicine.

DeBaun returned to St. Louis in 1987 for a pediatric residency at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine, where he was selected as a pediatric chief resident and later pediatric hematology and oncology fellow. He was subsequently awarded an epidemiology fellowship by the U.S. Public Health Service and earned a master’s degree in public health from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and Hygiene.

The newly endowed chair position offers DeBaun more flexibility to pursue his passion of sickle cell disease research.

“The most important objective I want to accomplish through this chair position is the pursuit of new knowledge that improves the lives of children with sickle cell disease and their families,” he says. “The legacy of the chair will be the opportunity to recruit some of the best minds in the world to focus on this disease,” DeBaun says. “My internal expectations are higher than any external expectations. I feel our best work is yet to come.”

DeBaun has established a nationally renowned program for treatment, education and research into the complications of sickle cell disease. Under his leadership, he and a team of investigators have received funding for the first National Institutes of Health-(NIH) sponsored international clinical trial in sickle cell disease called the Silent Cerebral Infarct Transfusion (SIT) Trial.

Among his many accomplishments, DeBaun started Camp Crescent, an overnight camp for children with sickle cell disease. He also established the Charles Drew Program, in collaboration with the American Red Cross, to increase the number of African-American blood donors in the St. Louis community. In addition, he initiated the Sickle Cell Sabbath, a faith-based effort to educate the African-American community about sickle cell disease and the importance of blood donation for those with the disease. These efforts have doubled the number of units of blood donated by African-Americans.

“Dr. DeBaun is an international leader in the study of sickle cell disease,” says Lee Fetter, president of St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “To St. Louis families, that means they can receive the absolute best care by being enrolled in the Sickle Cell Disease Program and receive treatment in St. Louis — because the world’s leader in this disease is right here.”

“Dr. DeBaun is richly deserving of the Ferring chair position because he is a quadruple threat,” says Alan L. Schwartz, Ph.D., M.D., the Harriet B. Spoehrer Professor and chairman of Pediatrics at the School of Medicine and pediatrician in chief at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “He has achieved excellence as a clinician, educator, investigator and community advocate. And all four of these domains are strengthened by this endowed chair gift from the Ferrings.”

John Ferring, president and CEO of Plaze Inc., says he established the endowed chair as a way to contribute in a meaningful way to the Children’s Discovery Institute at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and because of his experience working with DeBaun.

“When we choose what to support, we select the best and brightest of organizations in St. Louis, and St. Louis Children’s Hospital fits that criteria,” Ferring says. “In addition, my wife and I have been extremely impressed by what Dr. DeBaun has accomplished since we’ve been working with him through the Ferring Scholar Program. As we learned more about what he was doing, we saw he was making a worldwide impact. There are only two or three of his kind in the world, and we definitely want to keep him as part of the hospital. He’s a remarkable person and a real asset to the community and to St. Louis Children’s Hospital.”

In 2002, DeBaun established the Ferring Scholar Program supported by the Ferrings. Through this program, some of the best high-school students in St. Louis are chosen for a three-year internship at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine to experience health care and research firsthand.

“In this scholar program, Dr. DeBaun devotes so much time to hands-on work with the students,” Ferring says. “As the first recipient for the chair position, he’ll set the bar high for all who follow. He’s been successful and has excelled at everything he has done his entire life.”

“The Ferrings are the quintessential example of how investing in people can make an exponentially huge difference in the lives of others,” DeBaun says. “They are truly committed for the greater good. The Ferrings invested in me, I invested in the kids and now these kids are invested in their education with some even choosing to go to Washington University.”

Washington University School of Medicine’s 2,100 employed and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient care institutions in the nation, currently ranked third in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.

St. Louis Children’s Hospital has provided specialized care for children for more than 125 years. The hospital is affiliated with Washington University School of Medicine, ranked the number three medical school in the country by U.S. News & World Report. In 2007, Child magazine ranked St. Louis Children’s Hospital among the 10 best children’s hospitals in the country, and second in pulmonary medicine. In 2005, St. Louis Children’s Hospital received the Magnet designation from the American Nurses Credentialing Center, the nation’s highest honor for nursing excellence. St. Louis Children’s Hospital is a member of BJC HealthCare. For more information visit