DeBaun named Ferring Family Chair in Pediatric Cancer and Related Disorders

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

The endowed chair was established by John and Alison Ferring of St. Louis through the St. Louis Children’s Hospital Foundation.

Michael DeBaun

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 said. “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.”

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 said. “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 said. “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 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.

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

“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,” Ferring said. “As we learned more about what he was doing, we saw he was making a worldwide impact. 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 the School of Medicine to experience health care and research firsthand.