Michael R. DeBaun, M.D., has been elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, one of the highest honors medical scientists in the United States can receive.
DeBaun was recognized for his major contributions to the advancement of the medical sciences, health care and public health.
DeBaun holds the Ferring Family Chair in Pediatric Cancer and Related Disorders and is a professor of pediatrics, biostatistics and neurology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. He is also a pediatrician at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.
He has established an internationally renowned program for treatment, education and research into the complications of sickle cell disease. Under his leadership, a team of investigators received funding for the first National Institutes of Health (NIH)-sponsored international clinical trial in sickle cell disease called the Silent Cerebral Infarct Transfusion Trial.
His research has also focused on determining the epidemiology, clinical significance and genetic basis for asthma and pain in children with sickle cell disease. DeBaun and his colleagues were the first to demonstrate that asthma increases mortality and morbidity in individuals with sickle cell disease. As the principal investigator for NIH-funded grants, DeBaun has received more than $25 million.
DeBaun, along with the Pediatric Sickle Cell Disease Clinical and Research Team, has initiated multiple community-based activities to improve the quality of life of individuals with sickle cell disease. In 1999, the team started and currently conducts the only camp for children with sickle cell disease in the area. DeBaun also initiated The Charles Drew Program, in partnership with the American Red Cross, designed to increase the number of African-American blood donors in St. Louis, and the Sickle Cell Sabbath is a faith-based effort to educate African-Americans about the disease and blood donation. These programs have at least doubled the number of units of blood donated by African-Americans in the area and are recognized as a national benchmark for how to increase blood donation among African-Americans.
In 2002, DeBaun established the Ferring Scholar Program, supported by John and Alison Ferring, to attract talented students into the sciences. Through this program, bright and highly motivated students who attend high schools near the medical campus 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. The program also provides mentoring with School of Medicine faculty.
DeBaun also is a national advocate for children with sickle cell disease. In 2004, he co-authored a bill that was sponsored by former U.S. Sen. Jim Talent from Missouri and U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer from New York that became the Sickle Cell Treatment Act. The bill, signed into law Oct. 22, 2004, allows states to receive federal funding for patient counseling, educational initiatives and community outreach programs. Patients can also receive federal matching funds for sickle cell disease-related services under Medicaid. The new law also set the groundwork to develop new sickle cell treatment centers nationwide and established a National Coordinating Center for Sickle Cell Disease.
DeBaun is an author of more than 120 peer-reviewed publications. The School of Medicine presented him with the Pediatrics Clinical Teacher of the Year Award twice. His national honors include the Burroughs Wellcome Translational Research Award, the Doris Duke Clinical Research Fellowship Program and induction to the American Society for Clinical Investigation and the American Association of Physicians.
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 a 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.
He was one of 65 new members and five foreign associates elected to the Institute of Medicine. As a member, DeBaun makes a commitment to devote a significant amount of volunteer time on committees engaged in a broad range of health-policy issues.
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.