Obituary: Thomas B. Ferguson, MD, professor emeritus of cardiothoracic surgery, 90

Thomas B. Ferguson, MD, professor emeritus of cardiothoracic surgery at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, died Sunday, May 26, 2013, of complications following a heart valve procedure. He was 90.

Ferguson was a pioneer in heart surgery, playing an important role in bringing the first heart-lung machine to St. Louis in the late 1950s. In 1958, he and his colleagues performed Washington University’s first open-heart surgery with the aid of the new heart-lung pump.


He earned a medical degree from Duke University and continued his surgical training there before coming to Barnes Hospital and Washington University in 1951. He continued his training in cardiothoracic surgery, a relatively new specialty at the time, under Evarts Graham, MD, a well-known cardiothoracic surgeon who led Washington University’s Department of Surgery for more than three decades.

Ferguson spent four years in private practice in Florida in the early 1960s but returned to Washington University, where he stayed for the remainder of his long and distinguished career. He was a founding member of the Society of Thoracic Surgeons and is one of a small number of surgeons to have served as president of that organization as well as the American Association for Thoracic Surgery.

In 2009, Ferguson received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Association for Thoracic Surgery.

Writing about the award in The Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery at the time, fellow Washington University cardiac surgeon James L. Cox, MD, said of Ferguson, “Tom’s greatness has been built on genuine substance, uncommon grace, singular generosity and an infectious laugh. Young surgeons of today need only look at Tom Ferguson to see the model to which they should all aspire, both as surgeons and as human beings.”

Ferguson is survived by his wife, Elizabeth Shanley Ferguson; sons Bruce Ferguson (Candice) and Scott Ferguson (Laura); daughter, Linda Benoist (Elliot); six grandchildren and a great-grandson.

A memorial service was held Friday, May 31, at the Episcopal Church of St. Michael and St. George in Clayton. A private burial was held at Bellefontaine Cemetery.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Ferguson Clinical Research Fund in Cardiothoracic Surgery, 660 S. Euclid, Campus Box 8234, St. Louis, MO 63110.