Plax named Ferring chair in pediatrics​

Katie Plax
Katie Plax, MD, (with medal) the newly named Ferring Family Chair in Pediatrics at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, stands with (from left) Alison Ferring, Alan Schwartz, PhD, MD, and John Ferring at Plax’s installation earlier this year. Photo: Michael McCarty

Katie Plax, MD, who is recognized widely for an innovative youth outreach center she started and for her work advocating for children and teens, has been named the Ferring Family Chair in Pediatrics at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Plax, a professor of pediatrics, is director of the Division of Adolescent Medicine in the School of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics. She also is medical director of The SPOT (Supporting Positive Opportunities with Teens) in St. Louis.

“From the moment she arrived at Washington University, Katie Plax has been extremely dedicated and tireless in her efforts to make life better for children and young adults, particularly those who find themselves without the support networks they need,” said Alan Schwartz, PhD, MD, the Harriet B. Spoehrer Professor of Pediatrics and head of the Department of Pediatrics.

“She is a recognized leader in advancing clinical care for adolescents, pediatric patients with HIV infection and AIDS, and children in foster care. In addition to establishing The SPOT in 2008, she was perhaps the most important advocate for simplifying enrollment in the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIPS), which helps thousands of Missouri children. She has been a great force of positive change for children.”

The endowed chair was established with a gift from Alison and John Ferring, who have been strong supporters of St. Louis Children’s Hospital for many years. Among the family’s business ventures, John Ferring is chairman of PLZ Aeroscience, a holding company for businesses that manufacture aerosol packaging.

“It is an honor to be named the Ferring Family Chair in Pediatrics,” Plax said. “This gift will help us continue to focus on changing health for disadvantaged youth through transformative patient care, teaching, advocacy and research. What we do makes a world of difference to a lot of young people who deserve good health in the broadest sense possible.”

Plax, who holds a secondary appointment at the Brown School, came to Washington University and St. Louis Children’s as a resident in 1997. Following her residency, she became a pediatrician at the John C. Murphy Health Center in an underserved area of St. Louis. In 2000, she joined the Department of Pediatrics faculty as an instructor, after which she competed successfully for a Soros Advocacy Fellowship.

Plax is perhaps best known for her efforts to establish and advance The SPOT, which integrates the delivery of health care with social services in a one-stop, cost-free, accessible and youth-friendly atmosphere. The SPOT, which has provided services to more than 11,000 youths, leverages partnerships among the pediatrics, psychiatry, and obstetrics and gynecology departments, the Institute of Public Health and the Brown School.

Plax also designed and led the Pediatricians in Community Program, which helps residents learn more about children in poverty and those with special health-care needs. She also has engaged resident and physician leaders nationally through the Community Pediatrics Training Initiative (CPTI) of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

She has received myriad honors, including the Gerry and Bob Virgil Ethic of Service Award; the Dr. Corinne Walentik Provider Champion Award from the Maternal, Child and Family Health Coalition in St. Louis; the Excellence in Pediatrics Award from the St. Louis Pediatric Society; and the Pioneer Award from the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse.

Plax earned a bachelor’s degree at Brown University and her medical degree at the University of Rochester. She was an intern at Boston Children’s Hospital before coming to St. Louis Children’s to complete a residency in pediatrics.

Alison and John Ferring

Among their many shows of support for St. Louis Children’s, the Ferrings were instrumental in the creation of the Olson Family Garden, a rooftop oasis at the hospital that provides a peaceful place for patients and families to visit. In 2005, the couple established The Ferring Family Endowed Chair to help recruit and retain talented pediatric researchers and clinicians.

The Ferrings also have supported a scholar program for high school students interested in scientific professions, and Camp Crescent, a summer camp for patients with sickle cell disease. Further, they have been at the forefront of philanthropic endeavors to benefit numerous arts and cultural institutions in St. Louis.


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 sixth 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.

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