By Kathy W. Isdale
Dr. Donald J. Fernbach joined Texas Children's Hospital as a firstyear resident in 1954 and quickly emerged as a major force in its success.
His commitment to finding new ways to heal sick children has been fundamental to the hospital's phenomenal growth. Now his foresight and generosity will support oncology and hematology research atTexas Children's in the future through the charitable gift annuity that he and his wife, Freddie, recently established.
Entering the medical profession when pediatrics was in its early years and hematology and oncology were studied as part of pathology, the man whose efforts and vision instituted the program that has become Texas Children's Cancer Center was truly a pioneer. Among Dr. Fernbach's accomplishments:
- First in Houston to use the plastic blood-bagging system.
- One of the first anywhere to use blood component therapy for children.
- Performed in 1959, with the late Dr. John Trentin, the first bone marrow transplant of its kind-from one twin to the other to treat aplastic anemia.
- Led the team that discovered the value of cyclophosphamide, which has become one of the most effective and widely used chemotherapy agents for adults as well as children.
- Was one of the founders of the Pediatric Oncology Group, known today as the Children's Oncology Group.
- Coedited the first multidisciplinary text on pediatric cancer, which became the acknowledged text in the newly recognized specialty of pediatric hematology-oncology.
- Instigated the movement to make the Texas Medical Center a smoke-free community.
- Set the wheels in motion to found Ronald McDonald House Houston, one of the earliest in the country.
- Led the effort to require screening of all newborns in Texas for hemoglobin defects including sickle cell disease.
"When I was finishing my training," Dr. Fernbach says, "there were few places that had a pediatric hematology service. Texas Children's had the foresight to see this was an up-and-coming area and offered me the opportunity to start my own service.Texas Children's believed in me and for that I am grateful."
Now he and Freddie, his beloved wife, partner and cheerleader of 54 years, have contributed for a charitable gift annuity to benefit Texas Children's in appreciation of what working at the hospital has allowed him to accomplish.