Home » “Texas Children’s Believed in Me”
Summer 2009 – SHINE, Texas Children’s Hospital
By Kathy Isdale
Donald J. Fernbach, M.D., joined Texas Children’s Hospital as a first-year 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 at Texas 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, Fernbach’s efforts and vision instituted the program that has become Texas Children’s Cancer Center today.
Truly a pioneer, his contributions are too many to count. Fernbach was the first in Houston to use the plastic blood-bagging system and one of the first anywhere to use blood component therapy for children. In 1959, he and a colleague performed the first bone marrow transplant from one twin to the other to treat aplastic anemia. Fernbach also 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, and he led the effort to require screening of all newborns in Texas for hemoglobin defects including sickle cell disease.
In addition, Fernbach was one of the founders of the Pediatric Oncology Group, known today as the Children’s Oncology Group, and set the wheels in motion to found Ronald McDonald House Houston, one of the earliest in the country. He coedited the first multidisciplinary text on pediatric cancer, which became the acknowledged text in the newly recognized specialty of pediatric hematology-oncology. And he instigated the movement to make the Texas Medical Center a smoke-free community.
“When I was finishing my training,” Fernbach says,” there were few placed 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 his beloved wife, partner and cheerleader of 54 years have contributed for a charitable annuity to benefit Texas Children’s in appreciation of what working at the hospital has allowed him to accomplish.
We invite you to include Texas Children’s Hospital in your estate/financial plan through your will, trust, charitable gift annuity, retirement plan or life insurance policy. All gifts, no matter their size, are appreciated. When you notify us of your intentions to make a planned gift, you will be honored as a member of the J.S. and Lillie Abercrombie Society. Each Abercrombie Society member receives a gift of appreciation, invitations to a luncheon and other special events and recognition in Texas Children’s publications. To learn more about creating an endowed fund or to confidentially discuss a charitable gift, please contact Geri Jacobs, ChFC, CLU, director of planned giving, at 832-824-2718.