Since pediatric oncologist William Ferguson, M.D. was recruited to Saint Louis University in 2004 to direct the Bob Costas Cancer Center at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center, he’s discovered a different side of the internationally recognized sports broadcaster.
"Bob Costas genuinely cares about children who are ill," said Ferguson, who is professor of pediatrics and director of the division of pediatric hematology-oncology at Saint Louis University and medical director of the Bob Costas Cancer Center at Cardinal Glennon.
"Before the annual Bob Costas Benefit for Cardinal Glennon, he stopped by the cancer center because he wanted to talk to some children who came in for treatments. After he visited with them, he asked if there were any kids who were hospitalized and might like him to stop by. There were no cameras, no fanfare. He just wanted to spend a little time with Glennon patients, and for a busy public figure, that’s pretty impressive."
On April 17, Ferguson’s name becomes entwined with Costas’ as he is invested as the inaugural holder of the Bob Costas Chair in Pediatric Medicine. The chair is funded by the Board of Governors of Cardinal Glennon’s Children’s Foundation.
"Holding the Bob Costas Chair will allow me to spend more time teaching the next generation of doctors and conducting research so we ultimately can save more children," Ferguson said.
"When I was a child, cancer was almost always fatal. Now we cure 85 percent of our patients."
Ferguson said the fight against pediatric cancer has made great inroads because of collaboration.
"Every pediatric cancer center in the U.S. is part of a network that is doing clinical research and collaborating with basic scientists and people who develop new drugs and technologies to treat cancer. The vast majority of us are physicians who also treat patients," he said.
Ferguson cherishes those close relationships with his patients, forged by months and sometimes years of frequent cancer-fighting treatments.
"The thing that’s really rewarding about this job is I see kids who, without our intervention, would die. We do everything we can so they survive and grow up with normal lives," Ferguson said.
"Along the way, we develop long-term relationships with our patients. I follow them into adulthood, and will see some of them up to their 20s and 30s to help them make that transition into adult care and make sure they’re getting the appropriate follow up."
Ferguson specializes in treating bone tumors. He conducts research on the development and testing of new anti-cancer drugs. He has served on protocol steering committees for a half-dozen national clinical trials, and has been involved in several other trials that include multiple institutions. As interim director of the Saint Louis Cord Blood Bank, Ferguson researches expanding the clinical uses of cord blood-derived stem cells.
Before Ferguson came to Saint Louis University and Cardinal Glennon, he was clinical director of the pediatric hematology-oncology division at Rhode Island Hospital and Brown University.
Prior to that, he served as director of the division of pediatric hematology-oncology at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, where he completed his clinical fellowship, internship and residency training. Ferguson is a graduate of Harvard College and New York University School of Medicine.
Since joining the SLU/Glennon family, Ferguson has become a special fan of Costas, whose first job out of college was at KMOX radio in 1974. While most identified with the Olympics and baseball, Costas has covered nearly every major sport. He has won 19 Emmy awards and been named "National Sportscaster of the Year" an unprecedented eight times by his peers.
In early 2009, Costas signed a long-term contract to join the new MLB Network, leaving HBO where he had hosted the critically acclaimed "Costas Now" and "Inside the NFL."
Costas is a long-time member of Cardinal Glennon’s Board of Governors, whose annual benefits have raised more than $14 million for the hospital. The hematology/oncology service at Cardinal Glennon was named for Bob Costas in 1998.
"The Board of Governors is delighted to endow a chair in honor of its fellow board member, Bob Costas, whose support of Cardinal Glennon has been unwavering for over 20 years," said Ed Hempstead, president of the Board of Governors. "It is only fitting that the first recipient of this endowed chair be Dr. William Ferguson, medical director of the Costas Cancer Center."