Prominent children's physician dies

August 15, 2008 5:45:58 AM PDT
Dr. Ralph Feigin, physician-in-chief at Texas Children's Hospital, died Thursday afternoon from lung cancer. He was one of the world's most renowned experts in pediatric infectious diseases. When you talk about Dr. Feigin, two words come to mind -- brilliant and beloved. He shaped medicine in Houston through his expertise in infectious diseases and his work with children as he built Texas Children's Hospital into one of the best children's hospitals in the world. He's beloved because young doctors and his staff loved him, and so did the young patients to whom he devoted his life.

Dr. Feigin was always comforting to his kids -- and he had a lot of kids. He was the physician-in-chief at Texas Children's Hospital for two decades. He took that hospital from a small community hospital to the 21 story hospital it now is, with an outpatient building, a nutrition research center, the Feigin center and two new buildings under construction. For seven years he was also president of Baylor College of Medicine -- combining both jobs. In March he told me:

In March Dr. Feigin said, "The thing I'm proudest of is the high quality patient care we deliver."

He wrote the textbooks that medical students studied. His current focus was on research to help children with neurological diseases that leave children disabled. He called it the last frontier.

"So that children don't have to die in the future," he said.

Dr. Feigin died of lung cancer, though he was a non-smoker and a long time runner. But he worked with his children as long as he could.

He said, "To me, this is just what I do every day."

I asked him once how he recruited people to come to Houston, when they could stay at a big east coast medical center. He told me that he would ask them if they shared his vision -- his vision to push the envelope in both treatment and research to cure the diseases that take young lives. And Houstonians and their children will long be the beneficiaries of his vision.

    "If you look at the impact that Dr. Ralph Feigin had on pediatric medicine, his reach extends far beyond a regional basis. He had an impact on pediatrics throughout the United States and even globally. He truly made a lasting impression on the world of health and the care of children. He symbolized all the great things about Baylor pediatrics and Texas Children's. It was an honor to work with him and put together the vision that has made Texas Children's the preeminent children's hospital in the country.

    Dr. Feigin was my partner and comrade for over 20 years, and words cannot express the overwhelming grief I personally feel from his passing. The influence Dr. Feigin had on our lives, both professionally and personally, is immeasurable. He was instrumental in making Texas Children's what it is today?one of the best children's hospitals in the world. As physician in chief of Texas Children's and chair of the department of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine, Dr. Feigin's 31-year tenure here will be a legend for generations to come. He touched countless lives."

    - Mark A. Wallace, president and CEO of Texas Children's Hospital.

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