Tom Ferguson, M.D. (1943-2006), was a pioneering physician, author, and researcher. Dr. Ferguson studied and wrote about the empowered medical consumer since 1975 and about online health resources for consumers since 1987. In 1993 he organized the world's first conference devoted to computer systems designed for medical consumers.
After attending Reed College, earning a Master's Degree in creative writing from San Francisco State University, and a medical degree from Yale University School of Medicine, he launched a prolific career in consumer focused medical writing as founder of Medical Self Care magazine.
From 1980 to 1996 he authored or co-authored over a dozen books and was section editor for health, medicine and self-care for the Whole Earth Catalogue.
Dr. Ferguson virtually led the movement to advocate informed self-care as the starting point for good health, and to promote a new kind of relationship between knowledgeable medical consumers and medical professionals. His goal was to encourage medical professionals to treat clients as equal partners in achieving better outcomes and change the entrenched practices of the traditional top-down hierarchy of the doctor-patient relationship. With the advent of broad access to the internet, Dr. Ferguson's long history of advocacy of information-empowered medical consumers positioned him to be a leading proponent of online health information resources.
Following his own philosophy, he survived fifteen years with multiple myeloma, far exceeding typical expectations. He relentlessly pursued strategies for both self-care and the newest research and experimental practices for controlling this aggressive cancer. During that time, between relapses and debilitating treatments, he led a migration of medical consumer information to the internet, lectured widely on the emerging field of "health informatics", and earned a global reputation as a true innovator and pioneer in the field. In 1999 he was one of four to be recognized as an "Online Health Hero", an award given by the Intel Corporation's Health Initiative Project.
In recent years, he has served as a Senior Research Fellow for Online Health at the Pew Internet and American Life Project in Washington D.C. and a consultant to the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation. He is also an Adjunct Associate Professor of Health Informatics at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, a Senior Associate at Boston's Center for Clinical Computing, a medical computing think-tank associated with Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital, and most recently joined the University of Arkansas Medical Sciences Center as an adjunct faculty where he initiated a patient centered quality improvement program at the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy.
He was editor and publisher of The Ferguson Report, the industry newsletter of online health. He has been a pioneering advocate of self-help and self-care for more then twenty years. In his book Megatrends, author John Naisbitt cited Dr. Ferguson's work as representing "the essence of the shift from institutional help to self-help."
Dr. Ferguson received his M.D. from the Yale University School of Medicine. He founded the influential journal Medical Self-Care and the SelfCare Catalog a direct retailer of tools which help people take care of their health. He served for many years as medical editor of The Whole Earth Catalog. He has received the National Educational Press Association's Distinguished Achievement Award.
Dr. Ferguson is Adjunct Associate Professor of Health Informatics at the University of Texas Medical Sciences Center in Houston. He is a senior associate at Boston's Center for Clinical Computing, a medical computing think-tank associated with Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital.
He wrote a chapter on the empowered medical consumer for the book that accompanied the Bill Moyers series on Mind/Body Medicine. He is the author of a dozen books on consumer health. His latest, Health Online: How to Find Health Information, Support Groups and Self-Help Communities in Cyberspace, was recently published.
Dr. Ferguson organized the world's first conferences on Consumer Health Informatics, a new field devoted to the development and study of consumer-oriented computer resources in health care. He is a consultant to many of the leading companies in the emerging online health industry. He is a popular speaker and workshop leader and has been interviewed by most of the major print and electronic media.
Tom was a good friend to us at HealthWorld Online and was one of our original advisory board members. "DocTom" as he was affectionately known to us, was a true visionary and virtually single-handedly led the medical self-care movement starting back in the 1970s with his breakthrough Medical Self-Care magazine. Later, with the advent of the internet, Tom became the "online health informatics" guru and led the movement for reliable online information for consumers.
When HealthWorld Online launched in early 1996, many will remember the well-visited "Self-Care Central" icon in our online health village - a little cottage with smoke lazily curling up out of the chimney on the edge of the surrounding forest. This was Tom's brainchild - a virtual center to educate and inspire our visitors to take more responsibility for their health. And it was Tom who personally introduced me to his good friend and wellness pioneer, Dr. John Travis, creator of the Wellness Inventory. Today, our online version of the Wellness Inventory, which focuses on creating a higher level of responsibility for our own health and wellbeing and bringing about a higher level of balance in our lives, is one of the centerpieces of the HealthWorld vision.
We will always remember Tom for his wonderful humor, vision, and creativity. We salute a life well lived that touched the lives of millions of people through his work, but especially those closest to him.