Our dear friend, our brother, our hero, the inimitable Doc Tom, died on Good Friday 2006. Even though his untimely death came as a shock, Tom Ferguson had already far outlived the projections at the time of his Myeloma diagnosis over 15 years before. July 8 is Tom’s birthday.
Two centuries earlier, another Tom taught an important lesson about an empowered citizenry. Thomas Jefferson said, “Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.” We don’t need to be ruled by monarchs or dictators. We can join together to govern ourselves.
In this century, Tom Ferguson taught us that whenever the people are well-informed they can be trusted with their own health. We don’t need doctors or health systems to rule our bodies. He envisioned health as an equal partnership between “e-Patients”, each other, and the professionals and systems that support them in their health.
e-Patients is a term used by Tom Ferguson to describe individuals who are equipped, envisioned, enabled, empowered, and engaged in their health and healthcare decisions.
Tom was a model e-Patient and lived his work. But he did not become interested in changing healthcare based on his own disease. Even in medical school at Yale University he explored the power of medical knowledge by creating a health curriculum for kindergarten and 1st graders. We were privileged to see the documentary of this amazing experiment where young children were given permission to ask their real health questions (What is a cold? Why do you put that thing in your ears and against my chest? Where do babies come from?). They were encouraged to research the answers with the guidance of medical students. The results were amazing.
For the past few years Tom had been working on his “magnum opus”, e-Patients: Healthcare, Just Fix It. It began as a White Paper commissioned by the Robert Wood Johnson foundation and has evolved into a number of initiatives including this blog. From the time Tom was a medical student until his final months, he was a driving force in changing healthcare.
Tom was a pioneer, an author, and a researcher. He was a friend, a father, a husband. A gentle soul, a brilliant intellect, and a connector of people. If you knew Tom well, you can name at least a dozen other people that you know because he introduced you. Tom was honored by many for his accomplishments. Thank you, Doc Tom. We miss you and are glad to be helping to carry your work into the future.