Hicks, Harris, Ferguson


What Is Multiple Myeloma?

Multiple Myeloma (commonly referred to as cancer of the bone marrow by the community) is a cancer that forms in a type of white blood cell called a plasma cell. Plasma cells help fight infections by making antibodies that recognize and attack germs.

Multiple myeloma causes cancer cells to accumulate in the bone marrow, where they crowd out healthy blood cells. Rather than produce helpful antibodies, the cancer cells produce abnormal proteins that can cause kidney problems.

The disease generally occurs in adults older than 50 years old. African Americans are more than twice as likely as whites to be diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma.

Multiple Myeloma is not curable, but it is treatable.

In Them We Find Ourselves…

Several years ago, the late Cheryl Boyce, a multiple myeloma patient herself, had a conversation with her then oncologist, Dr. William Hicks about her surprise at so few African American patients in various treatment settings in spite of the disproportionate incidence of the disease in our community. He agreed and that conversation led to creation of the symposium. 

So often when people talk about Multiple Myeloma, they cite statistics, but the numbers are real people who live, work, and play in our community. Their loss represents the loss of loved ones, productive and vital members of our community. This symposium series is named in honor of three beloved members of our community who fought the good fight against this disease.

They are:

Eleanor Victorine Frazier Hicks

Mrs. Hicks was a Mother, Educator in the Columbus Public Schools for more than 20 years and the First Lady of Mt. Olivet Baptist Church. The wife of Dr. H. Beecher Hicks, Sr., a nationally regarded pastor. Mrs. Hicks was known throughout the community as a woman who possessed rare gifts of intellect and grace. Her legacy of excellence and compassion lives on through her children, Attorney Sandra Hicks Cox, Dr. H. Beecher Hicks, Jr. and Dr. William Hicks.

Reverend Richard L. Harris

Rev. Harris was a native of Chillicothe. He served in the United States Air Force from 1960-65. During his enlistment he met and married JoAnn Harris. They had two children Stephanie and Spencer. Richard was called into the ministry in 1982 and became an Itinerant Elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1988. He served with honor and dignity as pastor of St. Paul AME, Zanesville for 10 years and St. Mark AME Columbus until his death.

Lugenia Pearman Ferguson

Mrs. Ferguson lived a life of service. Trained as a nurse she worked to improve the health of others. She and her husband Irwin had five children, Kenneth, Deborah, Charles, Brenda, and Jerome. Ms. Ferguson was a Renaissance woman. Her beautiful voice afforded her the opportunity to sing with Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, and Sonny Stitt. She was a committed Missionary and served as the Chairperson of the Ohio Council of Churches Commission on the Aged.

The lives of these three remarkable people intersected at “Multiple Myeloma” lending a real face and a profound sense of loss in the African American community. 

The History of Hicks Harris Ferguson

With support from friends and members of the Hicks Harris Ferguson families, along with sponsorship from MMORE (Multiple Myeloma Opportunities for Research and Education), the first Symposium was held in September 2011 in Columbus, Ohio. The Symposium was designed to reach the African American community with information and education about Multiple Myeloma. Today, the Symposium is the largest and longest African American multiple myeloma event in the country.

HHF has provided an opportunity for those affected by MM to come out of their isolation and to:

  • Identify and connect with others in the minority community affected by this disease,
  • Identify and connect with the broader MM community,
  • gain access to scientifically accurate information about MM, treatment protocols and research updates,
  • provide a vehicle to link general practitioners who may be primary health practitioners with MM experts and treatment facilities,
  • prepare those affected with MM to be informed advocates for themselves, their families, and communities,
  • provide cross training for providers who serve minority communities,
  • increase knowledge about and involvement in clinical trials, and
  • increase involvement in and contributions to increasing research.


Throughout the initial years, spanning from 2011 to 2014, the Symposium primarily emphasized awareness and education, drawing upon the expertise of local physicians and clinicians. Esteemed professionals such as Dr. William J. Hicks, Dr. Craig Hofmeister, and Dr. Yvonne Efebera (formerly affiliated with the OSU Comprehensive Cancer Center), along with Dr. Timothy D. Moore from Zangmeister Cancer Center, served as presenters, offering insights into new treatments and medical advancements. Additionally, the Symposium featured presentations by specialists including Portia J. Bell, DDS, focusing on oral health, and Cynthia C. Dungey, JD, providing guidance on healthcare finances, insurance assistance, and caregiver resources. Notably, in 2014, we were privileged to welcome the late Rev. Dr. Charles E. Booth of Mt. Olivet Baptist Church in Columbus, Ohio, who generously shared his personal journey and diagnosis with Multiple Myeloma.

From 2015 to 2017, our roster of speakers expanded to include nationally recognized clinicians who delved into new treatments, the intersection of race and Multiple Myeloma, and ongoing research endeavors aimed at finding a cure for this disease. Notable presenters during this period included Dr. Craig Emmett Cole from Michigan State University and Dr. Racquel Innis-Shelton of Alabama Oncology (former Co-Director of the UAB Multiple Myeloma Multidisciplinary Clinic). In response to feedback from our symposium evaluations during these years, we incorporated sessions led by Dr. Charles F. von Gunten and the late Dr. Robert M. Taylor of OhioHealth, specializing in pain management strategies, nutrition, music therapy, and addressing financial challenges, with insights from representatives of The James Cancer and Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

In 2017, MMORE concluded its operations, and the Ohio Federation for Health Equity and Social Justice took on the fiduciary responsibility for Hicks Harris Ferguson.

From 2018 – 2019, the focus has been on new medical treatments, clinical trials and updates in research, our presenters were Dr. Yvonne A. Efebera, OhioHealth (formerly of the Ohio State Comprehensive Cancer Center) and Dr. Melody Smith with the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Our breakout sessions focused on caregivers, self-advocacy, skin care and medical and financial resources with Dr. Shari Hicks-Graham, Dr. Deborah Kemokai-Wright, Greg Brozeit, MyelomaCrowd, and Karen Dawson, CareSource.

In 2020, our event faced postponement due to the Covid-19 pandemic. To maintain our audience’s involvement, we arranged a sequence of webinars encompassing advocacy, Myeloma 101, and emerging trends, alongside a demonstration on nutritious cooking. Our distinguished speakers comprised Dr. Craig E. Cole from the University of Michigan, Kimberly Alexander of KimConnects, and Michele Lites, RD, CSO, from Kaiser Permanente.

In 2021, HHF joyfully marked our 10th Anniversary with virtual presentations of distinction. Rod Gilmore, College Football Analyst, Lawyer, and Multiple Myeloma Patient, engaged in insightful discussions moderated by Clark Kellogg, CBS Sports Commentator, and Former NBA Player. “Through Their Eyes” featured a caregiver panel moderated by Kimberly Alexander, with Gene Harris (Columbus, OH), and Christian Williams (Charleston, SC), offering poignant narratives of their caregiving journeys. Our keynote speaker, the esteemed Kenneth Anderson, MD, highlighted the role of African Americans in advancing current and future treatments. The event culminated with Michele Lites, RD, CSO, sharing nourishing recipes aimed at bolstering immune systems.

In 2022, our Symposium centered on the intersection of Covid and Multiple Myeloma, particularly emphasizing Multiple Myeloma Clinical Trials; the day commenced with “Multiple Myeloma Care During the Covid-19 Pandemic,” featuring esteemed guest Dr. Brandon L. Blue, MD, Assistant Professor in the Malignant Hematology Department at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, FL, moderated by Dr. William Hicks, a retired oncologist from Columbus, Ohio. Followed by Dr. Craig Hofmeister, Associate Professor in the Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology at Emory University School of Medicine will delve into the topic of “Multiple Myeloma Clinical Trials and their Effect on Care” moderated by Dr. Yvonne Efebera, Director of Blood and Marrow Transplant and Cellular Therapy at OhioHealth; concluded by our inaugural series titled “My Personal Journey Living with Multiple Myeloma,” featuring Stanley Harris and moderated by Kimberly Alexander.

In 2023, HHF received the esteemed privilege of serving as the Executive Producer for the inaugural documentary “STRONG. Living with Multiple Myeloma,” crafted by Paris Films. This poignant narrative chronicles Paris Jones’ journey through the challenges and triumphs of confronting and overcoming cancer. Following the documentary, an insightful panel discussion titled “Living Stronger: Our Journey with Multiple Myeloma” featured Dr. Don Benson, a distinguished multiple myeloma physician and researcher at OSUCC James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute, alongside multiple myeloma patients Mira Porter, Tiffany Williams, Karl Harris, and Paris Jones. Dr. William Hicks adeptly moderated the discussion.

This year, HHF shifted the Symposium to a luncheon lecture series, aiming to enhance the dissemination of valuable information and encourage real-time discussions among healthcare professionals, patients, and caregivers. Our inaugural luncheon lecture, titled “Multiple Myeloma: Progress, Collaboration, Cure,” featured Dr. Brandon Blue, Assistant Member and Clinical Instructor in the Department of Malignant Hematology at Moffitt Cancer Center. These luncheon lectures will be held quarterly throughout the year.