New Frontiers

After 13 years as president and CEO, James M. Anderson is stepping down. His successor, Michael Fisher, will officially enter his role as CEO on January 1.

We sat down with Mr. Anderson to learn more about him and the legacy he leaves at Cincinnati Children’s.

What brought you to Cincinnati Children’s?

My connection to Cincinnati Children’s goes way back to just after I came home from the Army. I was a young attorney at Taft, Stettinus and Hollister when I was asked to join the board of an affiliate, Cincinnati Center for Developmental Disorders. I’ve been here in some way or another for more than 40 years.

What challenges did you face as you transitioned from board chair to CEO?

I’m really an adventurer at heart. I seek out new challenges, new frontiers to explore and ways to extend beyond conventional boundaries to create new opportunities. As president and CEO, this side of me was put to the test right away. In 1996, we (the board) had just completed a two-year process to create a vision for the medical center. It was short but bold: to be the leader in improving child health. Notice that is “the” leader, not “a” leader. It was a tall order to fill.

As I’ve led this great organization over the years, I’ve tried to always keep that vision at the forefront. From the start, its words inspired me to tackle difficult issues. It continues to inspire the entire Cincinnati Children’s family to deliver outstanding care and constantly seek new knowledge to find new and better ways to care for children.

How did your experiences as a decorated veteran, attorney and business executive help you lead Cincinnati Children’s to excellence?

Each was a valuable learning experience. Practicing law taught me how to intellectually address complicated problems to get something done. As the president of US operations for Xomox Corporation, I learned how multi-part enterprises manage themselves to highly successful outcomes. And the Army, particularly Vietnam, taught me how to keep going even when the environment was noisy.

Cincinnati Children’s is a complex place with many intelligent, assertive people. It can be a noisy environment. But it’s rewarding to see people come together for a common goal: to make kids better. I’m proud and honored to work with such an extraordinary team of dedicated and innovative employees. By far, my work with Cincinnati Children’s has been the most gratifying experience of my life.

What’s the secret to your success?

Innovation, compelling vision and people — that’s the magic combination. You have to develop a strategic vision that strengthens existing programs and launches new ones. And you have to invest in people and programs and provide the necessary support so they can be creative and innovative. That’s what helps to break down traditional barriers and leads to outstanding clinical services and research programs.

Do you have any advice for your successor?

As the next CEO, Michael will need to be flexible and open-minded but also have an urgent desire and a commitment to be the best at getting better. In his five years on the medical center’s board, Michael has been a keen, insightful advisor and a passionate advocate for Cincinnati Children’s. I can’t think of a better person to carry Cincinnati Children’s forward in the years ahead and continue to advance the frontier of pediatric medicine.

How do you want to be remembered?

To have done my job well as a leader of people and institutions and to have enabled people to do more than they thought they could do — all to the benefit of children.

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