For Charles Fisher Jr., supporting Carroll Hospital is something of a family tradition. His father, Charles Fisher Sr., helped found the hospital and was one of the longest-serving members on its board. The Charles O. Fisher Medical Building bears his father’s name.
Fisher has himself served on the Carroll Hospital board, including as its chairman from 2007 through 2011. He was instrumental in the hospital’s search for a partner institution that culminated in a merger with LifeBridge Health in 2014 and has served on the LifeBridge board since 2015.
But it is a family tradition of service, and not a business: Fisher has found time for a 50-year career in law and is currently president of Walsh & Fisher, PA, while also having served as the president of the Carroll County Bar Association.
Fisher was recently honored with the Carroll Hospital Foundation Founders Circle Community SPIRIT Award in recognition of his continuing work on behalf of the hospital.
The Times caught up with Fisher to learn more about his dedication to the hospital and Carroll County.
Q: How does it feel to have been awarded the Carroll Hospital Foundation Founders Circle Community SPIRIT Award? What does that award mean to you?
A: I was and am grateful to have received the award. When I first saw the invitation to come to the dinner where the award was to be given out, I saw the names of all the people who have received it before, starting in 2001 with the founders of the hospital. I knew all the founders of the hospital; one of them was my father. And, the people who’ve received it since then I recognize as people who have greatly contributed to the success of the hospital over the years. I was very honored to be included among that group of people.
I also feel that it’s a recognition of the time that I have spent at the hospital but by the same token I don’t feel that I deserve any special recognition. I have simply done what my community expected me to do.
Q: You’ve been a longtime supporter of Carroll Hospital. Can you tell us a bit about your involvement and why you have been so engaged with the hospital?
A: I grew up in Westminster, my father grew up in Westminster and I first became aware of the hospital when I was in school. I did not intend, purposely, to become involved, but about 30 years ago a member of the board of directors [Jack Gambatese, Carroll Hospital’s board of directors chair from 1986 to 1988] knew me as an attorney and asked me to become involved in the hospital.
Many people think that my father got me involved but that was not the case. In fact, my father, as an attorney was very sensitive to conflicts and I don’t think that my father believed it would be appropriate for him to try to get me involved in the hospital when he was already there. But, the board of directors at the hospital on their own brought me in to begin serving on committees.
Q: Your father, Charles Fisher Sr., was one of the hospital’s founders. Can you tell us about that legacy and how it impacts your work with the hospital today?
A: First of all my father was a member of the board of directors from the day it opened until the day he died. And, as part of the governance of the hospital, I am very proud and honored to have served with my father.
One of my fondest memories of my time at the hospital is and probably forever will be, the day that they dedicated the Charles O. Fisher Medical Building here on the hospital campus. On that date, I was the chairman of the board at the hospital and the main speaker at that event. I talked about my father, his history and why he deserved that honor — although he did not believe that he did. That was one of my fondest memories, being able to do that as chairman of the board of the hospital.
My father set an example for me and for my brothers and sisters; that if you are able to do so, one of your functions is to give back to the community, to serve your community. So, I actually grew up believing one of my jobs in life was to be an active member of the community the way my father was. So, when I finished my education and came back to Carroll County, my church, my political party, a number of other organizations recruited me to become involved in community activities and I did. I just see my time at the hospital as kind of an extension of that. What I now see as a legacy that I acquired from within my family from when I was a child growing up.
Q: Your professional career is in law. How has that impacted your work with the hospital, and how has your work with the hospital impacted your legal work? What life lessons from each are transferable to the other?
A: I would not say that people involved in the governance and institution have to or should be lawyers. However, I do think that people who are trained in law do have a certain set of abilities or perspectives, which are valuable in governance. For example, people involved in the justice system in this country are trained to recognize conflicts of interest and be sensitive to conflicts of interest. This is valuable when you are governing an institution, particularly a nonprofit, that you be aware of these things. People in the legal profession usually know how to run a business meeting or a meeting. They usually are trained to see both sides of an issue and all these skills help in participating in the governance of a hospital and they did help me.
One of the primary ways my work with the hospital has impacted my legal work is that from the day the hospital opened until today my law firm does not become involved in any litigation involving medical malpractice or any claims against any physicians. The reason was the board of directors was primarily responsible for judgments as to who can serve on the medical staff. The board of directors is in charge of quality at the hospital and is aware of all aspects of care at the hospital whether it be good or bad. We recognize it as a conflict of interest to be engaged in those kinds of activities with regard to the medical staff and at the same time be involved in litigation with the medical staff. That’s one way in which being involved with the hospital had an effect on our business.
One of the big lessons I learned being involved at the hospital is that when you have a problem and you determine what the right answer is for that problem today, that same issue may come up five years later and because of changing circumstances that is not the right answer anymore. And, you have to recognize that. That is particularly true in the field of health care in the United States today. Not only is this an answer about health care, this is a lesson about life and it’s just one example of how work here at the hospital has taught me a life lesson.
Q: What is something about Carroll Hospital you believe is important or valuable that you believe many people don’t realize, know, or understand?
A: There are actually two things about Carroll Hospital that stand out for me.
The first one is the fact that this hospital was created by the community, not investors or necessarily the county government, it was created by individuals in the community who wanted to have a hospital here. One of the principle reasons were that they were tired of going to Pennsylvania or Baltimore or somewhere else to receive medical care. And, the hospital has never forgotten this and has dedicated itself to providing the community with what it believes the community needs in the way of health care. I think it’s an important idea to understand about Carroll Hospital.
The other thing is the high quality medical care that we are generating and producing in this hospital in the 21st century and how well organized and well run Carroll Hospital actually is. For example, we recently merged with LifeBridge Health and it turns out that many of the functions that are carried out at Carroll Hospital have been adopted across the LifeBridge Health system because of how well we do them here. So, these are a couple of things that I don’t know that the community knows about us but they are true.
When I was growing up my favorite thing was that I lived in the center of a town and everything I needed to do I could walk to or ride my bicycle to.
When I raised my family, my favorite thing was that the community was safe, it was stable and I knew the families of the friends of my children. The parents of my children’s friends had grown up with me.
I’m an empty nester now and what I appreciate about Carroll County and living here is not the fact that I’m far away from the city or other cities, it’s the fact that I’m so close. Carroll County is actually located very close to valuable urban centers, Baltimore, Maryland, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and a host of other very interesting and educational places. So, as I’ve gone through life I’ve appreciated different things about living in Carroll County.