James M. Anderson is likely not at home with discussions of cloned surfactant proteins, cardiofunk mutations, and protein links. He's not seen making the pediatric rounds, nor is a surgeon's scalpel ever likely to touch his hand.

Yet Anderson "” an attorney and former CEO of a large valve manufacturing company "” finds himself these days as the linchpin for children's medical care in the Tristate. If not the country.

As president and CEO of the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Anderson is labeled by his colleagues and friends as something of a visionary in the business of delivering clinical care. He's also the first CEO in the history of Children's who isn't a doctor, and don't think that didn't, at one time, prompt some heated water-cooler debates in the halls of the mighty institution "” one of the country's best pediatric hospitals.

Yet Anderson has overcome most concerns by turning the medical center into a research and educational behemoth. With its huge campus in Avondale "” straddling the grounds of the Cincinnati Zoo "” and more than a dozen satellite locations across the Tristate, Children's touches the lives of thousands of parents and kids daily.

It also makes money. Lots of it.

"An average annual revenue growth rate of 22 percent," Anderson is saying, motioning with his hands as he does often. "That's stunning in any business. P&G would love it. Any business would."

We're just getting seated in Anderson's economically furnished office (about the size of this writer's, no joke), and the CEO is remarking on his just-completed trip to Bosnia. "We have a relationship with a university there." He's literally just off the plane from the previous day, but there's no indication of jet lag in sight.

"What I am most proud of is that we have increased market share, a bigger piece of the market pie. That says we are competing effectively," remarks Anderson, who became CEO eight years ago and faced a fascinating conundrum: If your "industry" is sick kids, how do you grow the business? You certainly don't want to wish for more ailing children, and in fact, as modern medicine progresses, there likely will be fewer sick children every day.

Anderson decided to look to two markets ripe for development: research and education.

The pathway paid off; federal research grants have increased eightfold on his watch. "We have to be financially successful," Anderson says. "Unless we maximize that, it impairs all that we hold dear."

TODAY, CINCY. TOMORROW, THE WORLD

Rewind to earlier in the day. Anderson is standing at a podium deep in the bowels of the medical center, playing to the crowd he desperately wants to win over: His 90 newest employees. Every two weeks or so, Anderson conducts one of these get-acquainted dialogues with the hospital's raw recruits.

Anderson tells the audience he is no longer content with Children's being just a leader in pediatric care, research, and education. "I want us to be the leader." The president throws out such concepts as accountability, leadership, values, expectations. He points to his "cornerstones" and drills home the point: He wants to raise the bar on clinical care delivery. No, more to the point, he wants them to raise the bar.

In the less-than-perfect world of health care, Anderson is seeking nothing less than perfection, even as he acknowledges the hospital is only nearly so. "The only people that don't make mistakes are people who aren't doing anything," he tells the group.

Not long ago, at a more public meeting, Anderson stated flatly that he wants to attain the same lofty international status in pediatric care that the Mayo Clinic holds in its field of medicine.

Some might suggest No. 1 in the world is a bit of a reach, but then again, this is a place that has seen miracles at work.

THE SABIN LEGACY

Children's Hos-pital holds a special place in the memory of any Cincinnatian "” of any American, for that matter "” who's old enough to remember polio. It's here where Dr. Albert B. Sabin pioneered a new vaccine to end the scourge. On April 24, 1960 "” "Sabin Sunday" as the national media would label it "” some 200,000 Cincinnati schoolchildren were the first of their generation to be inoculated with the godsend protection.

The CEO smiles at the mention of the legendary Children's physician. "He was a crusty old guy to get along with. But he was clearly dedicated. It's startling that within a decade, that building [the polio hospital] emptied out. That experience, the Sabin experience, taught us the example of what this institution could do."

Today, the medical center is rated by U.S. News & World Report's "America's Best Hospitals" survey as the seventh-best pediatric hospital in the United States. Anderson seems not all that pleased with the impressive ranking, but brightens up, noting the hospital is "slowly inching upward." It was 10th place in 2001, ninth in 2002, and eighth in 2003.

TAPPING FEDERAL MONEY

The medical center is also "” somewhat obviously "” gigantic. It's evolved into a huge economic driver: creating jobs, buying supplies, and luring research grant money into the city (including a recent $9.5 million National Institutes of Health grant to study sickle cell anemia). By some estimates, it accounts for $1.3 billion in economic impact annually, second only to the airport.

Over the past decade, spending on new buildings and equipment has gone up 322 percent, while employment has shot up a corresponding 82 percent. Patients and their families travel from all 50 states as well as all parts of the world, becoming what one economic study labeled as "” perhaps a bit unfeelingly "” "medical tourists," forced visitors who contribute hundreds of millions to the local economy. Many of these families stay at the Ronald McDonald House, a 48-room refuge located next door to the Children's campus.

And while much of the research centers on the young (such as the development of a new vaccine against rotavirus, a leading cause of death among infants), some benefits of the Cincinnati studies spill over to the general populace. For instance, Children's scientists found this year that soy consumption helps prevent prostate cancer and "” get this "” male pattern baldness.

Come 2007, Anderson will cut the ribbon on a new, 11-story research facility that will include the Center for Computational Medicine, an 800,000-square-foot building that he calls "a pivotal project in our history."

DATA TECH IS KEY

Information technology is playing a critical role in Anderson's change to the hospital's traditional culture "” the tech budget has expanded from $800,000 at the beginning of Anderson's watch to $22 million now. Internally, the hospital keeps a scorecard on the institution's intranet, so employees are constantly grading themselves. And a computer program monitors prescriptions as they are written, automatically comparing the child's size and diagnosis to the medicine being requested and asking, "Does this prescription make sense?"

All this emphasis explains Anderson's role as chairman of CincyTechUSA, the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce's voice of tech and innovation. "We are very much a technology business. We will prosper if the region has a huge technology infrastructure," he notes. "To the extent that Cincinnati is viewed as a high-tech city, Cincinnati will be easier [in which] to recruit."

Anderson emphasizes that much of the research being done is "translational," translating what we know to the bedside. And much of it is being done jointly with commercial partners. The medical center is actually the third-largest recipient of National Institutes of Health funding in the country, behind Boston and Philadelphia hospitals.

A THRIVING CITY

A 30-second commercial is playing on a television screen. One of a series of TV spots created by a national ad agency, "Soccer Star" features a young girl playing kick-the-can with soccer-like moves. The words "tracheal reconstruction" join her on the screen. The last scene shows the letters morphing to "soccer star in action" as the voiceover intones the theme, "Changing the outcome for kids from around the world."

That it does. But there's more than clinical child care going on here. Somewhere in the building, a supercomputer is ticking away at genome research, mapping the building blocks of life. Elsewhere is the nation's first hospital office of emergency management, designed for a medical response to natural or manmade disasters.

With its 7,000-plus employees, Children's easily falls into the top-10 employers list for the region. Some may overlook that this is also one of the city's major educational campuses as well, a teaching hospital with 450 faculty members. This year, the facility established a graduate program in immunobiology, offering master's and Ph.D. degrees in the science of figuring out how the body can be prompted to defend itself against attacks by foreign invaders.

At the heart of it all, however, is the mission: caring for critically ill children. Last year, 89 transplants "” including four heart transplants "” were performed at the massive hospital. In total, 711,290 patients were treated. Children's is the only Level 1 pediatric trauma and cardiac intensive care center in the Tristate. And this city-within-a-city has all the elements that any community would expect: restaurants, retail, police department, even a church, the Chapel of the Holy Child.

The medical center actually has its roots in religion, founded by the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio. The bishop of the diocese is chairman ex officio of the board of directors.

"He's a man of extraordinary integrity. Anybody who knows Jim Anderson would begin with that. He brings that integrity to his extraordinary responsibilities," comments the Rt. Rev. Herbert Thompson of Anderson's work ethic and leadership style. "He's a man of tremendous vision. Look what has happened over his tenure at Children's Hospital. He empowers people."

A SILVERTON KID

Born within days of Pearl Harbor, young Anderson grew up in the shadow of a war of one sort or another: World War II, the Cold War, Korean War, and, finally, Vietnam.

While Anderson was playing ball in the working-class neighborhoods of Silverton and Kenwood, he began his penchant for volunteerism. He attended Indian Hill High School, in one of the first graduating classes, and served as senior class president (even today, that fact remains on his resume, evidence of his pride in the position). He became one of the first in his family to attend college, taking his bachelor's in American studies at Yale University, and his law degree at Vanderbilt University.

Anderson's life took one of its many major diversions after law school, when he joined the Army and served in Vietnam. He remained in the Army's First Infantry Division from 1966 to 1968, winning a bronze star among other accolades. Upon his return stateside, Anderson joined the law firm of Taft, Stettinius & Hollister LLP. And in 1977, he accepted the position as president of Xomox Corp., a manufacturer of valves and actuators.

THE BIG SURPRISE

Anderson continued his various board and community work, including a decade as chairman of the Cincinnati Stock Exchange, a director of Command System Inc., Lebanon Steel Foundry, Gateway Investment Trust, and "” not incidentally "” a board position at one Children's Hospital from 1979 to 1996.

It was in 1996 when Children's began its search for a new CEO to replace the retiring Dr. William K. Schubert. They picked Anderson. What the heck happened?

"I clearly lost control of the search committee," he jokes of the time now. The committee and the executive recruiting firm looked at hundreds of possibilities before turning their eyes inward to a longtime trustee who was not even a physician: James Anderson. "It was a surprise to me, too," he shrugs.

Board leaders had ultimately agreed the best decision was to take the opportunity of the vacancy and split the job of CEO in half; the chairman of the department of pediatrics is now the top doc. "We were reluctant to split it apart. But clearly it was the right decision. They are two huge jobs."

SETTING SAIL

Anderson's private of-fice is adrift in sailing memorabilia: Photos of family and friends out on his boat, renderings and models of watercraft, memories of ports in Newport, R.I., and Maine, and more. His 45-foot yawl is the love of his life after his wife, Marge "” a pastor at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Reading "” and children: James Jr., a lawyer in Pittsburgh who defends death-row inmates; Joseph, a pediatrician in Belfast, Maine; Hill, a second-year business school student at the University of Texas at Austin; and Dargie, a second-year graduate student at the University of Michigan in poetry.

Hmm. A lawyer. A pediatrician. A budding business leader. Only the poetry thing can't be attributed to Anderson as a role model.

Anderson leans over a conference table, and his chicken-and-fox tie becomes pronounced. Any symbolism here we should know about? "No," he laughs. "I got it at some international airport. At a discount."

And if you didn't think by now this guy's an overachiever, note that he's served as mayor of the Village of Indian Hill, resident of the Eastern Central Region of the Boy Scouts of America, a trustee of the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History, and a member of the Hamilton County Airport Authority.

THE FUTURE HOLDS ...

"This is a very entrepreneurial place," Anderson says. "Everybody is on the same page, that we are building something and doing something for kids. It's very exciting."

Anderson says his goal for the future is to trigger a "massive migration" from the model of hospital care being dependent on individual heroics to system-delivered, reliable, high-quality care. And "to oversee a convergence of technology and massive medical knowledge, to produce better outcomes, better diagnoses. It's truly a shifting of tectonic plates, and we are on the frontier. It's a huge undertaking, a huge cultural change.

"My position for the organization for the next few years is this notion of the transformation of health care," he promises. "In the next five years, this place will execute its mission with a great deal more reliability, safety, and parent-centeredness than we ever have."

Any final words?

"This is the first hospital I have worked in," Anderson is quick to say. "And it will be the last."