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Dr. James Fitzgibbon receives Akron Children’s Hospital’s Distinguished Service Award

02-17-2021 (Akron, Ohio)

James Fitzgibbon, M.D., who has dedicated his career to health care for adolescents and teens, is the recipient of Akron Children’s Hospital’s annual Distinguished Service Award for 2020. 

Fitzgibbon, a physician for 40 years with Akron Children’s, served for 36 years as the director of Adolescent Medicine. The department specializes in preventive care for teens. 

The award is usually announced at a hospital-wide recognition event. This year, due to COVID-19 precautions, Fitzgibbon was surprised during a staff meeting by Akron Children’s Hospital President and CEO Grace Wakulchik and Dr. Robert McGregor, chief medical officer. 

“Dr. Fitz, as he is known to many, has dedicated his 40-plus years at Children’s to ensuring that adolescents throughout our region receive the care and services they need,” Wakulchik said. “Under his direction, our core Adolescent Medicine division has expanded to include such services as adolescent gynecology, a comprehensive eating disorders program and a gender affirming clinic. Recognizing the need to reach teens where they are, he launched several community-based programs and served for many years as a physician for the county’s juvenile detention center.” 

The Adolescent Medicine department, now headed by Dr. Stephen Sondike, nominated Fitzgibbon for the award. 

“Everything we’ve achieved here was built upon the bedrock that Dr. Fitzgibbon laid down, and I’m just honored to be able to step in and continue his tremendous work,” Sondike said. 

Fitzgibbon’s honor comes just a few weeks before his retirement at the end of February. While working with adolescents has always been at the heart of his work, Fitzgibbon also served the hospital as Medical Staff President, and he's won numerous teaching awards for his work with medical students and residents. 

“If there’s anybody who can be described as having his heart in the right place, it’s Fitz,” said Dr. P. Cooper White, director of the Locust Pediatric Care Group at Akron Children’s Hospital. “He’s worked tirelessly to build the department and has done a great job mentoring and teaching and caring for his patients.” 

Fitzgibbon credits the staff in Adolescent Medicine for the department’s success. But he also is grateful for the teens who have found a compassionate medical home there. 

“We always felt we were a safe place for kids to go but now we’re not only a safe place, we also provide excellent care,” he said. “When you get to see kids through their various stages of development and growth, that’s what makes pediatrics really fun. They teach you every day. Those kids have taught me more than anything else I’ve experienced.” 

Fitzgibbon resides in Bath with his wife of 50 years, Nelda. They have three children and six grandchildren.  

The hospital’s Employee Foundation Council (EFC) presents one hospital employee with the Distinguished Service Award annually. The award was established in 1979 to recognize the contributions of the hospital’s then-chief executive officer Roger Sherman and has since been awarded every year to an employee, physician or volunteer who demonstrates exemplary leadership, loyalty, dedication and service. Honorees are nominated by employees and voted upon by EFC.