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Fred Fisher – An Unparalleled Leader

Fred Fisher

Following more than two decades of leadership, ALS Golden West’s president and CEO, Fred Fisher, MSW, LCSW, will become the organization’s first President Emeritus effective February 1, 2024. As part of a long-established succession plan, he will assume the leadership role of president emeritus when current chief operating officer Sheri Strahl, MPH, MBA becomes president and CEO.

“Fred helped shape Golden West into one of the leading ALS nonprofits in the country by increasing multidisciplinary care services, advocacy, and research efforts, while never failing to keep people living with ALS and their loved ones front and center. Fred’s leadership, commitment, and innovation have truly changed the way we care for individuals facing ALS by improving their quality of life and quality of care.”

– Patricia Schimbor, ALS Golden West Board Chair

Fred began to build his track record for innovation and ingenuity in 2003 when he joined ALS Golden West as president and CEO. Then known as the LA Chapter of the ALS Association, the organization had only two employees. Fred quickly recognized the urgent need for a more robust organization to serve as a centralized source of information, guidance, and resources for people living with ALS and their loved ones.

Drawing on his experience in creating outreach programs for the homebound and elderly, Fred set out to transform the standard of care for people with ALS.

“I recognized that a seamless model of care from the home to the clinic would lead to higher quality of healthcare and extend the life of a person diagnosed with ALS,” Fred said. “Having a social worker helping people in their home and also embedded within their local clinic leads to enhanced care.”

Fred’s idea was the catalyst for the organization helping to develop multidisciplinary ALS clinics within key medical centers across California and eventually Hawaii – building upon the pioneering efforts of ALS neurologists in the state and partnering with leaders at many institutions, including Cedars-Sinai, Forbes Norris, UCSF, USC, UCLA, Loma Linda University, Kaiser Permanente and more. Today, ALS Golden West works with more than 30 clinic partners.

As a new integrated and interdependent model of care developed, the number of people served quickly grew – as did the need for organizational change. Fred led the merger of the Greater Los Angeles and Greater Bay Area Chapters in 2010, creating the Golden West Chapter of the ALS Association. The newly formed organization was able to formulate a more comprehensive view of ending ALS and expanded its service area to include Hawaii in 2014.

That multi-pronged approach, with care services as its core, included expanding research and advocacy endeavors. Fred collaborated with passionate individuals directly impacted by ALS and those dedicated to discovering new treatments and cures for the disease. The result has led to nationally renowned programs and initiatives.

In 2010, under the auspices of ALS Golden West, Fred assembled an ad hoc group of researchers, investigators, clinicians, biotech companies, government representatives, partner organizations, and advocates to form the California ALS Research Network. The Network and its annual summit were launched using funds allocated from the ALS/Lou Gehrig’s Disease Research Fund, a California income tax return donation option available from 2008-2010 that raised more than $700,000 for ALS research.

Fred helped shape the network along with chair Clive Svendsen, PhD, executive director, and Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute at Cedars-Sinai. In collaboration with network members, they continue to engage ALS experts to increase, expedite, and promote ALS and related research. Their work fosters the discovery of new and effective treatments and, ultimately, cures for ALS. Many promising therapies are in the pipeline today because of their shared work.

Never missing an opportunity to advance research, Fred was appointed by California’s lieutenant governor in June 2021 to the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine as a board member and patient advocate representing amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and multiple sclerosis (MS). In this capacity, Fred helps accelerate world-class science to deliver transformative regenerative medicine treatments in an equitable manner.

As research efforts and influence increased, so did the organization’s approach to advocacy. Today, due in large part to Fred’s vision, tenacity, and collaborative spirit, ALS Golden West is a leader in advocating for policies that have led to increased local, state, and federal awareness and funding for ALS-related legislation and programs. Examples include: 

Fred’s leadership also led to securing more than $26M in multi-year state funding for ALS Golden West’s wraparound model of care, and, in 2024, another income tax return donation option will be available to California residents choosing to help fund ALS research.

As Fred surpassed two decades of service focusing on the needs of the ALS community through significant contributions to care, research, and advocacy, another transformative decision presented itself. On September 1, 2023, ALS Golden West joined 14 other chapters across the county in separating from the ALS Association.

“The determination to disaffiliate was made after extensive and thoughtful deliberation,” Fred said. “We didn’t set out to separate, but the Board and our executive leadership together chose to maintain our corporate autonomy, ensuring the highest standard and continuity of care for our ALS community.”

That unwavering dedication to the ALS community has been a hallmark of Fred’s tenure and approach to leadership. It’s that stalwart belief in putting the person with ALS first that has exponentially grown the reach and impact of the organization he has shepherded for over 20 years.

As ALS Golden West charts its fresh path of strategic growth and development, and prepares to launch a re-envisioned organizational name and brand identity in 2024, Fred will continue stewarding relationships and opportunities. As president emeritus, he will build on his legacy in a new capacity by providing consultation on a broad range of topics. He will offer guidance in expanding ALS Golden West’s research program and engage supporters who make transformational gifts to advance organizational objectives and special initiatives.

“I receive a lot of credit for shaping ALS Golden West into the dynamic organization it is today, but none of it was possible without the ingenuity, partnership, and grit of so many others,” Fred said. “While my work with the organization will soon look different, I know our noble mission will carry forward with vigor because of the network of brave people living with ALS, their loved ones, dedicated volunteers, community partners, health care experts, scientists, researchers, donors, and staff members that personify our cause.”

Read Fred’s message to ALS Golden West constituents and staff about his new role. We invite you to join us to honor Fred on Friday, January 19, 2024, at our Champions for Cures and Care celebration when he receives our Essey Lifetime Achievement Award.

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