John O'Connor
John O’Connor

Tonight’s the night. It’s gonna be alright.

—Rod Stewart

The British rocker and pop star undoubtedly meant the lyrics from one of his greatest hits in a different context. But the prediction also applies to a celebration that will unfold later today.

I’m referring, of course, to the second annual McKnight’s Pinnacle Awards celebration, which takes place this evening in Chicago. And what a night it promises to be.

In all, 29 senior living, skilled nursing and home care leaders will be recognized.

These industry veterans are setting the bar when it comes to driving change, achieving new standards and inspiring others. They were nominated by peers and selected by an independent, national panel of judges.

Perhaps most notably, we will recognize the president and CEO of the American Health Care Association / National Center for Senior Living.

Mark Parkinson has guided his 14,000-member organization through some of the most challenging times providers have ever faced. The congenial Kansan pivoted from a state governorship to become the top executive of the largest US long-term care association 13 years ago.

While still a state legislator in the mid-1990s, Parkinson and his wife, Stacy, founded the first of their 10 eldercare communities in Kansas and Missouri, an assisted living community

Parkinson has distinguished himself in recent years as the most visible spokesperson for the long-term care sector — the segment of society most devastated by infections and deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic.

When not touring the country to visit members and affiliates, Parkinson spends most of his time lobbying on senior living and care operators’ behalf from his home in Washington, DC. 

Recognition is hardly new to him. In 2020, McKnight’s named him one of long-term care’s most notable figures of the past 40 years. He also has been selected as one of the “100 Most Influential People in Healthcare” by Modern Healthcare multiple times and was named a Top CEO in the Washington Post’s 2019 Top Workplace survey in the small-employer category. He was named a Top Association CEO by CEO Update in 2013 and has appeared on The Hill’s list of top lobbyists every year since 2013.

The McKnight’s Pinnacle Awards are a joint effort of McKnight’s Senior Living and sister media brands McKnight’s Long-Term Care News and McKnight’s Home Care.

Here is the  full list of our 2024 winners:

Agent of Change Award

  • Vassar Byrd, incoming CEO, The Kendal Corp.
  • Deke Cateau, CEO, A.G. Rhodes
  • Kristen Duell, Executive Vice President of Experience & Innovation, FirstLight Home Care
  • Phillip Hill, Administrator, Principle Long Term Care
  • Colleen Kamin, Executive Director, Anthem Memory Care
  • Marianne Longo, Chief Clinical Officer, Help at Home
  • David Totaro, Chief Marketing and Government Affairs Officer, BAYADA Home Health Care

Industry Ally Award

  • Andrew Carle, Lead Faculty, Senior Living Administration, Georgetown University
  • Clifton Porter II, Senior Vice President of Government Relations, American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living

Inspiration Award

  • Mark Baiada, Chairman and Founder, BAYADA Home Health Care
  • Esther Kamara-Conteh, Vice President Care Management Operations, VNS Health
  • Esmerelda Lee, Chief Operating Officer / EVP, Century Park Associates
  • Roberto Muñiz, President & CEO, Parker Health Group
  • Cathy Williams, CEO, Winslow Campus of Care

Setting the Standard Award

  • Sheila Davis, Senior Executive Vice President, Area Operations, Always Best Care Senior Services
  • Jamie Dlatt, Chief Operating Officer, Legacy Healthcare
  • Charles “Chuck” Hastings, Chief Financial Officer / Vice President of Finance and Business Development, Juniper Communities
  • Kurt Merkelz, Senior Vice President, Chief Medical Officer, Compassus
  • John Swanson, CEO, Willow Valley Development Corp.
  • Raeann Voorhies, CEO, Vanda Health

Thought Leader Award

  • Joan DiPaola, Director, Dementia Program Development, Harmony Village at CareOne Paramus
  • Jessica Fear, Senior Vice President, Behavioral Health, VNS Health
  • R. Tamara Konetzka, PhD, Louis Block Professor of Public Health Sciences Professor of Medicine, University of Chicago
  • E. Joseph “Joe” Steier III, President / CEO, Signature HealthCARE

Unsung Hero Award

  • Wendy Blackman, Director of Reflections, The Bristal at North Woodmere
  • Orah Burack, Senior Research Associate, The New Jewish Home

Business Partner Award

  • Tim Hadley, CEO, Evive Brands
  • Steven Littlehale, Chief Innovation Officer, Zimmet Healthcare Services Group
  • Cindy Smith, Director, Professional Services, Omnicare
  • Wendy Strain, Director of Consulting Services, Polaris Group

Can’t wait for the festivities to begin. Because with this group, you just know it’s gonna be alright.

John O’Connor is editorial director for McKnight’s Senior Living and its sister media brands, McKnight’s Long-Term Care News, which focuses on skilled nursing, and McKnight’s Home Care. Read more of his columns here.

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