Editor’s Note: We are profiling the McKnight’s 2020 Women of Distinction honorees daily through the program’s July 28 online awards ceremony. To register or learn more about this digital celebration, the Forum the next day (which offers three free continuing education credits July 29) and the program in general, visit this website.

Deborah Meade headshot
Deborah Meade

When young Debbie Meade became a part-time bookkeeper for a long-term care operator in 1988 during her high school years, few could have envisioned the towering industry figure she would become. Or could they?

Last year, Meade became the fourth woman chairman of the board for the American Health Care Association, the largest U.S. association of long-term care operators. Fifteen years earlier, she had become owner, president and CEO of Health Management, a skilled nursing and assisted living operator.

Her vocational involvement in long-term care actually dates back to pre-high school days. When she was 12, she spent many days selling chips, soda and snuff tobacco to the residents at what was then Elberta Convalescent Home, a skilled nursing facility in Warner Robins, GA. The facility was built by her father, Wayne Lowe, and operated by her grandfather, Joe Lowe.

Now a third-generation administrator, she says skilled nursing and caring for the elderly is “in her blood.”

“Our family vacations were often to construction sites of skilled nursing facilities my father was building,” she once told McKnight’s. “I completely grew up in the business.”

Minus a short foray into hotel management, she’s been in senior care almost non-stop. For the past 18 years, she has served on the board of the Georgia Health Care Association, two of them as its chairman. 

“Debbie is a great example of someone who has worked hard and been diligent and has a 100 percent commitment to quality,” said Michael Wylie, the AHCA board chairman she succeeded, and one of two men who pushed her to run for the top AHCA post.

“In this day and age, we need everybody to make the type of commitment that Debbie has, and to follow the example that she sets,” said Wylie, who also nominated her for Women of Distinction honors. She is, he added, “a great example of doing the right things.”

The McKnight’s Women of Distinction program is jointly administered by McKnight’s Senior Living and McKnight’s Long-Term Care News. The program’s Diamond sponsor is PointClickCare. Silver sponsors are OnShift and PharMerica, and the Signature sponsors are Acadia Pharmaceuticals and Enquire.