Mary Ousley

The third annual McKnight’s Women of Distinction awards celebration kicked off Tuesday night with some firsts, including a new category of honorees and props from NFL players. Kudos also came from a senator and the heads of industry organizations.

The Women of Distinction event welcomed 51 award recipients — Hall of Honor, Veteran VIPs and Rising Stars — along with a Lifetime Achievement Award winner into 2021 class of skilled nursing and senior living honorees. 

McCourty brothers
Devin & Jason McCourty

Devin and Jason McCourty, twin starting defensive backs in the NFL, kicked off the night acknowledging the sacrifices all of the honorees have made during the pandemic. Raised by a mother who is a psychiatric nurse, the McCourty brothers — Devin with the New England Patriots and Jason newly with the Miami Dolphins —  praised industry leaders for “doing it through the pandemic” and encouraged everyone to “keep it going.”

Bob Casey
Sen. Bob Casey

Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, pledged to continue fighting for protections for long-term care workers and residents, funding for improvement strategies, and the ability for older adults to access home- and community-based services.

“Despite so much loss, women working in senior living and care communities will help us bring light to the darkness of the past 14 months,” Casey said. “Thank you for your tireless work to provide our loved ones in long-term care facilities with high-quality care.”

James Balda
Argentum President & CEO James Balda

Citing research for Argentum’s Women in Leadership initiative, Argentum President and CEO James Balda noted women make up an overwhelming majority of the senior living workforce at all levels.

“It’s truly inspiring to work in an industry that not only recognizes but rewards the achievements of women,” he said. 

Mark Parkinson
AHCA/NCAL President & CEO Mark Parkinson

Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Heath Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living, said he has a hard enough time figuring out how to keep his mask on, whereas the third annual class of honorees is out winning awards.

“It’s pretty hard to win an award at any time, but to win an award during a pandemic — that’s just remarkable,” Parkinson said. “You are just awesome.”

Scott Tittle
NCAL Executive Director Scott Tittle

NCAL Executive Director Scott Tittle said he was inspired by the way the honorees have touched the lives of millions of people, including residents, staff and families.

“We cannot thank you enough for all you’ve done to elevate this profession to the heights that it’s at,” he said.

Katie Smith Sloan
LeadingAge President & CEO Katie Smith Sloan

LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan said that the leadership and inspiration from the Women of Distinction has been critical in navigating the past year and that the sector is at an important moment in time.

“We need innovation and creativity, along with the energy and commitment each of you bring to your work,” Sloan said. “It is because of all of you that I am feeling a great deal of hope for our future.”

Dave Wessinger, president and co-founder of PointClickCare, lauded the honorees for devoting their training, time and expertise to care for the most vulnerable population, especially during an “exceptionally unrelenting year for the industry.” PointClickCare is the Diamond sponsor of the Women of Distinction program.

“You held the line with compassion, conviction, empathy and grace,” Wessinger said. “Your leadership and mentorship is inspiring other women, making space for voices to be heard, and adding seats to boardroom tables.”

Mary Ousley, chief strategy officer for PruittHealth and past chair of AHCA, said she was “surprised and humbled” to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award, saying she has enjoyed every day in the profession.

“It never felt like a job to me,” Ousley said, who said her one goal as leader of AHCA was to have the profession be as respected as she respected it. “As we have come along through these 20 years, we have come a long way. This journey is not over. I hope somewhere along the way that I have been a part of moving it forward.”

Wessinger called Ousley a “brilliant clinical and regulatory technician” who ascended to top management positions and became the skilled nursing profession’s spokesperson and sought-after industry expert.

The McKnight’s Women of Distinction program continues today with a forum offering up to three free continuing education credits via webinars. Hear the stories behind the successes of professionals in the industry and get their takes on the pressing issues facing the long-term care industry today. The event is free to attend, and all are welcome.

Learn more and register at

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, and the Roundtable Sponsor is Paycor.