Profile: Bonnie Kantor - A personal commitment

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Profile: Bonnie Kantor - A personal commitment
Profile: Bonnie Kantor - A personal commitment

Everything is personal with Bonnie Kantor. And she wouldn't want it any other way.

“It's very important to me that my professional and personal legacy are one and the same,” says Kantor, executive director of the Pioneer Network, an organization that partners with long-term care stakeholders to advance culture change in facilities.

Listen to Kantor talk shop and it becomes clear that her work is, in a sense, an extension of herself. The network stresses collaboration. Kantor too, is, a team player. The network is committed to serving the individual needs of residents. So is Kantor.

When she visits nursing homes, she never leaves without dancing with a resident, something she believes all nursing home workers should do both literally and figuratively.

“I will know my job is complete when people don't talk about quality of life and quality of care. They just talk about quality,” she comments.

Her passion has won the admiration of many highly respected colleagues.

“I think she took an organization that had been really at the cutting edge of person-centered care and culture change and then she moved it to the next level,” says Mary Jane Koren of The Commonwealth Fund.

The relentlessly upbeat Kantor inspires others with her ability to bring disparate groups together to solve problems, notes Robert Jenkens, director of The Green House Project, a culture change movement.

Significant changes have resulted from her efforts. A symposium that the network convened with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in 2008 has led to proposals to improve the Life Safety Code. The symposium also led to new quality-of-life interpretive guidelines. A follow-up symposium is set to take place this month.

Knowing how connected she feels to her work, it's not surprising that she started in long-term care because of a personal experience. When she was 16, her father died and his four sisters would not tell his mother about it for fear it would devastate her. That upset Kantor profoundly.

“I wrote in my diary that I wasn't going to let people make decisions for older people just because they're old,” she says.

Today, she works not just to honor people like her father's mother but also to act as a role model for her children. She has four children and three grandchildren between her and her husband, Robert, a lawyer and jazz pianist. She is in the process of writing a book titled Because of You. It is based on the importance of touching the lives of people around you. Arguably everything Kantor does is about teaching, learning and passing down values. She writes her own services for holidays (no matter how big or small, she notes). Last year, she and her husband went to Punxsutawney, PA, for Groundhog Day. She plans to go every year.

“It's a wonderful reminder of the history,” recalls Kantor, whose favorite hobby is doing The New York Times crossword puzzle. She also has a goal of learning the definition of a new word everyday.

“What I've always said and continue to say is my job is not to teach,” she says. “My job is to cause learning.”


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Resume

1975
Graduates with bachelor's degree in history from SUNY-Buffalo

1977
Receives master's degree in American history and the history of medicine from University of Rochester

1984
Earns Doctor of Science degree from Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health

1986
Works as assistant professor in health policy and management at The Ohio State University Medical Center

1991
Becomes director of the Office of Geriatrics and Gerontology at The Ohio State University Health Sciences Center

2007
Takes position as executive director of Pioneer Network

2010
Under her leadership, Pioneer Network holds second national symposium with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services