Profile: Hometown roots — Marianna Grachek, President & CEO, ACHCA
For the past four years, Marianna Grachek has commuted between her home in southeastern Michigan to her job at the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Health Care Organizations outside Chicago.It's a 600-mile round trip and not a travel route that many would endure regularly, even for a short time.
But to Grachek, it's a necessary inconvenience. She remains at her home in Monroe, MI, to be near her 83-year-old mother. No matter where her successful career takes her, Grachek is steadfastly determined to be available to serve her aged mother's needs.
That means she will be going back and forth from the Washington, DC, area as she takes on the role of president of the American College of Health Care Administrators.
"As professionals in aging services, we must practice what we preach," Grachek says about her dedication to her mother. "The Joint Commission has allowed me to remain near my mother and ACHCA is allowing me to do the same thing. But I also recognize that I will have to be on-site, and the challenge for me will be to do what I need to do and still be available for my mother."
A native of Amsterdam, Grachek and her four siblings moved with their parents to the United States when she was 9. Her father was an authority on Gregorian chants – music from medieval European monasteries – and he secured a position with the World Library of Sacred Music, which was then located in Cincinnati.
Grachek knew she'd become a nurse from the time she was a little girl in the Netherlands "I fantasized about how nurses healed people."
She entered the nursing ranks in 1971 and served in a multitude of positions throughout the years. One of her first assignments was in the U.S. Air Force Reserve Nurse Corps, receiving American prisoners of war at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, OH, as they came back home from Vietnam.
In 1987, she found a calling in long-term care administration when she became the Director of Nursing Services for Flower Memorial Hospital's Lake Park skilled nursing and assisted living facility in Sylvania, OH.
It was during this time that Grachek worked with Georgia Poplar, who she says had a tremendous influence on her.
"She believed in me and as a result, it brought out my best," according to Grachek. "She let me make mistakes, which helped me to learn and grow."
Now retired and living in Fort Myers, FL, Poplar said she and Grachek were "like sisters" on the job and that Grachek is perfect for ACHCA's top post because she's a natural leader.
"She's very empathetic with patients, families and staff," said Poplar, an ACHCA fellow. "She is so fair and so good that she gets everybody to do things without a problem. She has worked hard and has deserved everything she's gotten."
Grachek worked as a surveyor under Mary Tellis-Nayak at the Joint Commission starting in 1993 and eventually replaced her as executive director of long-term care when Tellis-Nayak exited in 1996.
"I strongly encouraged her to apply for the job when I left," said Tellis-Nayak, now a business development executive for the Commission for the Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities and Continuing Care Accreditation Commission (CARF-CCAC). "She's an extremely intelligent, articulate woman who is very committed to the field of aging. She helped grow the long-term care program at the Joint Commission and has represented them very well."
As Grachek starts down her new career path as the head of ACHCA, she realizes that formidable challenges lie ahead – specifically, a strenuous financial climate that many long-term care providers face.
"Time are tough in long-term care right now," she said. "As I assume the CEO position, it will be my priority to bring stability back to the industry. Many long-term care associations have had difficulty because financial resources have changed. We must increase membership, and the way to do that is to improve the perception of ACHCA as a premier organization."
Marianna Grachek's Resume
1972 - A first lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force Reserve Nurse Corps, works with repatriated Vietnam prisoners of war in Dayton, OH.
1987 - Director of nursing at Lake Park's skilled nursing and assisted living facility in Sylvania, OH.
1997 - Executive director of LTC accreditation services for JCAHO
2000 - Earns two titles: Certified Nursing Home Administrator and Certified Assisted Living Administrator. Both come from the Ameri-can College of Health Care Administrators.