Sitting still not an option

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Neil L. Pruitt Jr., Chairman and CEO UHS-Pruitt
Neil L. Pruitt Jr., Chairman and CEO UHS-Pruitt
From his days as a child to running around the halls of UHS centers to running after his own children, Neil L. Pruitt Jr. has always balanced family and work.

Founded by his father, Neil L. Pruitt Sr., UHS-Pruitt began in 1969 as the Toccoa Nursing Center and today encompasses 70 post-acute skilled nursing and assisted living locations in the Southeast. Pruitt Jr. became CEO in 2002; his father died a year later.

Thrust into leading the company at a young age, Pruitt, now 37, has overseen a decade of change. It's included updating aging physical plants and focusing on retaining the best employees.

Chris Bryson, R.Ph., CGP, FASCP, the company's COO, has known the Pruitt family since 1996. He says that while the elder Pruitt was phenomenally successful in building up the company, his son has taken it to the next level.

“His dad was very quiet, and didn't speak a lot. When Neil Jr. walks into a room, everyone wants to talk to him,” Bryson says. “He's changed the way we provide care. He's infused enthusiasm. We tell our partners, ‘Before you leave, you'll be bleeding Pruitt green.'”

Pruitt says he's benefitted from a number of role models, and that “great quality begins with great people.”

“We always wanted to be the nursing home company that didn't want you in our nursing home,” Pruitt says. “We want each day to be better than the day before.”

As the American Health Care Association's chairman, Pruitt says he wants Washington politicians to understand how their day jobs can dramatically affect residents and caregivers.

“We need to do a better job explaining how policy impacts us,” he says.

AHCA President Mark Parkinson says Pruitt is data-driven, preferring to focus on statistics instead of anecdotal evidence. The two talk every day at 7 a.m.

“He's very much a numbers guy,” Parkinson says. “He's challenged us to pick specific areas to improve. His father's commitment to quality is something Neil has brought to the national scene.”

Both Parkinson and Jon Howell, the president and CEO of the Georgia Health Care Association, say Pruitt is a dynamic leader.

“He has a real focus on operations and tangible results, and a sincere focus on quality,” Howell says. “The status quo is not acceptable. We're very lucky to have him leading the profession at this time.”

Howell says Pruitt runs on little sleep, as evidenced by messages he's left “early in the morning or late at night.”
Pruitt's ability to carve out time for his family has impressed Parkinson. Pruitt says his father “set the standard of keeping your priorities straight.”

Those priorities include his wife, Mebane, and three children, Trey, Mason and Caroline. The family enjoys outdoor activities and Pruitt often can be found skiing, golfing, hunting or fishing. He and his family “enjoy taking advantage of all there is to offer in Atlanta,” he says.

The children may grow up to be a part of UHS-Pruitt — although at ages 8, 6 and 2, it's admittedly still a little early to discuss.

“We have always been a family-owned company,” Pruitt says. “As long as we can provide great quality care, I'd love for my kids to have the opportunity to pursue it.”

Resume

1996
Obtains bachelor's degree in economics from the University of the South

1997
Joins UHS-Pruitt as project manager

2000
Obtains master's degree in business administration and master's of health administration from Georgia State University; also receives nursing home administrator license

2002
Becomes CEO of UHS-Pruitt

2003
Becomes chairman of UHS-Pruitt

2010
Becomes American Health Care Association chairman

2011
Appointed as Georgia's Fifth Congressional District representative on the Board of Regents