After more than two decades rising through the ranks at the Joint Commission, Gina Zimmermann’s career can partially be ascribed to ethics instilled by her parents.
Her mother and father, both chemists, were Lithuanian immigrants who valued family and pushed their children to succeed.
“They were a big influence, and [taught us] to know nothing is handed to you, and to not take anything for granted,” Zimmermann remembers.
After her dad was transferred to Texas, Gina (pronounced with a hard “G”) spent most of her childhood there. She and her older sister Nina later became roommates at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches. After becoming interested in hospitals and healthcare around age 16 and pursuing a biology degree, she realized that she “liked people too much” to be in a lab.
After finishing her master’s degree and working at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, in 1989 she joined the Joint Commission as a survey report analyst. After several years in network accreditation, she spent nearly a decade on the business development side, where Chuck Mowll, the executive vice president of Business Development, Government and External Relations at the Joint Commission, says she excelled in leadership.
“She’s one of our stars,” Mowll says. “She has passion and also an ability to bring people together. She took on the responsibility of reinventing long-term care accreditation.”
That major project, with Zimmermann leading as the executive director of Nursing and Rehabilitation Center Accreditation, reflects the organization’s focus on the long-term care market, she says.
“We’re all about talking to the [skilled nursing] customers about what the Joint Commission can do for them,” she says.
For hospitals, the Joint Commission is recognized as a regulatory authority and can affect certification, whereas long-term care organizations pursue accreditation as a way to show their commitment.
“We’re not punitive or regulatory, but about how to improve performance,” she says.
The Joint Commission also holds a personal connection for Zimmermann — she met her husband, Rick, there. He was working nights as a security guard and she was starting before dawn. Today, he’s a shipping sales executive and they live in the Chicago western suburb of Naperville, IL, with 12-year-old Tara and 10-year-old John — and Toby, a beagle.
The family spends a lot of time attending sporting events — “We all love to go to Little League games,” she says — and are Chicago Cubs fans. When she’s not on the road for her job, Zimmermann enjoys cooking and hopes that someday she and her family can visit Lithuania.
Although her father died last year, her mother lives near the Joint Commission offices in Oakbrook Terrace.
“My dad handled adversity and difficulty. When I think about how my parents came here, not knowing the language, they did really well,” she says. “My dad was a born salesman. He was a huge influence in terms of my business philosophy and in working really hard.”
Obtains Bachelor of Science in biology at Stephen F. Austin State University
Finishes Master of Science, Management of Public Services, Health Care Administration, at DePaul University
Moves from clerk at the Northwestern Memorial Hospital Blood Bank to manager of the HMO Broker Program, Institute of Psychiatry
Promoted at the Joint Commission to analysis specialist, later becomes manager of survey validation
Leads Joint Commission’s Post-Acute Continuum of Care Strategic Business Unit as executive director
Joins DePaul University Health Sciences Advisory Board. Becomes the executive director of Nursing and Rehabilitation Center Accreditation, as well as director of Business Development Training at the Joint Commission