Industry leaders speak on the keys to success during the Women of Distinction Forum, moderated by McKnight’s Long-Term Care News Executive Editor James M. Berklan, back left. Credit: Tori Soper.

CHICAGO — No long-term care leader should have to sacrifice their personal life in order to achieve career goals, industry experts stressed during the latest McKnight’s thought-leadership panel discussion. 

“As leaders, we have to support that and we have to let people know that it’s OK to have competing priorities and to push family first when you need to,” said Carol Silver Elliott, president and CEO of Jewish Home Family. 

“[We have to] help people understand that we’re not just interested in them as that working person in the role they are in [but rather] as whole human beings,” she added. 

That advice, and more, came while she and five other veteran panelists spoke Friday at a McKnight’s Forum session on achieving career success.

“I see way too many women leaders feel like they have to kill themselves on the work side and subject their families to not being there … or feel like they have to leave the industry or their work because they need to be able to balance their home life,” added Jamie Merrill, vice president of regional operations, Florida, at Brookdale Senior Living. 

“I’m a perfect example, and I think a lot of us are here to say, ‘You can do it all. You just have to find the balance,’” Merrill added.“You can have the best of both worlds.”

The panel also included April Diaz, vice president of clinical services for Marquis Companies; Cassie Mistretta, CEO of Senior Living Properties; Tina Reed, director of clinical services for LCS; and DeLaine Rice-White, vice president of rehabilitation services for ProMedica Senior Care. The hour-long discussion was moderated by McKnight’s Long-Term Care News Executive Editor James M. Berklan.

The group delivered valuable insights on career-building traits and skills, with topics ranging from how to be a successful mentee to the importance of having a high emotional intelligence.  


Successful leaders must challenge the status quo and exhibit great amounts of determination, the award-winning panelists agreed. Each was recognized the night before as a 2022 McKnight’s Women of Distinction honoree 

“Dedication, determination [and] discipline. That’s what I worked throughout my entire career to address these three areas and they are foundational to my purpose,” said Rice-White. “I believe that anything that you do or want to do, you want to do it with purpose and intention. That’s what drives me.”

Reed added that being adaptable and flexible has opened up more career opportunities than she had envisioned. 

“Don’t always choose your own path as you see it in your career because there are a lot of people around who view and identify your strengths that you didn’t even realize were within yourself. Allow them to recognize those opportunities for you,” Reed said. 

Mistretta explained that by “sticking to it” she gathered a lot more experience, and that in turn has helped propel her. 

“The more surveys you manage, the better you get at managing surveys; the more employees you manage the better you get at managing, leading and inspiring employees. It’s sticking to it whenever the going gets rough,” she said. “You learn a lot about yourself and you get much better at what you’re trying to do.” 

Industry leaders speak on the keys to success during the Women of Distinction Forum, moderated by McKnight’s Long-Term Care News Executive Editor James M. Berklan, back left. Credit: Tori Soper.


Up-and-coming leaders must have confidence to rise in the industry and develop emotional intelligence for when times get tough, the group stressed. 

“Put yourself outside your normal workflow. That will start growing new leaders faster. [And] observe what others do in a situation,” Diaz counseled. 

Mistretta said that “being slow to anger” is a critical part to developing emotional intelligence and leadership skills. 

“No matter what the conflict is that’s occurring, as long as you’re treating each other with respect during that conflict, it’s going to be fine,” she said. “You’re going to figure it out, problem solve and get it put together.”

Reed agreed and said many leaders miss a lot of opportunities due to the way they respond to certain situations.

“As leaders, you have to be very aware of your response to things and how others are viewing you. Just take a deeper look into those leaders that you’ve looked up to and respected and model that behavior,” Reed said. 

The 2022 Women of Distinction awards and forum programs were made possible by support from Diamond sponsor PointClickCare; Silver sponsors OnShift and PharMerica; and Bronze sponsor Reliant Rehabilitation. Table sponsors included Dreamscape, Gojo/Purell and Sound Physicians.