Editor’s note: As part of the 40th anniversary of McKnight’s, McKnight’s Senior Living and McKnight’s Long-Term Care News are recognizing 40 notable newsmakers. Each week, the brands will highlight a new, high-profile leader from the past four decades. Find previously published installments of the series here.

Before becoming the first woman to hold the top post at LeadingAge, Katie Smith Sloan had a passion for public policy and advocating for the aging.

This passion, as well as a being a “voice of stability,” are some of the reasons that the LeadingAge Board of Directors at the time unanimously approved her appointment to president and CEO in October 2015, calling her the ideal candidate for the position. 

Outgoing President and CEO Larry Minnix described her as a person who “never lets us forget our values.” He added that there was “no question in my mind that she will take LeadingAge to the next level and beyond, and I look forward to watching both Katie and the organization excel.”

Sloan’s journey in aging services began after she graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont. She later would earn her master’s degree in public policy from George Washington University. Sloan said she was “drawn to working in public policy” and found her future career path while working for former U.S. Sen. Tom Eagleton (D-MO), who was the chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging.

She began her career as a consultant on housing issues for the AARP before returning to work for LeadingAge in 2002. She worked as the senior vice president for membership for six months before becoming chief operating officer, the position she held before her current one.

Today, LeadingAge represents more than 5,000 aging-focused organizations across the entire continuum of aging services, including skilled nursing, assisted living and more, and Sloan has been an especially vocal advocate for their needs in the battle against COVID-19.

Along with her duties at LeadingAge, Sloan serves as the executive director of the Global Ageing Network, which works to improve the quality of life for people as they age.

She also serves on the board of the Center for Aging and Brain Health Innovation, HelpAge USA, the Long Term Quality Alliance and ValueFirst and as a co-chair of Dementia Friendly America. 

Her contributions to industry are extensive, but for Sloan, one of her top achievements is simply being a part of a “special” association like LeadingAge.