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. Previously published installments of the series are posted here.

When Wendy Simpson joined the board of real estate investment trust LTC Properties in 1995, she now admits, she was a tad green about long-term care financing.

“I could barely spell REIT at the time,” said Simpson, who last month received the 2020 McKnight’s Women of Distinction Lifetime Achievement Award.

It sure didn’t take long for Simpson to catch up. After being asked to join the company as vice chairman in 2000, she was named CEO in 2007 and chairman of the REIT’s board in 2013.

LTC invests in assisted living and skilled nursing real estate through triple-net lease transactions, mortgage loans and other investments. Today, the company has 184 properties in 27 states — including 107 in assisted living and 72 in skilled nursing.

In her time in the C-suite, Simpson has led the company through a period of senior housing newness as well as nursing home bankruptcies and various market ups and downs. Her approach to gradual growth has been a winning formula. Although LTC may look small compared with some other healthcare REITs, it holds its own against the larger players with its fundamentals.

Simpson, who remains relatively rare as a female head of a major long-term care-related company, is used to blazing trails. She recalls being the only woman in her accounting and business classes at Northern Illinois University, where she earned an undergraduate degree in accounting.

Simpson began learning about healthcare when she was assigned to healthcare clients. She then worked for a national acute-care hospital company, which since has become Tenet Healthcare. From there, she worked for Community Psychiatric Centers, the largest psychiatric hospital chain at the time, and started as the chief financial officer of its LTAC division. Andre Dimitriadis, now deceased, who started LTC in 1992, asked Simpson to join the board in 1995.

”The future is very, very bright for women in the world,” Simpson said during an educational webinar at the McKnight’s Women of Distinction Forum last month.

No doubt, her work steering LTC Properties’ ship has helped make it so.