Mark Parkinson President & CEO at American Health Care Association

Mark Parkinson, the congenial Kansan who turned in a state governorship to become the top executive of the largest US long-term care association 13 years ago, has been chosen the 2024 McKnight’s Pinnacle Awards Career Achievement Award honoree.

While still a state legislator in the mid-1990s, Parkinson and his wife, Stacy, founded the first of their 10 eldercare communities in Kansas and Missouri. 

The lanky lawyer particularly distinguished himself in recent years as the most visible spokesperson for the long-term care sector — the segment of society most devastated by infections and deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic. He has been the president and CEO of the 14,000-member American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living since 2011.

“Mark doesn’t just talk the talk. He walks the walk. During his years at the helm of AHCA/NCAL, he has helped guide the industry through some of the most challenging times we’ve ever faced,” said McKnight’s Editorial Director and Associate Publisher John O’Connor in making the announcement of Parkinson as this year’s top Pinnacle honoree. “This he has done with amazing skill, wisdom, grit and grace. He is deserving of this honor, and we are truly fortunate to have him among us.”

When not touring the country to visit members and affiliates, Parkinson spends most of his time lobbying on senior living and care operators’ behalf from his home in Washington, DC, from which he also made appearances on national news outlets during the pandemic.

He and his wife started their chain of facilities in 1996 while both were still working in their private law practice. They sold the buildings in 2006.

A Republican state legislator dating back to 1991, Parkinson switched parties in 2006 to become Kathleen Sebelius’ running mate when she ran for governor of Kansas. They won and in 2009, he became governor after Sebelius became Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Obama administration. He declined to seek another term and instead accepted the top AHCA/NCAL post before he left office in January 2011.

In 2020, McKnight’s named him one of long-term care’s most notable figures of the past 40 years.

Before becoming especially prominent as an industry point person during the pandemic, one of his biggest accomplishments was stitching back together a fractious AHCA/NCAL constituency, convincing major chains that had set up their own alliance to come back into the fold. The number of AHCA and NCAL state affiliates also has grown under his guidance.

Recognition is not a stranger to him. Parkinson also has been selected as one of the “100 Most Influential People in Healthcare” by Modern Healthcare multiple times and was named a Top CEO in the Washington Post’s 2019 Top Workplace survey in the small-employer category. He was named a Top Association CEO by CEO Update in 2013 and has appeared on The Hill’s list of top lobbyists every year since 2013.

A former No. 1 graduate of the University of Kansas Law School and champion college debater, he leads a roster of 31 McKnight’s Pinnacle Awards honorees who will be celebrated at a gala ceremony open to all March 21 at the Ivy Room in Chicago.

A full list of 2024 winners, spanning the skilled nursing, senior living and home care professions, can be found at the McKnight’s Pinnacle Awards website. The program honors industry veterans who are setting standards, driving change and providing guidance to others in their field.

The McKnight’s Pinnacle Awards are a joint effort of McKnight’s Senior Living and sister media brands McKnight’s Long-Term Care News and McKnight’s Home Care.