VP/Director Post-Acute Care Services, Life Care Services
Blake Gillman estimates that when he ran his own company he was on the road 200 days a year. The nights, away from his family, could be lonely.
“In the evening hours, I was always sensitive to not going out to dinner with folks. They need to be home with families,” he explains. “But rather than sitting alone in a hotel room, I’d pull out the yellow pages and I’d pick a nursing home.” Gillman would call the facility and ask if there was a resident who never received visitors. He would drive over with whatever book he had — John Grisham was a favorite.
He’d read to complete strangers, offering companionship. At one Virginia community, as he sat down next to one elderly woman, she put her hand on Gillman’s hand. After a few minutes of reading aloud to her, the woman’s hand went limp: She had passed away.
When he inquired to learn more about the resident, a staff member told him, “You were the first person who had visited her in seven years.”
“That kind of experience makes you realize why you’re doing what you’re doing,” the vice president/director of the post-acute division at Life Care Services in Iowa says. “It’s a calling more than a job.”
Gillman’s compassionate spirit and sense of hard work has its origins on the Utah family farm, one where he would rise at 4 a.m. to milk cows. At age 18, he and a friend whose family owned a dry cleaning company saw an opportunity.
“We thought, ‘If we start renting tuxedos, that seems like an easy thing,’” Gillman recalls. He worked through college, completing his degree in 1981 and selling the business in 1985.
The tuxedo business led him and his wife, Cindy, to Arizona.
One day, he began chatting with a neighbor who worked at Life Care Centers of America.
“He said, ‘I need someone with a financial mind,’” Gillman says.
That led to Gillman spending two years at LCCA before forming a partnership with that neighbor to run nursing homes in California.
In 1994, Gillman launched a therapy company, which kept him on the road non-stop and often away from his daughter, Shannon, and sons, Brady and Riley, now all in their 30s. “You need a very good spouse doing all the right things to raise the kids,” he says.
By 2010, he was ready to be home in Arizona more often and sold to another healthcare provider. Considering retirement, he was recruited by Symphony Post-Acute Care Network to be a state director of operations in Arizona.
“You name it, he did it,” says Symphony managing partner and former CEO Gerry Jinich. “He’s calm in the face of chaos, analytical and compassionate.”
For many years, in his downtime Gillman and his family owned a motorcycle racing team, Riley Racing, which traveled around the country on the professional circuit.
“We always were a motorcycle family,” Gillman says. But the 2008 economic recession made it challenging to find sponsors, and they sold the team in 2010. Today, Gillman, 60, can often be found playing golf in his spare time. He also still enjoys driving his Harley and reading legal thrillers.
As he moves into his third year at LCS, he says his attitude is, “‘I’m going to keep working until they tell me to stop.’ We’re doing alot to move the industry forward, and that keeps me jazzed.”
Completes associate’s degree in design at Utah Valley University
Starts as Life Care Centers of America administrator
Launches Med2Resources andRehab Masters, a therapy services company
Forms Riley Racing, a motorcycle racing team
Serves as Symphony Post-Acute Care Network executive director
Serves as Arizona Health Care Association president
Joins Life Care Services as vice president/director of post-acute care services