Profile — NASL's civil engineer: Peter C. Clendenin, Executive VP, NASL
Post-acute ancillary care providers – and the residents they serve – should consider themselves lucky to have Peter Clendenin in their corner. Aside from leading the National Association for the Support of Long Term Care and bringing 30 years of long-term care lobbying experience to the table, he has a knack for challenging government officials regarding the impact ancillary care and services has on residents."I've always had the view that the quality of nursing home care in a large way comes from the ancillary products and services used by the facility," Clendenin explains. "I like the prospect of pointing out to an elected official that things like the Medicare limits on therapy are really compromising a patient's ability to overcome that stroke, hip replacement, or whatever else is limiting their function."
Clendenin's foray into political lobbying seemed almost predestined. Raised in Washington and surrounded by neighbors with political careers — including a congressman who lived next door — he caught the bug early. His father, a Georgetown University English professor, and his mother, a fourth-grade teacher, also encouraged dinner table political discussions.
As a political science undergrad, his professors steered him toward state and local government, and encouraged him to continue his education in that area. The goal was delayed by a four-year, Vietnam-era stint in the Air Force that he volunteered for. But ultimately, a focus on state government and administrative business at the graduate level resonated with Clendenin, and it helped land him a job at the Virginia governor's office.
"I was asked by the governor to head up a project to try and unify all the programs and agencies that worked with senior citizens," he explained.
By the early '80s, he had acquainted himself with other long-term care pioneers, including Larry Lane, Genesis HealthCare's vice president of government relations, and American Health Care Association President Bruce Yarwood, who had already been a California provider executive at the time.
"I tried to spend as much time as possible with other people who understood the [business of long-term care]. Because it was such a new area, it was like we were all in the foxhole together, working through problems and sharing ideas," Clendenin recalled.
Lane calls Clendenin a "rare" individual who can bring disparate groups together. "His sense of civility is one of his key strengths," Lane says.
Yarwood praised Clendenin's knowledge and tenacity. A good example, Yarwood said, is how he recently helped fight off the Medicare therapy caps and devise an exceptions process.
"I can attest to the doggedness with which he attacks every issue close to him, which is why I now refer to him as 'Big Dog,'" Yarwood says.
Clendenin left the governor's office in 1982 to lead the Virginia Health Care Association, a role he held for 13 years. From there, he served as executive director of the New Hampshire Health Care Association before taking over as NASL's executive vice president in 1997.
Today, he uses his decades-long lobbying experience to educate government officials on key challenges impacting long-term care, particularly as it relates to the provision of ancillary services, product supply, diagnostic testing and information systems to the post-acute care industry.
Although he feels ancillary post-acute care services still aren't getting the attention they deserve, Clendenin is pleased that NASL has succeeded in establishing strong, unified support for members.
At the moment, the sailing and archeology enthusiast is building other things as well, including a new home on the Chesapeake Bay. Clendenin will share the home with his wife, a retired science teacher, and their three children (two daughters and a son – all in their 20s).
But even while raising walls, riding waves and hunting fossils, it's safe to say his thoughts don't drift far from legislative lobbying and long-term care.
"After 30 years, it becomes part of who you are," he says. "It's meaningful work, and I just so happen to really enjoy it."
Resume of Peter C. Clendenin
1967 - Earns B.A. in political science from Allegheny College, awarded Congressional internship
1972 - Earns M.P.A. with focus on administration management from State University of New York at Albany
1975-1979 - Senior legislative analyst for Virginia Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee
1979-1982 - Assistant secretary of human resources for Commonwealth of Virginia
1982-1995 - President of Virginia Health Care Association
1994-1996 - Vice president of American Society of Health Care Association Executives
1997-present - Executive vice president of the National Association for the Support of Long Term Care