In March 2019, Jodi Eyigor stepped into her first full-time policy role and quickly became a key spokeswoman for LeadingAge, helping members navigate challenges such as the federal adoption of a consumer alert icon and the 2020 census.
The new director for nursing home quality and policy was admittedly nervous about appearing in videos and interviews often seen by thousands. She’d spent her early social work career providing care to trauma survivors, then transitioned to case management in a small nursing and assisted living home before stepping into advocacy.
Around her first anniversary with LeadingAge, the coronavirus would amplify Eyigor’s distinct voice. Throughout the spring, she participated in membership calls seven days a week — sometimes with more than 1,000 callers desperate for actionable information — and still hosts them regularly. The calls are a pivotal opportunity to share revolving federal guidance on the pandemic and help providers tap key resources.
“There’s a lot of vulnerability to suddenly have this national microphone,” says Eyigor (“AY-yeh-gur”). “It’s just incredible to know … my voice added to the chorus, and, together, we were able to make changes.”
A young Eyigor dreamed of a life as a missionary, but in college she began to recognize the need for compassionate care in the U.S. Today, the 37-year-old says she sees similarities in working with abuse survivors and seniors.
“I have this theory that all of us just want to feel like we matter,” she says. “There is so much that folks are struggling with when they come into a nursing home. It’s not like life gets rosy as you age.”
Lisa Harfoot supervised Eyigor for nearly a decade as director of social services at the Lisner-Louise-Dickson-Hurt Home. The two women worked on quality improvement and policy matters and often talked shop as they ran together.
Harfoot describes Eyigor as unassuming, often second-guessing herself because she “strives for excellence in everything she does.”
Eyigor arrived at L-L-D-H as a frontline social worker but understood the industry’s regulatory demands “from day one,” says Harfoot, who encouraged her to get involved with local provider organizations. Soon enough,
Eyigor was leading an effort to defeat a city council bill overhauling assisted living regulations.
Nothing helped Eyigor feel more suited to her latest position than working with regulatory officials on behalf of LeadingAge members during the pandemic.
“I know where to find answers. I can put together tools and tips. I can say to CMS and the CDC, ‘This is what we need right now,’” Eyigor says.
On the personal side, she is a self-proclaimed homebody who hasn’t had to sacrifice much due to COVID-19. Her current office is in the 1,100-square-foot D.C. condo she shares with husband, Noyan, and their 4-year-old daughter, Tessa. On weekends, Noyan often cooks up fish he’s ordered from his native Turkey, and the family looks for opportunities to get outside together.
Like so many working parents, Eyigor struggles to balance mom-time and me-time. She took up the ukulele during quarantine and often strums songs she’s learning while Tessa bathes. Both are fans of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car.”
She also regularly walks in nearby Rock Creek Park. Even on the trail, she’s often thinking of how to support frontline workers, who she knows are like family to each other.
“They’re doing amazing work out there,” she says, “and that story doesn’t always get told.”
Resume: 2005, Earns bachelor’s degree in social work from Bethany College; 2008, Earns master’s in clinical community counseling from WVU; 2008, Becomes social worker for trauma survivors in Washington, D.C.; 2010, Moves to position at Lisner-Louise-Dickson-Hurt Home; 2012, Joins assisted living committee for DC Health Care Association; 2018, Becomes DC leader with NCAL; 2019, Joins LeadingAge as director of nursing home quality and policy.