Some might say that Sarah Schumann, director of operations for Brookside Inn, was destined to go into healthcare. Her mother was a nurse, both of her grandmothers were nurses and three of her great-grandparents were nurses. But tragic circumstances at a very young age set her on the path to eldercare.

When she was 6 years old, her mother was diagnosed with cancer and passed away a year later. Schumann’s paternal grandparents moved in to help her father raise her and her two siblings.

“While that experience had heartbreak and sadness, it also set me up in a divine way to understand illness, death and loss and to value my elders,” she says. 

Schumann’s paternal grandfather, Roy “Pete” Schumann, took on the role of primary caregiver while her grandmother, who helped establish a nursing program at the local college, continued teaching. Schumann spent her childhood running through their peach orchards in Colorado, reading before bed with her grandfather and playing sports — lots of sports. Her grandfather never missed a game. 

Schumann, now 6-feet-2-inches tall, ran track and played soccer and basketball in high school. She left home in 1992 to play basketball for Mt. Holyoke in Massachusetts. After graduation, she returned to help her father build his new nursing home, Brookside Inn. She joined the construction crew, putting in handrails and helping to lay the roof. When she reflects on that time, Schumann can’t help but think her blood, sweat and tears are part of the nursing home she has led for the past 20 years. 

Still, Schumann left briefly when invited to join the European basketball circuit with a Swedish team. But almost as quickly — despite games with  double-digit points, rebounds and assists — Schumann felt the call to return to Brookside Inn.

She stayed in Colorado and dedicated her career to serving residents, but has traveled frequently to Tibet and India. There, she developed an abiding interest in alternative care and even “adopted” a neighborhood of monks. She also studied with Zen, yoga and tantric masters to train in Japanese acupressure, essential oils and energy work, elements of which she has incorporated at Brookside.

Schumann also earned a second-degree black belt in tae kwon do. She recalls the extreme training taught her about perseverance, and she has drawn on it  throughout the pandemic.

As a board member of the American Health Care Association, she also is sharing others’ stories of fortitude, sacrifice, service and devotion to better highlight elder care at its best.

“There is a lot of love, devotion, service and compassion in our nursing homes,” she says. “We have people who came in day in and day out … and put themselves and their families in harm’s way in order to serve our elders, and that is a level of dedication that is frequently forgotten.”

For Schumann, at the heart of it all is service. She wants to serve as many people as she can in the finite time she has on Earth. It’s something she learned from her grandmother, who chose to teach to expand her reach as nurse. Schumann, too, is passing on her teaching in a multitude of ways.

– Nicole Bowman

Resume: 1996, Earns bachelor’s degree from Mt. Holyoke College; 1997, Helps build Brookside Inn in Colorado; 1999, Named admissions coordinator for Brookside; 2002, Becomes director of operations at Brookside; 2003, Begins volunteering with the Baby Girl educational project in Kenya; 2009, Earns master’s of divinity from Naropa University; 2013, Becomes future leader graduate with AHCA; 2014, Appointed board member and treasurer for Tibetan Village Project; 2016, Joins AHCA political action committee; 2019, Founds the Schumann Family Foundation for Health, Health Education and Cultural Exchange; 2021, Becomes AHCA Executive Committee Liaison