The American Health Care Association (AHCA) pay tribute to the best and brightest in long term and post-acute care. Individuals and groups honored with awards will be recognized during the 73rd AHCA/NCAL Convention & Expo this month in Nashville, Tenn.

MyRon Zimmer, Bowdle Healthcare Center, Bowdle, SD
AHCA Volunteer of the Year Award

MyRon ZimmerMyRon Zimmer has been a volunteer at Bowdle Nursing Home in Bowdle, SD, for many years, and has volunteered every day of the last four years. He can be described as the “textbook definition” of a passionate and caring health care volunteer. He interacts with every resident of Bowdle Nursing Home as if they are his own loved ones. His caring smile and outgoing personality bring joy to each and every resident he interacts with. Zimmer partners with Bowdle’s activities department for monthly “Painting with MyRon” sessions which residents enjoy and look forward to. As an extremely talented artist who loves to share that passion, Zimmer leads residents in painting free-hand creations that decorate the dining room and hallways at Bowdle.

At the height of COVID-19, Zimmer led the charge to continually bring joy to the residents to combat the fear and uncertainty many residents felt. He goes beyond above and beyond to ensure residents experience the highest quality of life, whether it be by planting and tending the luxurious garden that all residents enjoy in the back courtyard, giving haircuts, taking residents outside, or spending one-on-one time with residents who confide in him. Without a doubt, Zimmer is an extraordinary volunteer that the staff at Bowdle Nursing Home are honored to work alongside.

Meera Riner
Mary K. Ousley Champion of Quality Award

Meera RinerMeera Riner, chief operating officer of Nexion Health Management, Inc., based in Sykesville Maryland, is the 2022 recipient of the Mary K. Ousley Champion of Quality Award. Riner is recognized for her outstanding contributions to quality in long term and post-acute care.

Over the last several years, Riner has worked to bridge the gap between regulators and long term care facilities. She was instrumental in the development of the Texas Coalition for Long-Term Care and the criteria for the Texas Quality Incentive Payment Program (QIPP), a performance-based program that incentivizes nursing facilities to improve the quality and innovation of their services. As a result, since 2019, the QIPP program has positively impacted quality in Texas nursing facilities by improving resident outcomes, with antipsychotic usage down in long-stay residents by 33 percent and improvement in long-stay residents’ ability to move independently up by 10 percent.

She is a Baldrige Program Fellow, the first person in long term care to achieve the honor. In 2020, Riner was awarded the McKnight’s Woman of Distinction Hall of Honor, and in 2020 she was recognized by McKnight’s Senior Living with an Innovation in Technology Award for her work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Riner has served on the Texas Healthcare Association’s Board of Directors, and as an AHCA/NCAL National Quality Award Program Examiner, and on AHCA committees that address quality and workforce.
Each year, AHCA/NCAL presents the Mary K. Ousley Champion of Quality Award to an individual that has made significant national contributions to advancing quality performance in long term and post-acute care. Recipients display leadership in the development, promotion, and implementation of quality improvement initiatives that have resulted in measurable outcomes.

In 2011, the Friend of Quality Award was renamed the Mary K. Ousley Champion of Quality Award to honor the ongoing legacy and commitment to quality care demonstrated by its namesake, Mary Ousley, a licensed nursing center administrator and nurse who has dedicated her life to quality improvement programs in long term care.

Mario Whitt, Harris Hill Nursing Facility, Williamsville, NY
AHCA Noble Caregiver

Mario Whitt has been part of The McGuire Group’s Harris Hill Nursing Facility for over 20 years and currently Mario Whittchairs the Advisory Board Council. Whitt has been a beacon of inspiration throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and as the sector moves forward. He continually contributes to the positive well-being of Harris Hill and displays leadership of the highest standards. Over the last year, Whitt has been instrumental in implementing of the State of New York vaccine mandate. He coordinated messaging to staff across McGuire Group’s facilities to help achieve some of the highest vaccination rates in the region. He served as a spokesman throughout the vaccine campaign and provided an in-depth overview of the vaccine, defining efficacy, best clinical practices, and debunking myths along the way.

Whitt also encourages employment for youth in health care. He introduced the concept of youth employment to reinvigorate workforce development, creating a pipeline of school-aged employees. In 2022, Harris Hill launched the program, which works primarily with inner-city high school students to develop health career tracks and valuable life skills for future employment. The first program of its kind within the Western New York Region, it is designed to be a paid internship for youth interested in health care and help them realize their dreams.

Additionally, Whitt is a true conduit bridging the gap between Harris Hill and the local community. In May 2022, following a mass shooting that took the lives of 10 individuals at a local grocery store, he coordinated efforts between local churches, community parishes, and The McGuire Group to hold numerous food drives and fundraisers. All of the food went to families of the victims, and proceeds funded the burial and funeral arrangements for the victims.

Whitt is closely tied with his community and continues to work toward a brighter future for the families, staff, and residents within the long term care community.

Larry Slatky, Shaker Place Rehab Nursing Center, Albany, NY
AHCA Administrator of the Year Award

Larry SlatkyLarry Slatky has been the Administrator at Shaker Place Rehab Nursing Center in Albany, NY, since 2014. Prior to his arrival, Shaker Place was a one-star facility based on CMS’ Five-Star Quality Rating system. Under his leadership, the nursing home is now a four-star CMS Quality facility, an AHCA Silver Award recipient, and recently named the Best Senior Living Facility in the Capital Region by the Times Union, Albany’s local newspaper.

Slatky creates a team approach to manage Shaker Place, keeps lines of communication open, provides staff with the tools necessary for every department to reach its goals of operation, and always maintains an open-door policy. Understanding the importance of community, Slatky has established partnerships with educational institutions including BOCES, Siena College, St. Mary’s College, University of Albany, and the College of St. Rose that use Shaker Place for their various nursing, therapy, and dietician programs. Slatky also permits low-income families to send their young adults and other relatives to receive training in the trades, such as food services, maintenance, environmental services, and security.

Slatky leads from the heart with a passion to serve others, and with the highest degree of integrity and ethical behavior.

Longevity Fun Run, Forest Hills of DC, Washington, DC
AHCA Program of the Year Award

After an annual city-wide AARP luncheon to honor centenarians was canceled due to COVID in May 2021, Forest Hills of DC established its Longevity Fun Run. Born out of the need to celebrate health care heroes and honor their residents during COVID, this event brings together residents, families, staff, volunteers, and community representatives, including DC Department of Health (DOH) Council members. The event takes place every May during Older Americans Month and National Skilled Care Week in a fun, inclusive, community-bonding running event connecting assisted living and nursing homes across the District of Columbia.

At this year’s Longevity Fun Run on May 12, 2022, DC Council passed a proclamation that May 2022 be decreed as “Old People Are Cool” month to honor seniors and residents, take a stance against ageism, celebrate the wisdom seniors have to offer, and to lift up those health care workers who care for the residents. The event builds a sense of greater community with and around Forest Hills’ residents, involves government council representatives, the DOH, skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, board members, staff department heads, and CNAs all on a level playing field.

The energetic exchange between teams running and support from friends and family waiting to greet them when they arrived are reminders that the purposeful work of long term care connects everyone involved.