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Mary Ousley, chief strategy officer for PruittHealth and past chair of the American Health Care Association, has been named 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award winner in the McKnight’s Women of Distinction program.

“I think the recognition of this award is far more so than for Mary Ousley, it is the recognition of the importance of this type of work,” said Ousley. “No one ever accomplishes anything alone, you have to have that team around you and I have been fortunate, I have had that team.”

The award recognizes a woman each year who has made marvelous contributions in the area of skilled nursing and/or senior living over the course of their career.

“Mary has collectively done things that nobody else has. She is a towering presence in the field,” McKnight’s Editorial Director John O’Connor said. “She is a wonderful choice as this year’s winner.”

Ousley is a registered nurse by training but she is also a clinical and regulatory tactician and a former facility owner. In 2012 the American Healthcare Association renamed their quality award the Mary K. Ousley Champion of Quality Award to honor her.

“I have devoted my career to improving care, improving services, and recognizing healthcare professionals,” said Ousley. “But what I have always tried to do has been to walk in the footprints of the patient or resident, to do what is best for them.”

She has held top management positions at several senior care chains and is credited as one of the architects of OBRA 1987, the landmark nursing home reform law.

“Mary is a pioneer in the healthcare profession. Beyond her decades of experience and accomplishments, what makes her such a phenomenal leader is her compassion, intellect and charisma,” PruittHealth President and CEO Neil Pruitt Jr. said. “She has the unique ability to take very complex business problems and break them down to understandable steps to a clear solution.”

Ousley was the third woman to be elected AHCA chair, a position Pruitt also eventually held. At one time, she also was the skilled nursing profession’s top spokesperson at hearings and panels in Washington.

“She continues to be a mentor to me, as well as countless others,” Pruitt said. “She is a fantastic lady, and I am thankful she is regarded as a top-tier spokesperson for our profession.”

Ousley is seen as a firm uniter. She is credited with getting AHCA and an alliance of secession-minded chains to continue as one, and with unifying providers and governing regulators to form new quality initiatives.

“The name Mary Ousley is synonymous with quality. Quality in every respect,” said AHCA President and CEO Mark Parkinson, who also leads the National Center for Assisted Living. “She has not only led the sector in our quality efforts; she has often pulled us to places we needed to be but were reluctant to go. Her work has benefited millions of staff and residents, and providers have learned that great quality is also great business.”

This year’s honorees will be celebrated at a May 18 online ceremony. That celebration will be followed the next day by the Women of Distinction Forum. Events both days are open to everyone and are free of charge. Basic registration is required.