Our Team

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Founders

bill_and_judeIn the early 1990’s, Dr. Bill Thomas and Jude Thomas co-created The Eden Alternative®.  Between 1991 and 2002, they alone drove the consultation and education of a corps of Eden Associates that has grown to over 30,000 in number across the globe and whose influence now reaches across the entire continuum of care.

Known to thousands as the heart and soul of the Eden Alternative movement, Jude Thomas continues to offer guidance in aligning the organization’s activities with its core mission and vision. As a founding member of the Board of Directors, she participates in international speaking, networking, and educational events for The Eden Alternative, touching people committed to transforming care all over the world.

Dr. Bill Thomas, MD, the visionary spirit behind The Eden Alternative, is an international authority on geriatric medicine and Eldercare, a renowned speaker, and an award-winning author. Dr. Thomas continues to help shape and inspire the focus, direction, and application of the Eden Alternative’s Ten Principle Philosophy.

Board of Directors

Chris Cheek, Board Chair
President and COO of SentryCare, Inc., Mississippi

Chris is  a founder of SentryCare, Inc., and has served as President and Chief Operating Officer since its inception in 1993.  A graduate of Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi, he received a Bachelor of Business Administration degree, with a minor in Psychology, in 1985 and a Master of Business Administration degree in 1988.  Chris was employed by a regional management company for four years as Corporate Administrator for various skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities in Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri and Kansas.  In his career, he has directly operated twelve licensed facilities in four states and has been a licensed Nursing Home Administrator in the State of Mississippi since 1991. As President of SentryCare, Chris has overseen the research, design, development and construction of the company’s four long term care properties in Mississippi.  He has developed a successful model of operation based on the principles of the Eden Alternative and continues to manage the implementation of the Eden philosophy in all of the company homes.  Chris also serves as an Eden Educator and an Eden Mentor.  He is President and a founder of GROW Mississippi, a not for profit organization which supports the principles of culture change in long term care in Mississippi.  He has given talks to various groups on the importance of culture change in modern nursing homes. Chris has served on boards and committees within the long term care industry, the local community and educational institutions.

Sally Hopkins

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Sally Hopkins, MBA, Board Vice Chair
Eden Alternative Regional Coordinator for The Eden Alternative in Australia and New Zealand, Camberswell, Victoria, Australia

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” – Nelson Mandela

In September 2009, Sally Hopkins joined The Eden Alternative in Australia and New Zealand as the Business Development Manager.  In addition she is also the Eden Alternative Regional Coordinator for for Eden in Oz & NZ, and is responsible for growing The Eden Alternative as the preferred philosophy of care in residential and community care environments.Sally has more than 25 years extensive operational and business development experience within Aged Care, in the Hospitality Sector. In her current role, she promotes an understanding of The Eden Alternative through training, conference presentations, and trade exhibitions. She networks with new and existing Eden Registry Members to grow their understanding and knowledge of The Eden Alternative.  She is also interested in creating networks with Eden Registry Members to ‘buddy’ them with other members around the world. As an Eden Educator, she has a comprehensive understanding of the challenges individuals and organizations face when they first start their culture change journey.  She is also involved in developing region specific curricula that supports culture change through The Eden Alternative.Sally resides in Camberwell Victoria (Australia) and is married to husband Alan.

Jennifer Christiano, Board Secretary
Board Secretary, Regional Development Manager, Phoenix House Mid-Atlantic, Washington, D.C.

Jennifer is a development professional with more than 15 years experience in non-profit fundraising, event management and execution.  She currently is Regional Development Manager for Phoenix House Mid-Atlantic, a non-profit organization specializing in drug and alcohol rehabilitation.  Prior to her current position, she spent more than eight years fundraising for the Alzheimer’s Association both for the National Capital Area Chapter and for the National Office of the Association.  Her success while at the Alzheimer’s Association included working extensively on Galas which raised more than $1 million and on walks which also raised $1 million for the first time for the Chapter.  In addition, she oversaw the planning and execution of a variety of fundraising and cultivation events.Jennifer began her career in the media working for nearly seven years for NBC News in Washington.  She worked in production and research for Meet the Press, Nightly News and the Today Show.  After leaving NBC, she worked on a documentary on media and politics which aired on PBS. Jennifer is a lifelong resident of Washington, DC having grown up here and moving back after graduating from the University of Virginia.

Thomas Zwicker, Board Treasurer
NHA, Co-Founder of AgeSpeaks, Wisconsin

For years, Tom Zwicker has labored to deliver excellent medical treatment within a community that supports quality of life for everyone — families, residents and staff.  As a young man, Tom Zwicker was influenced by his mother to become a certified nursing assistant and since 1977, as a nursing home administrator.   Later in his career, Tom was once again impacted by his parents when they came to live in his nursing home.  According to Tom, “Caring for my parents was the most important thing I ever did.  It caused me to own my profession and embrace the idea of transformation – reimagining the way we care for old people.”  His story was captured in Provider Magazine, http://goo.gl/blB6rl  In 1997 Tom joined the Eden Alternative as an associate and mentor and operated the first Eden Alternative home in WI and one of the first in the country.

During his career Tom has held many positions:  owner/operator of a 250-bed health and rehabilitation center; Vice President of Operations for 17 skilled nursing facilities in northern California; President of the Wisconsin Health Care Association; President of the Wisconsin Chapter of the American Health Care Association; Co-Founder of Age Speaks Company™; board member positions for profit and non-profit organizations.  Zwicker has presented at conferences throughout the United States, including the Pioneer Network and Eden Alternative International Conference.  Tom is an Eden Alternative Mentor.  He holds nursing home licenses in Wisconsin, Texas and Washington.

Cheryl George, MSc
SubstandardFullSizeRender (2)Eden Alternative Regional Coordinator for Western Canada
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Cheryl is the International Regional Coordinator for Western Canada and has been teaching, mentoring and supporting the growth of The Eden Alternative with Suellen Beatty since 1999.  She also served as Education Leader at Sherbrooke Community Centre in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan Canada for over 28 years. In this role she supported the adoption and implementation of the Eden Alternative Philosophy. Sherbrooke has been an Eden Registry Member since January 1999 and received the Eden Alternative Master Gardener Award in 2010. Sherbrooke is regarded as a Centre of Excellence internationally, and Cheryl has helped to host visitors from around the world as they come for a tour or a learning experience at the Sherbrooke Learning Centre. Cheryl continues to serve on the Advisory Committee for iGen, a grade 6 class located at Sherbrooke Community Centre. This intergenerational class provides close and continuing contact between Elders in long term care and school aged children over the period of one school year. Cheryl is passionate about quality of life for all care partners and loves to share what she has learned with others. She has presented across Canada and the U.S.A. as well as Australia, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Cheryl lives in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and is the proud mother of son Davis.

Patrick Doyle, PhD
Patrick Doyle Pic (3)Corporate Director of Dementia Care, Brightview Senior Living, Maryland

Patrick J. Doyle, Ph.D. is a gerontologist with a background and expertise in optimizing the quality of life for people living with dementia in long-term care settings. Dr. Doyle’s research and practice addresses the many factors that influence the practice of person-centered dementia care: organizational, cultural, social, environmental, and training, among others. Dr. Doyle is the Corporate Director of Dementia Care at Brightview Senior Living and an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Karin Dahl, RN
Eden Alternative Regional Coordinator for Denmark, Lyborg, Denmark

Karin Dahl first learned about The Eden Alternative in 2004. She became inspired by this fantastic way to inspire tired and pressed organizations to find new ways to create a life worth living for residents, families and staff. A nurse for 23 years, she and her colleague Aase Porsmose supported the first 4 years of Eden Alternative education in Denmark. From 2007-2009, they served as project leaders in a grant project involving 26 nursing homes. The project’s success revealed the value of the Eden Alternative Philosophy in Denmark, as well as the need for a national anchor to support organizations on their Eden Alternative journey.  As a Regional Coordinator, Karin focuses on dialogue and cooperation on the basis of leadership, as well as stakeholder involvement to heighten the experience of everyone’s well-being. Over the last decade, Denmark’s focus has been on evidence-based knowledge regarding the physical side of care. Thus, infusing a value-based philosophy into eldercare practices is a complex process.Together, she and Aase cooperate with other International Regional Coordinators to share experiences and challenges, try to support each other as needed, and help drive the philosophy more deeply into eldercare practices in each country. Karin has a Masters in Rehabilitation, is a Registered Nurse, and became a Dementia-coordinator 1993. Her professional roles have included traditional nursing, work-environment and patient security, administration, teaching and coordination of the cross professional services for people living with dementia and their families. Karin lives with her husband Michael in Denmark, enjoys music and culture, walking in nature, and time with friends and family, including their 3 grown children.

Mitch Opalski
Franchise Owner, Synergy HomeCare, Virginia

A native of the Washington, D.C. area, Mitchell Opalski graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1986 with a degree in Accounting.  He worked in the D.C. office of Deloitte & Touche for 8 years. Mitch left public accounting to take a position with the Finance Department of the D.C. BlueCross BlueShield Plan.  There, in addition to his accounting and finance duties, he worked part-time with the CEO monitoring and reporting on the operating results of the company.  He was appointed to the management team that that effected the merger of the Maryland and D.C. BlueCross BlueShield Plans (renamed CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield).  After 6 years with CareFirst, Mitch accepted the position of Director of Finance with the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC).  He was promoted to VP Finance in 2002.  In 2004 he was promoted again to Chief Operating Officer. In September 2007, Mitch became a non-medical home care provider when he opened the first Synergy HomeCare franchise office in Virginia.  He is now busy growing the company and contributing back to the community that he has lived in his entire adult life.  His franchise in Northern Virginia has grown to be the second largest in the Synergy HomeCare family of over 150 offices nationwide.

Mitch has assumed various leadership positions in local civic and community organizations, including Douglas Park Civic Association (VP); Habitat for Humanity of Northern Virginia (President, committee chairman and board member); Notre Dame Alumni Club of D.C. (Treasurer, VP, President, board member); Columbia Pike Community Emergency Response Team (Team Leader); Senior Services of Alexandria (board member); Alliance for the Physically Disabled (Treasurer); Arlington Steering Committee for Services to Older Persons, Arlington Commission on Aging (Chairman); Alexandria Long Term Care Coordinating Committee, Alexandria Commission on Aging; Mount Vernon at Home (Advisory Board Member).

Angie McAllister
Director of Cultural Transformation, Signature Healthcare, Kentucky

Angie has worked in long term care since 1995 when she entered the industry as a nursing assistant. During the past 22 years she has worked in many roles including that of an Activities Professional and most currently as Director of Cultural Transformation in the Hometown Segment of Signature HealthCare. Over the past five years, Angie has led a team who has assisted 40 Signature HealthCare communities to be placed on the Eden Alternative Registry. Through that process, her team has provide Eden Associate education for almost 2,000 individuals within the organization who form a powerful army to create and sustain change on a daily basis. Angie also serves as an Eden Educator and an Eden Mentor. She has served on the Tennessee Eden Alternative Coalition Board for the past three years as board member to assist with advancing culture change throughout the state of TN. Angie has recently published a five year study demonstrating how the Eden Alternative Principles can impact of person directed care on the lives of elders living in her communities.

Jill Vitale-Aussem, NHA
 COO, Clermont Park Retirement Community, Colorado

Jill joined CLC as Executive Director of Clermont Park Retirement Community, where she led the community through a $75 million redevelopment project and complete cultural transformation using the principles of the Eden Alternative. In her current role as COO, Jill is responsible for guiding the operations of multiple communities and achieving excellence through the use of person-directed principles and practices. Jill earned a Master of Management in Hospitality degree from Cornell University School of Hotel Administration and holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree from Alfred University. She is a licensed nursing home administrator, certified assisted living administrator, LeadingAge Leadership Academy Fellow, Eden Alternative Guide, and Certified Eden Alternative Educator. She has been involved with the Eden Alternative since 2007. Jill is passionate about creating community cultures of innovation, possibilities, inclusivity, growth and empowerment and writes and speaks nationally on the topics of culture, leadership and ageism.

Peter Reed, PhD, MPH
Director, Sanford Center for Aging, Nevada

Dr. Peter Reed serves as Director of the Sanford Center for Aging and Professor of Community Health Sciences at the University of Nevada, Reno. As a statewide aging center that is part of the UNR Division of Health Sciences, the Sanford Center’s mission is to enhance quality of life and well-being among elders through translational research, education and community outreach. Dr. Reed brings to the Center a commitment to service and collaboration, built upon 20 years of experience in the field of aging that bridges research, practice, policy, and organizational leadership. Dr. Reed received both a PhD and MPH in Health Behavior and Health Education from the School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he was a National Institute on Aging Pre-Doctoral Fellow in the Carolina Program on Healthcare and Aging Research. He is also a Phi Beta Kappa-graduate of the University of Kentucky, receiving a Bachelor of Science in Sociology. Previous appointments include serving as CEO of Pioneer Network, President and CEO of the Center for Health Improvement, and as Senior Director of Programs for the Alzheimer’s Association National Office. He is active with numerous boards and commissions, currently serving on the Governing Board of Consumer Voice, the Board of Directors for the Alzheimer’s Association of Northern California and Northern Nevada, the Board of Directors for Nevada POLST, as the Chair of the American Society on Aging Mental Health and Aging Leadership Council, and as Vice-Chair of the Nevada Task Force on Alzheimer’s disease.

Home Office

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Chris Perna, President & CEO
PernaPhotoDec2011(2)Chris Perna comes to The Eden Alternative after spending 25 years in the insurance industry, most recently in long-term care insurance as president of MedAmerica Insurance Company. His tenure at MedAmerica was marked by a combination of innovation and growth, including the introduction of a new line of long-term care insurance products that revolutionized the industry and led MedAmerica to become one of the industry’s leading companies. Chris was active in advocating for the long term care insurance industry as a board member of AHIP for more than 8 years and as an organizing member and participant in many industry events.

Prior to joining MedAmerica, Perna served as CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Utica-Watertown in upstate New York for three years before leading that organization through a merger into Excellus Health Plan based in Rochester, New York. Prior to moving to New York, Perna enjoyed a 13 year career at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts where he served in a number of different management roles.

Chris has also distinguished himself through his service to elders in the community of Rochester, New York as a multi-year board member for Lifespan and Family Service of Rochester, two organizations committed to serving the needs of elders. He currently serves as Board Chair for Lifespan and is the immediate past chair of Family Service of Rochester.

Chris and his wife Mary have been married for 25 years and are blessed with four children ranging in age from 11 to 18. They reside in Pittsford, New York, a suburb of Rochester.

Kathy Hagen, Project Administrator
Kathy Hagen, MBA, is the Project Administrator for The Eden Alternative®.  She joined the organization as Operations Manager in January 2011.  As Project Administrator, Kathy is responsible for managing grant projects and large training events, as well as other projects within the organization.  She creates comprehensive, detailed project/grant plans including tasks, individual and team assignments, deliverable dates, and reporting requirements.  She also develops budgets and executes expense tracking systems.

Kathy enjoys power yoga, sailing, craft beers, connecting with friends and family, spending time with her partner, Tom, and playing with their Golden Doodle, Tucker, and kitty, Amber.

Meredith Martin, Education Coordinator

me (3)After being active in The Eden Alternative® since 2003 as a leader in a Registry Member Organization, Meredith Burrus joined the Eden Alternative Home Office Team in 2009. As Education Coordinator, Meredith manages the organization of all educational marketing and fulfillment needs, coordination of educational host sites, the growth and development of Eden Educators, building new and nurturing established relationships with collaborative organizations, and networking with the Eldercare community to discover potential partnerships for educational events.  She is active in her community, participating in the Tennessee Advancing Excellence Coalition and is a board member for the Tennessee Eden Alternative Coalition. She enjoys gardening, spending time with friends and family, and listening to live music in Nashville.

Laura Beck, Learning & Development Guide

mefacebookLaura Beck, MPAff, joined the Eden Alternative Home Office Team in 2003 as developer of Eden at Home. Today, as Learning and Development Guide, she coordinates management of the Eden Alternative brand and packaging of the organization’s message in educational and promotional content. Laura also supports design of new and existing Eden Alternative curricula and educational products, coordinates and facilitates the Eden Alternative’s webinar-based education, develops grant proposals and manages grant projects, and serves as a public speaker and an educator of designated educational offerings. She loves being a mother to her amazing teenage son, Ethan, enjoys dance and expressive movement, hiking and the outdoors, a good film, and chocolate.

Erynne Blackburn, Administrative Support
Erynne Headshot (2)Erynne Blackburn joined the Eden Alternative Home Office in 2015.  As Administrative Support for the Operations Manager and Education Coordinator, Erynne performs behind-the-scenes work to help bring educational events to fruition.  Her responsibilities include posting events, monitoring registrations and materials delivery, and survey management.  Erynne enjoys reading, practicing yoga, spending time with her husband, Jeff, and going for walks with her chocolate lab, Nestle.

 

Denise Hyde, Community Builder

Denise Hyde Head shot (2)Denise HydeDenise Hyde Head shot (2), Pharm.D., RP, has been involved in the implementation of The Eden Alternative® since 1997, both within a state veteran’s home and as an Eden Alternative Regional Coordinator for seven states. Currently, as Community Builder, Denise guides and supports organizations that belong to the Eden Registry. Her responsibilities include facilitating conference calls, adding membership benefits to the Registry, updating web site resources for Registry Members, developing new educational tools and materials, creating networking opportunities and inviting new organizations to join to the Registry. She also participates in the Nebraska Culture Change Coalition, does speaking engagements and participates in national culture change projects. Denise enjoys spending time with her family and especially her grandson, quilting, ringing in the church bell choir, attending wine club meetings, and reading a good romance novel!

Suzette Molina, Eden Registry & Community Liaison

Suzette Molina HeadshotSuzette Molina, M.A., Eden Registry and Community Liaison, joined the Eden Alternative Home Office Team in 2007. As the Eden Registry and Community Liaison, she works closely with the Community Builder to guide and support Registry Members. Suzette facilitates conference calls, supports the Eden Mentors, assists in adding membership benefits to the Registry, develops networking opportunities and invites new organizations to join the Eden Registry.  She also participates in the Texas Culture Change Coalition and volunteers as a court appointed special advocate serving children living in foster care. Suzette enjoys reading, fishing and spending time with her children, Katie, Chloe, Luke and two dogs Ike and Lucy.

Sue Gerould, Operations Manager
Sue PicSue Gerould is Operations Manager for The Eden Alternative. Sue collaborates with every member of the Home Office Team and provides executive level support to President and CEO, Chris Perna. Sue loves being with her children, Michael and Mackenzie, and their dog, Toby Doo, the world’s best lap dog.  Her simple pleasures are being outside in her gardens, quilting, baking, DIY house projects, and spending time with family and friends.