Change in leadership at JAA

Change in leadership at JAA

The Jewish Association on Aging has hired Deborah Winn-Horvitz as its new president and chief executive officer, replacing David Gritzer, who will assume the position of the organization’s chief operating officer.

“I’ve got a fresh set of eyes to come in and make some improvements,” Winn-Horvitz said.

Winn-Horvitz comes to her new post with a background in operational management in the areas of acute and academic medicine. She worked for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center for the last nine years in various leadership roles, most recently as the executive administrator for the department of medicine.

Prior to her turn at UPMC, Winn-Horvitz worked for five years at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, with a primary focus on revenue cycle and patient satisfaction.

With UPMC and Johns Hopkins as organizational models, she plans to take the JAA to the next level.

“In terms of my expectations of what a health care organization should look like, I am coming from Hopkins and UPMC,” she said. “That’s what I want for this organization.”

Winn-Horvitz plans to engage the community in defining the quality of care it wants for its seniors, and to bring new opportunities in the care continuum to Pittsburgh.

“I would like the JAA to be the model of care in terms of long-term care for the country,” she said.

Winn-Horvitz was hired after a nationwide search, according to Woody Ostrow, JAA board chair. “It was a plus that she happened to be from Pittsburgh,” he said.

Although she has no prior experience in working in long-term care, Ostrow believes Winn-Horvitz’s background will complement the direction in which the JAA is headed: nonresidential care.

“All the growth is nonresidential,” Ostrow said. “The JAA will help people stay in their homes, while providing services for them there. People are now living longer and longer in their own residences. Debbie had a great background in all that, and in helping people make their later years their best years.”

Ostrow is stepping down as JAA chair in March 2012; Steve Halpern will succeed him.

Winn-Horvitz’s experience will benefit the various arms of the JAA, said Halpern, who also served as the chair of the JAA’s CEO search committee.

“The most important thing we can benefit from as an agency is Debbie’s tremendous enthusiasm for her role,” Halpern said. “Between her experience at Hopkins and UPMC, she has worked at elite organizations that stress accountability.”

“She is a caring person,” he added. “She doesn’t view health care as a business; she cares about people, and she cares about families.”

“The agency of the JAA is a very complicated enterprise,” Halpern continued. “It is becoming increasingly nonresidential. We thought that as health care is evolving, organizations will need to develop alliances with other organizations.”

Halpern believes Winn-Horvitz will be able to build those alliances, while she draws on Gritzer’s practical experience in managing long-term care facilities.

“We wanted the best of both worlds,” Halpern said. “We wanted Dave’s (Gritzer) experience as a platform, and we needed someone to support Dave.”

Gritzer said that bringing Winn-Horvitz on board will allow him to focus his time on improving the quality of the JAA’s residential facilities.

“Bringing another person in at the senior management level shows the [JAA] board’s commitment to excellence,” Gritzer said.

One focus of Winn-Horvitz as CEO will be to improve the quality of care at Charles Morris Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

“Like any other nursing home, there is room for improvement,” Winn-Horvitz said. “Charles Morris is the entity most people identify with when they hear ‘the JAA.’ I will be very involved in the operations to ensure the level of care is raised in terms of quality. I want this to be the model for the country.”

Because she is not coming from a background in long-term care, Winn-Horvitz said she would be transitioning into her new position by doing research in the field. Still, she said, it is not hard to recognize quality care.

“We all know what good care looks like or feels like,” she said. “I will initially be doing research to educate myself to see what it is that the JAA needs to do to get there and to exceed expectations.”

Winn-Horvitz will also draw upon her personal background as the daughter of two aging Holocaust survivors in defining her priorities in her new position.

“My dad is 88, and my mom is 85, and they live independently,” she said. “I will be looking at them as the model in considering what we can do to make sure people can live as independently as them, as long as possible. They will be my informal advisors.”

(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at

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