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Kelly Smith Papa, 2023 Women in Business Honoree

In 2021, Kelly Smith Papa was named president and CEO of Duncaster, Connecticut’s first LifePlan community, established in 1984 in Bloomfield.

She brings to this position more than 25 years of nationally recognized clinical and executive leadership in senior living. Her extensive resume includes positions as a director of nursing, a clinical educator and a national consultant in building dementia care programs.

She facilitates the Leadership Academy of LeadingAge Connecticut, a year-long development program for leaders in aging services and is the author of eight books on senior living and long-term nursing care.

Papa’s leadership combines the compassion of her clinical nursing background with a collaborative and respectful engagement with staff and residents.

What have been your biggest professional accomplishments so far?

Professionally, the accomplishment I am most proud of was being appointed president and CEO of Duncaster. Duncaster’s culture is one of trust, respect, fulfillment and relationships. I find myself drawing from my life experiences, values and education as I lead with collaboration and transparency.

What’s the next big goal you want to accomplish professionally?

My priority is to continuously foster our culture where residents and employees are encouraged to bring their authentic self, knowledge, curiosity, ideas and talents every day. It is my goal to continue to bring out the best in each person as we reposition, renovate and expand our community.

What’s one of the biggest professional challenges you’ve overcome?

I am proud that by following my guiding values and immersing myself in places of deep learning, I have developed the confidence to lead with authenticity, enthusiasm and compassion. I never imagined, starting as a young nurse, that someday I would be a CEO. I believe these practices have drawn me into this role.

Who has been your most important mentor and why?

My family members have been my most impactful mentors, from my parents, who led in their jobs with the qualities I try to emulate, to my husband and my two amazing children, who show me the importance of curiosity and love every day. I deeply respect family and encourage my team to put their families first.

Check out the rest of the 2023 Women in Business Honorees

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