An Interview with Regina Umanskiy
This past summer Regina Umanskiy was selected as President and CEO of Franciscan Ministries, replacing Judy Amiano, who retired earlier in the year. She recently sat down for an interview to discuss her background, her inspirations, and her new role at Franciscan Ministries. “The Sisters and I are honored to welcome Regina Umanskiy to lead our sponsored ministries,” said Sister M. Bernadette Bajuscik, General Minister of the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago. “Besides her wealth of knowledge, Regina brings the gifts of compassion and deep respect for others and the ministry of senior living. We welcome her with open arms, as she joins us in continuing the 128-year legacy and the charism of our Foundress Mother Mary Theresa Dudzik.” Regina will oversee all aspects of Franciscan Ministries including Franciscan Communities, Franciscan Advisory Services, and the philanthropic efforts of Madonna Foundation and St. Jude House. Thank you to Regina for participating in this interview.
Regina Umanskiy, President and CEO of Franciscan Ministries
You are originally from the Soviet Union. What was life like there growing up as a child?
I was born and raised in Moscow, Russia, in the former Soviet Union. Moscow, being the capital, had all the features of a major worldly city such as magnificent architecture, theaters, and museums. I enjoyed the culture that my parents and friends exposed me to. As I grew older, it became obvious there was a lack of freedom in the Soviet Union. There was no freedom of speech, and travel was limited in and outside the country. I wanted to make a difference in the world and did not see future there for myself or my family.
Who were your biggest influences as a child?
My parents had the biggest influence on me. My mother was an OB-GYN surgeon and a strong-willed professional. She taught me how to deal with adversity, stay humble, and treasure what one had at any given moment. My father was an economist. He taught me kindness, always expressed unconditional love, and accepted me for who I am. Also, most of the women on both sides of my family were physicians. My grandmother was a cardiologist and I had one aunt who was an endocrinologist and another who was a neonatologist.
Senior care became a new field of interest for me. European countries traditionally did not have retirement communities. Life expectancy is much higher in the United States and the elderly living here have more social programs and financial resources to ensure they are taken care of during their challenging years of frailty. I felt that I could make more of a difference by improving the quality of care for senior living residents who need support and offer comfort to the adult children, providing reassurance that their loved ones are in good hands.
Discuss your extensive experience in senior care and how it has evolved over the years.
I started my career in senior care as the Director of Nursing at a skilled and rehab center and then later on became the Director of Independent and Assisted Living and a Nursing Home Administrator. As my career progressed, I became the Executive Director at one of the largest Continuum of Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) that offered all levels of care, including independent living, assisted living, memory care, skilled nursing, and rehabilitation. I have always been drawn to the development side of the industry and wanted to be part of designing and opening new communities. Therefore, I became the Assistant Vice President of Operations for Communities Integration. Then after obtaining my MBA degree from the University of Notre Dame, I was promoted to Vice President of Operations and Integrated Solutions where I oversaw several of the largest CCRCs and also worked on company-wide initiatives.
Where do you see the senior care industry heading and how is it improving?
I believe that as an industry, we became more creative and agile during the COVID pandemic. We also put a lot of focus on resilience and stress management that we have not extensively talked about in the past. I think that recognition of burnout and need for mental health support are improvements that I will continue to embrace for our associates to maintain a good work/life balance.
What are your goals for the future for Franciscan Ministries?
My main goal is to fulfill our mission, “Celebrate Life and Serve with Joy” and embrace our values of respect, dedication, stewardship, and joy. I plan to operationalize our mission and values through the "Living Joyfully" programs that have proven to be successful at the senior living communities of Franciscan Ministries. Studying this program touched me personally and made me feel more grateful. These programs increase awareness of the small things that matter in life, and add encouragement to do things that one is passionate about. I also plan to work with our leadership team to focus on keeping the initiatives of the "Essential Elements" of the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago at the forefront of what we do, such as: collaborate with others and build relationships and also live the Franciscan spirit of peace and joy. My other goals are to expand philanthropic initiatives, enhance technology, continue to bring top talent to deliver the highest quality of care for our residents, and grow business by offering various resources through Franciscan Advisory Services.
When did you come to the United States and what was the journey like for you and your family?
In 1993, my husband and I (along with my parents) immigrated to the United States. It was a difficult journey. The first disappointment we faced was when I realized that I would not be able to pursue my medical career with my husband, who was also studying medicine. I had completed 4 years out of a 6-year-medical program and with our first child on the way and looking at medical schools in America, I realized I would have had to start my education over from the second year of college. Thus, it was not feasible for me to fulfill my dream. After some soul searching, I reevaluated my aspirations and priorities and found peace in the “Bloom where you are planted” approach.
You then studied nursing at Ursuline College. What drew you to work in this field and later in senior care? Since I came from a family of strong female physicians, I always wanted to work in healthcare because I wanted to help people heal and feel better. Ursuline College is a private Catholic liberal arts college in Ohio that was founded by the Ursuline Sisters. It is actually one of the oldest colleges for women in the United States and the first Catholic women’s college in Ohio. They also have one of the best nursing programs in the state of Ohio. Not only does the college offer leadership training for women, they provide an excellent well-rounded education. Leading Franciscan Ministries is one of the ways for me to give back in gratitude for receiving guidance and leadership development from the Ursuline Sisters.
You and your husband have three daughters. Tell us about your family.
My husband Konstantin is a Professor of Surgery at the University of Chicago. He has been my inspiration to pursue my professional dreams. He supported me as I obtained my MBA at Notre Dame and took care of our youngest daughter while I worked full time and attended school. We have three children. Tina is our oldest daughter and excels at her career at Google. She is an exceptional athlete who completed the Iron Man Triathlon this past September. She obtained a Bachelor's degree in Communications and Marketing at Northwestern University in Chicago. Leah is our middle daughter and completed her Bachelor's degree at the University of Chicago where she studied Economics and Fundamentals. She is currently pursuing her PhD in Political Science at NYU. Ilana is our youngest daughter and a sophomore at the University of Chicago Laboratory School. She is an artist and a sailor. She takes classes at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She enjoys sailing at the Columbia Yacht Club and is on the varsity team at her high school.
Regina with her family after receiving her MBA from the University of Notre Dame.
Regina with her three daughters.
Discuss how Mother Mary Theresa Dudzik, the foundress of the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago inspires you.
As Mother Mary Theresa Dudzik wanted to make a difference in the world, I had similar aspirations. Becoming President and CEO of Franciscan Ministries gives me the opportunity to lead the culture of “Living Joyfully” and embrace the charism that Mother Mary Theresa Dudzik envisioned with helping women, children, and the elderly. During the commissioning ceremony I placed a bouquet of roses on her sarcophagus in the chapel and it was a special moment for me as I felt very connected to her. I was thrilled that my oldest daughter Tina could join the ceremony and share my happiness during such an important moment in my life. Also, the blessings offered by the Sisters brought so many emotions and feelings of unity and support. It reinforced my commitment to honor the Franciscan Ministries mission to “Celebrate Life and Serve with Joy”.