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Meet the Lifesprk Leadership Team

The Lifesprk Leaders share a true ‘purple’ passion for seniors. As innovative thought-leaders in Twin Cities senior housing and home care management services they are sparking lives.

Together they bring almost 300 years of experience in hospice, home health, senior housing, and care management services to change the experience for seniors – people in the second half of life – and everyone around them including their own team. They’ve created an award-winning culture filled with people passionate about sparking lives. Take a moment to find out what sparks each of them.

Joel Theisen

Joel Theisen, BSN, RN

Chief Executive Officer
& Founder

The spark starts here! I am founder and CEO of Lifesprk.

My vision is clear: change the experience for people in the second half of life. My true joy is to see the spark in peoples’ eyes: customers, families, partners, employees, professional referral sources – I want them all to shine on. I may be known as a business innovator, earning numerous accolades, however, my work is not done until we have sparked the lives of millions of people in the second half of life.

Through the years, our team has seen far too many people on the roller coaster of crisis and that is just not acceptable. Our goal is to help people build a pathway to what is most important in their lives so they can live the healthiest, most independent life possible – what we call living a ‘sparked life.’

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/joeltheisenrn

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Tom Schmitt

Executive Director, Value-Based Payment Strategy and Growth

Tom’s spark comes from being a champion for changing health care business models to better reward and recognize improving quality of life and wellbeing – the foundations for person-centric care.

From the moment Tom learned about Lifesprk, he’s been intrigued with the purpose, passion, and most importantly the vision and he firmly believes that enhancing life experience should be an integral part of the health quality outcomes for which we strive. When you focus on sparking lives – you achieve significant improvement in Triple Aim outcomes.

Linked In Profile: Tom Schmitt

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Jill Hackenmueller

Chief People Officer

Jill truly believes people are the heart of every great company. She’s spent her entire career helping companies grow and as importantly, put its people first by enabling and empowering them to thrive at work.

Over the years, each time Jill met the Lifesprk team she knew they’d be part of her roadmap. It all started after she heard Joel Theisen, Lifesprk CEO, speak at a Vistage event. She had never heard anyone speak so passionately about culture and people and thought, ‘I have to be part of that someday!’

Jill is an accomplished, highly collaborative leader with more than 20 years’ experience guiding cross-functional teams in business operations, talent initiatives, and performance improvement activities. Her ability to deliver results, communicate, coach, and problem solve with integrity, helps Lifesprk scale for growth putting our strategy (People + Process = Lifesprk Experience) into overdrive.

Linked In Profile: Jill Hackenmueller

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Dr. Nick Schneeman

Chief Medical Officer

Dr. Nick Schneeman believes “good geriatric care is difficult to describe. The current healthcare experience leaves seniors stuck inside a revolving door of rescue, rehab, and relapse. Most people have access but what they end up getting is just a lot of care and not the right care. We have to do better to change that experience.”

Joining Lifesprk as Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Nick Schneeman was the former CEO of Genevive, the largest geriatric practice in Minnesota. He was at a point in his career where he was ready to unite his skills, passion, and 30+ years of experience behind a model that is disrupting the way we deliver care not only in Minnesota, but nationally and drive solutions that serve the senior population who are substantially underserved but over-serviced by a broken, costly, and ineffective healthcare system.

Dr. Schneeman has deep experience in managing innovative companies providing complex medical care and training interdisciplinary clinical teams across multiple settings. His medical management expertise will fuel the further development of Lifesprk Health, Lifesprk’s in-home primary care practice and consultative services in transitional care units, expanding its footprint and refining its operations.

Linked In Profile: Dr. Nick Schneeman

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Jason Wenell

Chief Technology Officer

Jason has over 15 years of experience building companies based on disruptive application digital, mobile, social, data science and analytics technologies. Jason was called to Lifesprk in 2019 to deliver a scalable “market platform” for whole-person senior care applying his background in SaaS, data science, digital, marketplace and design. Prior to Lifesprk he was the Director of Product at Colorado-based Gloo Software, a market network and predictive analytics platform company that serves personal growth industry. Prior to Gloo, Jason founded his own software company called Bleachr, that created innovative patented technologies using peer to peer network sharing and geo-fencing. Before Bleachr, Jason owned his own digital agency where he worked with a wide range of clients on digital product strategy, including development of a CRM and consumer portal for large EHR platform in the behavioral health space. He is a graduate of Bethel University with a Finance degree and a Marketing degree.

Linked In Profile: Jason Wenell

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Karen Carney

Karen Carney

Vice President, Marketing & Communications

Throughout all my experience, I’ve been driving toward creating a better model of support and guidance for people – one that helps them really live life on their terms and helps them avoid the pitfalls that can derail them. Education and proactive support have been the cornerstones of my marketing philosophy. I’ve worked in hospitals, home health, skilled nursing care, clinics, senior living, and hospice, and to me, Lifesprk takes the best of all those models and goes further – truly creating an approach that puts the person first, and enables them to set the agenda and identify THEIR goals for a fulfilling and purposeful life.

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/karenlcarney

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Matt Kinne

Vice President, Growth

The Lifesprk ‘spark’ is contagious – At the center of everything we do, including our proven results and award winning culture, are our people who are sparking lives. It’s our people and their passion that is the fuel igniting the lives of individuals every day – squarely focused on changing the experience for people in the second half of life –  igniting more than 5 million lives by 2020 – now that’s exciting.

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/pub/matt-kinne/13/6b1/9a4

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Cathy Lauring, ARPN, CNP

Vice President, Lifesprk Health

I believe as we change the aging experience, we can’t overlook the role primary care plays in reaching seniors who desire a new approach to their health, one that is whole person. My spark comes from helping seniors look beyond their diagnosis or chronic health issues, which often are the focal point of their medical visits, and instead focus on helping them achieve their life goals. There are many life challenges that get in the way of good health that have nothing to do with medical issues and yet many providers only focus on that. It’s my passion and purpose to change that with the seniors we serve because when we do, seniors experience better personalized care, lower long-term costs, and the joy of living life with a spark.

LinkedIn: Cathy Lauring, ARPN, CNP

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Cheryl Matter

Vice President, Population Health

Cheryl’s spark comes from identifying opportunities to make an impact on people’s lives and she believes Lifesprk is very unique in its ability and comprehensive approach to improving the day-to-day lives of seniors.

For more than 10 years, Cheryl has been focused on big picture strategy to drive the development and infrastructure of new service line developments to create clinical models and business cases for value-based care, palliative care, innovation for advancing disruptive healthcare opportunities and technology. She is highly adept at strategy, development, sourcing and dissemination of industry relevant data to engage critical internal and external stakeholders to ensure quality, relevance, and alignment. Her experience has spanned the pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical device industry and the globe as she developed sustainable business model and managed strategic international relationships in Asia, the Middle East, and Europe.

Linked In Profile: Cheryl Matter

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Allison O’Connor

Vice President, Strategy and Execution

Allison is excited about the ‘real’ disruption Lifesprk is creating and the team’s energy for creating change and ‘getting it done!’ She feels there is a rare and positive dynamic culture within Lifesprk.

Allison has been in advisory services for over 15 years working in the healthcare space with providers, payors, and health care service organizations from large national players to rural critical access facilities across country. As Vice President of Strategy and Execution, Allison will continue to lead the execution of LEADS to drive accountability and outcomes and execute on other strategic initiatives or special projects that impact organizational performance companywide including annual and quarterly EOS strategy and rock process to support business strategies and facilitate decision-making strategic initiatives within the executive leadership team.

Linked In Profile: Allison O’Connor

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Mindy Stewart-Coffee

Vice President, Operations

I am really excited about joining the Lifesprk team -this is really a dream come true! Mindy’s spark is fueled by her excitement and determination to take Lifesprk’s challenges and opportunities head on and drive growth. Managing a dynamic, complex, and innovative service company is nothing new to Mindy who has been very successful aligning the operations of home health, hospice, palliative care, private-duty home care, Medicaid HCBS, integrated medication management, and care management all under one umbrella. She is ready to provide the necessary leadership, management, and vision to ensure that Lifesprk has the critical operational efficiency and people systems in place to drive our core business.

LinkedIn: Mindy Stewart-Coffee

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Carol Stanley

Vice President, LSE Innovation

Every day I am sparked… by an idea, a challenge, dance, joke, picture, poem, question, song, story, thank you, thought, wish ….endless treasures from incredible people that illustrate, in their own unique way, their passion for our work.  To play some part in making space for this genuine expression and sharing is why I joined forces with others to create Lifesprk.  Moving forward mine is one in an ever expanding collective spark that has the power to drastically improve the experience and outcomes for seniors.

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/carolstanleylifesprk

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Mitch Voss

Vice President, Finance

Passion, compassion and action spark Mitch, and for him, Lifesprk has all three in spades. From the minute he joined Lifesprk, he knew it was the right fit for him professionally and personally – the culture inspired him to jump on the bus and be a leader with an integral role in growing Lifesprk and taking the company through their exciting journey to change the aging experience.

Mitch brings nearly 10 years of experience in finance, with the last 5 in the healthcare market. Prior to joining Lifesprk, Mitch was a Finance Manager for OptumInsight where he streamlined finance processes and provided business leadership with valuable analytics and decision support. He was also the Finance Manager for Optum Clinical Solutions and Optum Health Information Exchange. Mitch also served as a senior auditor at Ernst & Young.

Mitch holds a bachelor’s in business administration and a master of accountancy from the University of Wisconsin. He is also a certified public accountant (CPA) from the Minnesota Board of Accountancy.

LinkedIn Profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mitch-voss-cpa-75365125

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Jen Blazek, RN, BSN, PHN

Hospice Administrator

Jen’s spark comes from creating meaningful late life experiences for people. She’s passionate about giving people every opportunity to live fully. Within Lifesprk seniors and their families can connect to everything they need, in one place, to complete their full life continuum. She believes this philosophy helps support hospice conversations sooner so that people and their families can benefit from having a fully integrated team to support and honor their goals and wishes. At Lifesprk she believes she has more freedom to be creative in how she can serve our clients and spark joy.


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Shannon Podewils, RN

Senior Director, Home Health

I’ve been a nurse for over 30 years in a variety of healthcare settings – hospital, clinic, long-term care insurance, case management, and home health care –  and what I’ve learned throughout my experience is that home health alone isn’t enough. To keep people successful at home, we have to be able to bridge opportunities to meet clients’ needs with a whole person approach, seamlessly across the healthcare continuum, so that once home health services end, the senior isn’t left alone to continue care on their own. This is when gaps in care occur and seniors are most at risk for returning to the hospital. People need a plan that covers the larger, long-term picture, and boosts their confidence so they can live the healthiest, most independent life possible. That’s my spark – helping people realize there’s more to achieving better outcomes than addressing the diagnosis alone.

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Tanya Castillo, RN

Director, Community Home Care

Changing the experience is about helping people access the right options for whatever they need to stay healthy and independent longer. Providing exceptional in home care through private-pay caregiving and nursing wherever someone calls home is my passion. I believe in motivating my team to deliver the kind of experiences I would want for my own family. The value we provide is backed by proven outcomes that demonstrate a whole person approach can do so much more than improve health, it changes lives.

LinkedIn: Tanya Castillo, RN

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Dr. Bill Thomas

Independence Officer

Dr. Bill Thomas is a world-renowned geriatrician, providing insights and inspiration as he prompts everyone around him to believe in a better way for seniors to age. He leads by example through his many achievements that prove a whole person approach works to improve outcomes and improve the life experience of each person we serve. Bill joined Lifesprk’s advisory board in 2012 believing that Lifesprk’s model is a ground-breaking approach posed to spread across America and then far beyond our country’s shores. Aligned with his vision for a future of aging that revolved around person-centered approaches, Bill feels Lifesprk has the right mix of risk-takers and creative thinkers to disrupt aging. An author, entrepreneur, musician, teacher, farmer and physician, Bill’s wide-ranging work explores the terrain of human aging. Best known for his health care system innovations, he is the founder of a global non-profit (The Eden Alternative) which works to improve the care provided to older people. He is the creator of The Green House® which Provider Magazine has called the “pinnacle of culture change.” Dr. Thomas also developed the Senior ER model of care and is now working to transform the acute care services provided to elders. He is also the founder of the influential multi-author blogging platform, ChangingAging.org. A popular public speaker, Bill is known for his thoughtful, heartfelt (and PowerPoint-free) approach to engaging with a wide-range of audiences. This synthesis of imagination and action led the Wall Street Journal to highlight Bill as one of the nation’s “top 10 innovators” changing the future of retirement in America and US News and World Report to name him as one of “America’s best leaders.”

Linked In Profile: Dr. Bill Thomas

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