Our Leadership Team

Sarah McSpadden, RN, MSN, MHA
President and Chief Executive Officer

Sarah McSpadden has more than 20 years of experience leading home health, post-acute medical care, palliative care, and hospice programs. She serves on the Board of Directors for the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) and on hospice and regulatory compliance committees at the state and national levels, including the Quality and Standards National Committee at NHPCO and the Education Committee of the California Hospice and Palliative Care Association (CHAPCA).

760.737.2050 x 2634

Cheryl Farst
Chief Administrative Officer

Cheryl Farst oversees the company’s day-to-day executive office administrative activities including administrative functions related to the Board of Directors. She is responsible for the maintenance and services of the administrative offices to ensure that they meet the needs of the organization and its employees. As a member of The Elizabeth Hospice leadership team, Cheryl aids in developing and implementing business and strategic plans.



Jean Loo-Russo
Chief Philanthropy Officer

Jean Loo-Russo has been working as a fundraising professional in the nonprofit industry for 15 years. She is responsible for all aspects of the organization’s philanthropic efforts. Jean serves on the Board of Directors for the North San Diego Business Chamber and is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, North County Philanthropy Council, Rancho Bernardo Sunrise Rotary, and Escondido Charitable Foundation.


Deena Nelson
Chief Financial Officer

Deena Nelson has more than 10 years of financial leadership experience in the hospice and palliative care industry. As Chief Financial Officer, she oversees financial operations and financial strategies to help drive the organization’s mission. Deena is a member of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, California Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and the National Partnership for Hospice Innovation.



Mary Kate O’Connell
Chief People Officer

Mary Kate O’Connell oversees all human resource activities for The Elizabeth Hospice, including talent acquisition, compensation, benefits, performance review and reward programs, employee relations and policy development. She has more than 20 years of experience in the human resources field, working in nonprofit and for-profit organizations.


Darlene Rutledge, MSN, RN
Chief Clinical Officer

Darlene Rutledge has 30 years of experience working in leading hospice and palliative care programs throughout the U.S. She oversees clinical operations for the organization, ensuring that all clinical teams are delivering the highest quality of care for patients and family members impacted by serious illness, grief and loss. Additionally, she is responsible for our community-based counseling and grief support services for children and adults. Darlene is certified in Lean Healthcare and is an ELNEC and EPEC-certified clinician and educator.

760. 737.2050 x 2514