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Packard Health Champion Karen Koeppe Retires

Twenty years ago Jerry and Julie Walden listened to an articulate and compassionate woman speak at Life Lessons, an integrated cardiac wellness program at St. Joseph Mercy's Michigan Heart and Vascular Institute. Dr. Jerry Walden, Packard Health founder, recruited her on the spot to join his small clinic.

This month, Karen Koeppe, Registered Dietitian, Nutritionist, and Certified Diabetes Educator, retired from Packard Health after 20 years of service.

To chat with Karen is to understand how countless patients have improved their lives working with her…and to appreciate what Jerry Walden saw so many years ago.

Here are 4 things we admire so much about Karen.  

Essential team player
When a patient comes to Packard, they join forces with a primary provider, maybe a mental health therapist or addiction specialist, and often a chronic disease manager, Karen. Everyone works closely together, communicating, coordinating, listening. It’s not idle talk when a patient exclaims, “That Karen, she’s awesome!” 

Empowering Educator
There could be a sign on Karen’s office door saying “knowledge is power”. That’s what you feel when you step inside. You have the power to understand your chronic disease – and you have the power to make choices. Karen helped patients live the life they chose. As she says, “I put the patient in the driver’s seat.” Knowledgeable, compassionate, motivating, and non-judging, she was the perfect person for the job.

Energetic Can Do-er
Working at Packard Health is a roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-it-done endeavor. Karen was great at it. She’s helped Packard achieve and maintain a blue-ribbon certification of care – Blue Cross, Blue Shield Patient Centered Medical Home. She’s shared her knowledge in team presentations on Social Determinants of Health to UM medical students. Maybe you’ve seen her representing Packard at Ann Arbor’s annual CROP walk or at a table after your church service. She’s run down grants to fund home blood pressure monitors, and nutritional supplements for cancer patients. Packard Health Fair? Karen was there to help.

Strong Community Builder 
“What I love about Packard is that right from the beginning it was designed to create community,” says Karen. She was an early adopter and developer of Diabetes Group Medical Appointments, where patients share their experiences, learn from each other, and find hope. And here’s to the Packard Pacers! Karen created the summer walking group (2005-2018) that hiked the trails of County Farm Park, supported each other, adopted healthy habits. and found fun and friendship along the way. Watch video.  

In 2000 Karen joined Packard Community Clinic with Jerry and Julie Walden and 5 part-time providers. Today Packard Health is a Federally Qualified Health Center with comprehensive, team-based programming delivered at 3 office locations, at the medical clinic at the Delonis Center, and in partnership with Avalon Housing. As our longest serving employee, Karen can look way back, but she’s looking ahead and is excited about health and wellness services at Packard long into the future. 

Retirement? Karen will volunteer making phone calls urging people to vote, to have a voice (she’s doing that already!). She’s also looking forward to bringing her special brand of care giving to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. After all, as Jerry Walden said so long ago, "Karen has a passion for helping and healing."

Congratulations to Karen, a real Packard Health Champion!