Dorney-Koppel Foundation Spotlights COPD at Stanford Medicine X | CHANGE Conference

Alice Melão, MSc avatar

by Alice Melão, MSc |

Share this article:

Share article via email
Dorney-Koppel foundation

The Dorney-Koppel Family Charitable Foundation put chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in the spotlight, leading the educational grand challenge at the recent Stanford Medicine X | CHANGE 2019 conference.

This year’s educational challenge, which lasts until December, will explore and discuss solutions to five critical problems related to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) following the principles of creative problem solving, called Design Thinking — a methodology that tackles difficult problems, while taking a patient-centered approach.

The challenge involves more than 40 participants, including patients, physicians, and researchers, who will work together to create new solutions to help those affected by COPD.

COPD is the focus of the Dorney-Koppel Family Charitable Foundation, which advocates and works to raise awareness about this often-misunderstood and under-acknowledged disease, said Grace Anne Dorney Koppel, president of the foundation and also a patient.

Dorney Koppel was diagnosed with COPD after she started to experience significant respiratory problems in 2001. Initially, she underwent several physical assessments and a blood analysis, and was found to be in “excellent health.” However, two weeks after those tests, she collapsed.

New examinations at a major medical center, which included a spirometry test, revealed that she had about 25% lung function. At this point, she was diagnosed with COPD, with three to five years to live.

“I wasn’t ready — I guess none of us are — to meet the disease that’s going to be our biggest challenge,” she said during the CHANGE 2019 conference, according to a Stanford Medicine article written by Holly MacCormick.

Since her diagnosis, she and her husband, broadcast journalist Ted Koppel, started their journey to raise awareness about COPD, and to help those affected by the disease with the creation of the Dorney-Koppel Foundation. In addition to its advocacy work, the foundation has also co-funded pulmonary rehabilitation clinics across the United States.

“Thirty million people in this country have COPD,” Ted Koppel said. “Twelve to 15 million of these people have not yet been diagnosed, and about 165,000 Americans die of this disease every year. That is more than all the Americans who died in Korea and Vietnam and Iraq and Afghanistan put together.”

Although her initial prognosis shocked her, Dorney Koppel still had hope in her rehabilitation plan and her medications. With daily exercise and specialized breathing techniques, she said she’s been able to “live, work, contribute, and maintain dignity for 18 years.”

“I’m an attorney. I’m a behavioral scientist. I’m a wife and mother. Why should I do this?” she said at the conference. “I made the decision: I’ll give up my privacy, because there are so many people [with COPD] out there. I hope I can empower them to come forward.”