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2011 Keynote Speaker Knows What It’s Like to Live Well With COPD

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October 4, 2011

Grace Anne Koppel
Grace Anne Dorney Koppel

Grace Anne Dorney Koppel is every pulmonary rehab RT’s dream patient. Diagnosed with COPD in 2001 and told she might only have another few years to live, this year’s keynote speaker at AARC Congress 2011 just said “no”—there had to be something she could do.

And there was. She found a pulmonary rehabilitation program and enrolled, and ten years later is still going strong, serving as an attorney in private practice in Potomac, MD, and business manager for her husband, former Nightline anchor Ted Koppel. “Pulmonary rehabilitation gave me my life back,” she says.

At AARC Congress 2011, her keynote address is titled, Dispensing Courage. It will focus on the real meaning of heroism and courage in the context of working with COPD patients for whom there is no medical cure.

“For me, until the cure is here, the Gospel of COPD is that other than our medications, our best hope is to teach, to inspire and to rehabilitate, to give those who have lung disease the motivation to persevere,” said Koppel. “We have a shared mission with the AARC—improving the quality of life of all who have lung disease.”

She still exercises an hour a day, proving what PR RTs tell their patients all the time—that rehab doesn’t end at the end of the program, but must be a lifelong endeavor.

Somewhere in the middle of all of these activities she’s also found time to be a spokesperson for the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s Learn More Breathe Better campaign, bringing her own knowledge of COPD to bear on programs aimed at raising awareness of the condition.

And she’s gone to bat for COPD patients in an underserved area of the country as well, with the establishment of the Grace Ann Dorney Pulmonary & Cardiac Rehabilitation Center in Leonardtown, MD, a state-of-the-art facility funded by husband Ted as a birthday gift to his wife. They are currently scouting other areas of the country where other centers may be built.

Koppel will share her insights into COPD and pulmonary rehabilitation with Congress goers during the opening ceremonies in Tampa on Nov. 5, and attendees are sure to walk away with a new appreciation not only of how pulmonary rehab can help COPD patients, but how COPD patients can make the most of the rehabilitation they receive.

Learn more about Koppel’s impact on the COPD community in this article in the March 2010 issue of AARC Times.