Meg Koepke, MHA, is Vice President for Medicare for Aurrera Health Group in Sacramento, California, where she is responsible for Medicare policy and strategy consulting. She is a graduate of the University of Minnesota, School of Public Health with a master’s in healthcare administration. Throughout her career she has played the part of connector – bridging the spaces between patients, healthcare delivery, and public policy. Ms. Koepke is the newest member of the ABIM Board of Directors.
You mention on LinkedIn that change and constant improvement makes you tick. Can you talk about that a little?
Maybe I’m an incrementalist or else deeply pragmatic when it comes to change. I don’t like the notion of a world where only brilliant people working at the absolute top of their scope with ample resources are able to improve things. I like the view where many of us working hard through all that life demands, all the messiness and imperfection, can make serious improvement with consistent, responsible efforts every day. That feels like a future I can buy into because it feels possible.
I like big ideas. I’ve been known to have a few, and I like engaging with people on big ideas, but I’ve been more inspired throughout my career by the opportunities I’ve had to dedicate effort to pursue “one foot in front of the other” kind of change.
When it comes to healthcare, I see the deltas between where we are and where we want to be and I’m energized to address the delta over and over, and over again. We will always have problems; in learning to love the delta I’m never bored or hopeless.
Why did you decide to join ABIM?
In truth, I did not know the ABIM Board of Directors included Board members who are not physicians. I think good things happen at the edges of a discipline, so the notion that this organization dedicated to advancing and certifying medical knowledge makes space for those who aren’t just experts on medical knowledge but have other perspectives to offer was intriguing.
In talking to other ABIM Board members, one thing that struck me was how consistent and authentic the message was around being a Board where each Director comes with a wealth of experience, expertise, AND a willingness to have their mind changed. Something about that resonated deeply. There are far too many places in our world right now where we are resistant to changing our minds. ABIM’s Board believes it is core to our values—that we bring everything we bring, but we bring it with a willingness—an appetite—for new information and to changing our own mind. This seems especially critical given our charge and the healthcare landscape today.
How will you incorporate your experience into your work as an ABIM Board member?
As a public member of the Board, I don’t have the same experience as diplomates so there is a lot for me to learn about ABIM and how it operates. In time, I hope I can help bridge the gap between what I know of the industry from my health policy and healthcare administration perspective—and how physicians, diplomates and other ABIM Directors know and understand the industry so we can better prepare for future challenges and serve ABIM in helping prepare our diplomates to meet that future.
ABIM has pledged to be an actively anti-racist organization that is working to oppose and dismantle systems and policies that cause harm to patients, disproportionately affecting those in black and brown communities. Have you done this kind of work in other organizations and have you learned any lessons that you can bring to the board?
Over the last 15 years, I have participated in or led various diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, including anti-racism efforts, in my role within health organizations and government. I am still a work in progress. I’m mindful now that the fix doesn’t come with trainings and assessments alone, but trainings and assessments were an important part of me getting reeducated, frankly, on our history as a country and the role of I play in perpetuating systemic racism.
In my experience, this work has been more personal than professional—yes, there are things we can and must do in our professional capacity and as organizations or a Board—but to do those well, and consistently, I had to be changed in my heart and headfirst. The second lesson I would say is that you have to try, even if you’re going to be bad at it. I am a white woman and I have had hardships in life, but none of them have been made more difficult by the color of my skin. And if I’m going to lead and try to build a more diverse, equitable and justice filled space in my work professionally, if I’m going to help organizations in addressing health disparities, I’m going to have to practice new language and practice new actions. I am grateful for mentors along the way who said you may feel ill-equipped to do the thing that is required next, whether it be in your hiring practices, your programs, or in how you’re showing up, but you’re going to have to try and you’re going to have to try while you know you’re bad at it in order to get better. That was a really important lesson. I remind myself of it repeatedly.
You say you are actively anti-racist. How can we all incorporate things into our lives that can help us become more actively anti-racist?
I am humbled to admit that in Minneapolis, where I lived when George Floyd was murdered, I learned another valuable lesson, which was that I am not acting with enough urgency or courage. I am not risking enough of my personal comfort to do the things that I know how to do.
I visited Montgomery, Alabama to tour the Legacy Museum and visit the National Memorial for Peace and Justice when it opened; the experience was transformative. These institutions support us in helping us seek truth and reconciliation. The experience has informed my professional approach to anti-racism as much as anything I’ve done professionally. Educating ourselves is an important first step.
What do you do for fun and what do you want diplomates to know about you?
I find problem-solving fun; I like demanding, energizing, and thought-provoking problems. Hence, a career in healthcare. Cliché as it may be, I really do love the work I do. I also enjoy the kind of fun that comes easy like breathing. I love nature and right now I’m reading A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold. It is almost as good as going out and being in nature itself.
To diplomates, I want to say that I care deeply about medicine, about its future, and that I’m honored to have this chance to support you and your practice of medicine.
That, and maybe that I’m a dog person. We have a giant, Newfie-Mastiff named Mildred, she looks a bit like Snuffleupagus from Sesame Street. I love taking her on walks in nature and that’s where you’ll find me most evenings.