Faces of COPD: Kristen Willard, '...there is someone here who can help you.'

Posted on November 28, 2017   |   

Kristen shares what she and her team do at the COPD Foundation, what drives her and what advice she would give to people living with COPD or caring for a loved one affected by this devastating disease. Read on to learn more.

As the Vice President of Population Health & Care Delivery, Kristen and her team “connect patients and healthcare providers to resources that can improve their lives and healthcare delivery, respectively.”

Kristen Willard with the COPD Foundation “Every day,” explains Kristen, “we interact with a variety of individuals—physicians and respiratory therapists, nurses and pharmacists—and people with COPD and those who care about them deeply. I’ve been with the COPD Foundation (COPDF) for 2.5 years and it’s an honor to do this work every day.”

She first learned about COPD when a family member told Kristen her father had been diagnosed with emphysema. “I will never forget that moment. I felt dazed and scared.”

Her father had a lot of support, though, says Kristen, and this made a big difference in his quality of life. “Thankfully, my father had an invested and supportive care team who ensured he used the medications that worked best for him, referred him to pulmonary rehabilitation and, when appropriate, end-of-life care.”

Kristen’s father was diagnosed at a time when the COPD Foundation had not yet been formed, when resources were scarce and clear support systems were not in place. This is a big part of what drives Kristen’s work at the Foundation.

Kristen Willard with the COPD Foundation “I cannot imagine how much more we as a family would know now had COPDF been in existence when my father was diagnosed. I hope to make him proud every day and contribute to projects and programs that improve the lives of people like my father and his mother, who also died of COPD.”

Kristen wants people to know that “more and more every year, COPD is not a death sentence” and help is there for those who need it. “Even as the child of a father with COPD, I was unaware of the variety of measures available to COPD patients to improve their lives and achieve their goals.”

She is “regularly astonished by the power of exercise, community, adherence to medications and device regimens—and just how substantially these can improve or maintain improvements in those with COPD.”

Education and support are key and that’s where the COPD Foundation comes in. As Kristen explains, “there is someone here who can help you. Whether you have COPD yourself, love someone who does, want to advocate for change or learn to maximize your patient care, there is a place and resources for you within COPDF. It’s important to know you are not alone.”

If you are living with COPD or have a loved one who is, Kristen’s advice is to “talk about your disease and your experiences. Don’t be ashamed of your illness.”

She firmly believes “the more we talk as a community and share our thoughts and needs, the more we will establish ourselves as a group that demands the attention and support of the global community—a world where few recognize COPD as a public health crisis.”

She encourages everyone affected by this disease to “live and thrive with COPD, with or without oxygen, with or without a history of smoking, new to the community or a COPD360social Answer Oracle. We are all in this together.”


You need to login to comment.
  • Kristen, Thank You for being a wonderful care provider, it is very difficult to find answers when healthcare do not have resources or answers themselves. Thank You for being here for us! Love Bill66
  • We are so happy to have you on our team. Your expertise is greatly appreciated.
  • Thank you so much for all of your help and encouragement.
  • Great to hear your story, Kristen. Thanks so much for all you do to support the Foundation's critical programs.
  • Thanks so much for sharing your story. Your genuine compassion and concern for people makes you such a great member of the COPDF team!
  • Thank you, Kristen, for sharing your story.

  • After meeting you at the recent awards fundraiser and being in contact, I knew you were special. Now, learning of your personal story, I am inspired. Your work at the Foundation is so important and will have a positive impact on so many people.
  • Having met you in Chicago, and now reading about your driving force, I'm even more appreciative of your work. The problem for those of us on the outside, it's difficult knowing whose just a CPDR'er and whose working on our behalf.
    Thanks for your help. As you know, I a "cup-half-full" kinda guy. Deal with life's blows as they come along. Can't dwell on why... rather how to improve your status.
  • Thank you, Kristen, for all that you do for the COPD Community - we're so very fortunate that you joined the Foundation staff.
  • Thank you, everyone, for your kind and supportive words. I feel so lucky you have welcomed me into this special community.
  • Thank you so much for sharing this Kristen, and for all the wonderful work you do at the Foundation! :)