Catherine’s Health Center CEO announces retirement

Karen Kaashoek. Courtesy Catherine’s Health Center

Longtime CEO of Catherine’s Health Center Karen Kaashoek will be retiring after 24 years with the organization.

Kaashoek began her position as CEO in 2007. Prior to taking on the top leadership role, she volunteered for and worked at the organization beginning in 1997.

Before joining Catherine’s Health Center, Kaashoek brought 22 years of experience working for Saint Mary’s Hospital in Grand Rapids and Munster Community Hospital in Munster, Indiana.

Kaashoek will remain in her position until her replacement has been selected by a joint search committee created by the board of directors and an executive search firm. She also plans to provide a smooth transition for the new CEO by orienting them for a period of time upon their start date.

“On behalf of the board of directors of Catherine’s Health Center, I would like to express our deep appreciation to Karen for her many years of inspirational leadership and her unbending commitment to providing high quality, compassionate health care services to those most in need in our community,” said Dr. Jim Byrne, board chairperson of Catherine’s. “She leaves behind a strong organization with deep community roots and a talented and committed staff, poised for even greater contributions in the future. She will be greatly missed, and we wish her and husband John a wonderful ‘next phase.’”

Throughout her career, Kaashoek made herself available where there was a need. In her time as a “resource” nurse at Saint Mary’s, she followed those needs to the Creston neighborhood clinic of St. Alphonsus Parish, where she knew there was a need to provide quality, affordable health care.

Catherine’s Health Center was founded in 1996 as a joint venture between Mercy Health Saint Mary’s (then called Saint Mary’s Health Services), St. Alphonsus Parish and the Creston Neighborhood Association, motivated by rising concerns and neighborhood conversations in Creston in 1993.

“The space was small, crowded, and while it wasn’t anything special to look at, it was a sacred space,” Kaashoek said. “Families who had nowhere else to turn for affordable health care found a home at Catherine’s. Patients living with untreated chronic diseases found a safe space to learn about their health and got the tools they needed to get and stay healthy. At Catherine’s, I had the opportunity to not just help people one by one, but to make a lasting difference, opening doors for community members who were too often denied lifesaving and sustaining care.”

Under Kaashoek’s leadership, the organization later moved to St. Alphonsus School on Lafayette Street in 2011 after moving from the basement of St. Alphonsus on Leonard Street. Following the move, the building later became LEED Gold Certified after a capital funding campaign started in 2009 to support the renovation of the facility.

The Catherine’s Health Center name also was adopted in 2009 as a reflection of the organization’s extended services, and later became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit federally qualified health center providing medical, behavioral health, dental and health promotion/disease prevention services.

Organizational achievements under Kaashoek’s leadership include:

  • Raised $1.3 million for move into expanded facility
  • Received Torch Award from the Better Business Bureau of West Michigan
  • Launched Health Insurance Navigation Services
  • Achieved national accreditation as Patient Centered Medical Home
  • Partnered with Streams of Hope to open a third clinic location

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