Potampa retiring, moving to Maui


Karen PotampaKaren Potampa, one of the first family nurse practitioners in this area, will be retiring Aug. 7, and relocating to Maui, Hawaii.

Potampa grew up in Gateway and graduated from Madras High School.

“I’m a fourth-generation Vibbert from Gateway. I was born in Redmond before there was a hospital in Madras,” she said, noting her ancestors were homesteaders.

She started her career by earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 1969 from the University of Oregon School of Nursing in Portland. She worked as a registered nurse in Portland and Corvallis until 1978, when she and her husband Orrin moved to Madras.

At Mountain View Hospital, she worked as the obstetrics supervisor, then was the director of nurses for a period.

“I decided to go back and get a practitioner’s degree, and got a family nurse practitioner degree with a master’s from the University of Portland in 1992,” she said.

She opened an office at the Madras Medical and Surgical Associates (later called the Family Care Clinic), next to the hospital, where she practiced from 1992 to 2007.

While still working, Potampa began work on an online certified nurse midwifery program through the Frontier School of Nurse Midwifery in Hyden, Kent., along with friend Yvonne Stevenson, the other Madras area family nurse practitioner. Potampa earned midwifery certification in 1994.

The community accepted the idea of a nurse practitioner right away, she said, noting, “Yvonne and I were the first ones and we did a lot of obstetrical work due to women’s preference for a female provider.”

It also helped that she had grown up here and patients already knew her and her family members. “It was very helpful and the practice took off due to familiarity,” she said.

Over her many years in medicine, Potampa said the biggest change has been the regulations.

“There are a lot more regulations in terms of managed care, evaluation, computerization, electronics, and the advancement of diagnostics from X-rays to MRIs,” she observed.

Potampa said she adjusted easily to the new technology, but admitted, “It’s a tremendous challenge to stay current with pharmaceuticals.”

In 2007, she took a leave from her practice to care for her husband, who passed away from cancer in November of that year. She returned to work at Madras Medical and Surgical Associates in 2009, and on Sept. 4, 2012, joined the practice at Madras Medical Group.

After being a widow for six years, she recently remarried Ian Kinnear, a retired dentist who lives in Maui, and she will be moving there Sept. 29.

In her new home, Potampa said, “I’m going to enjoy the things I didn’t get to when I had to get up for 44 years and go to work. I plan to do a lot of crafts, and get back into wood carving and quilting. Ian likes to travel, so we’ll be doing that too.”

The hardest thing for her will be leaving all the patients she’s become attached to without feeling like she’s abandoning them.

“But I’ll be back and forth to visit. I have grandchildren – I’ll be back!” she said, noting that her son and daughter, Jason and Erin Potampa, still live in Culver and Madras.