Wilderness Health Staff

Cassandra Beardsley, Executive Director

Cassandra Beardsley has more than a decade of experience in the health insurance industry. Prior to becoming executive director of Wilderness Health, she worked in various senior operational management roles with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota and FirstPlan of Minnesota.

Beardsley brings extensive expertise in Medicare, Medicaid and commercial insurance products as well as other employee benefit products. She was recently named to the Health Industry Advisory Panel for MNSure, the Minnesota health exchange.

Beardsley holds her bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Minnesota Duluth. An active member of the community, she serves on the board of directors for the United Way of Greater Duluth and the Two Harbors Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA). She is also past president of the North Shore Rotary Club and is president and a coach for the Two Harbors Soccer Club.

Dr. Gretchen Karstens, Medical Director   gretchen.karstens@slhduluth.com


E.J Howarth, Quality Analyst

Elmer Howarth is a Quality Analyst who works with Wilderness Health and is responsible for managing quality improvement activities. Prior to his Quality Analyst role, he worked as a Community Health Director administrating operations and quality improvement activities for Rural Health Clinics and community prevention programs.

Howarth is an Inupiaq Eskimo who grew up in Northern Alaska north of the Arctic Circle where the midnight sun takes place in the summer months. He enjoys spending time with family camping, harvesting of traditional foods, and sharing stories around the campfire. His knowledge of rural health care and administration background offers Wilderness Health expertise in the understanding of working with all levels of professions. He offers services from analyzing data, identifying opportunities to improve patient outcomes to offering technical support for quality improvement initiatives.

Howarth has a bachelor’s degree in Applied Psychology and Biblical Studies where he graduated with academic achievement as Mega Cum Laude from Oak Hills Christian College. He also has a master of science in Psychology with an Emphasis in General Psychology from Grand Canyon University.

Katie Peck, RN Care Navigator

For 13 years Katie Peck has had a diverse background in healthcare. Starting in 2006, Katie received her Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certification through the Wilderness Medical Institute with the National Outdoor Leadership School. As an EMT and volunteer ski patroller through the National Ski Patrol, Katie started her healthcare career in the mountains of Breckenridge, Colorado. After working for four years within the local Emergency Department, Katie was motivated to return to nursing school to pursue a higher level education in healthcare and to learn another country’s healthcare system. Katie in 2014 received a Bachelor’s in Science of Nursing through the University of British Columbia- Vancouver. She then returned to the United State to practice as a Registered Nurse (RN) starting in Colorado and then Minnesota in Orthopedics, Neurology, Family Practice, Labor and Delivery, Home Care and now with Wilderness Health. Katie has also received her Public Health RN Certification through the Minnesota Board of Nursing and currently has her RN license in Minnesota, Wisconsin and British Columbia.

Katie has long had a passion for the outdoors and adventure. Prior to her healthcare career, Katie also received a Bachelor’s of Applied Science from the University of Minnesota- Duluth in Outdoor Education and Recreation. Katie has been an environmental educator and outdoor guide in Minnesota, California, Alaska, Colorado and Australia. Katie has maintained her volunteer status with the National Ski Patrol. She has also has served an RN for the United States Rafting Team in Brazil and a volunteer for the Boulder Food Rescue. From skiing to paddling, Katie with her family loves to purse all the outdoor adventures northern Minnesota has to offer.

Michelle Hargrave, Project Manager