Pamela Aaltonen, PhD, RN


Headshot of Pamela Aaltonen, PhD, RN

My first recollection of public health action, although I didn’t recognize it as such then, occurred when as a young child I lined up in the school gymnasium to get a dose of polio vaccine.  Discovery of a FIELD of public health occurred later as a junior nursing student at St. Olaf College.  My initial public health client was the pregnant girlfriend of the leader of Minneapolis’s Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Gang.  This couple taught me an important lesson about making assumptions.  I walked away with the heady knowledge that when people are approached in their own environments, opportunities expand.  I learned to value public health for its diversity, transdisciplinary collaboration and focus on vulnerable populations. 

During PHN graduate studies in Chicago, I presented my research at APHA’s annual meeting in NYC.  The collective energy, passion and focus of so many PH folks in one place was indeed au inspiring, a sense that persists today after many APHA meetings.

After working as a Minnesota State Health Department migrant health nurse, I served as a PHN at the Tulsa County Health Department.  I returned to my home state, Illinois, as Champaign-Urbana Health Department’s nursing director.  There I was an active executive board member of the Illinois Public Health Association.  A move to Indiana resulted in joining Purdue’s faculty where I taught public health science and PHN courses.  Current administrative responsibilities limit my teaching to an interdisciplinary course, annual trek with PHN students to the Navajo Nation, and guiding graduate students, often in collaboration with our School’s four FQHC clinics.  Exposing others to careers in public health, including mentoring students and young professionals, are aspects of my work that I particularly enjoy.  

I am chair of our local board of health, have served IPHA (IN) as president and ARGC, helped found the Indiana Association of Local Boards of Health, served as chair of the Great Lakes Coalition and Region V’s representative on the Council of Affiliates (CoA).  As chair of the CoA, I sat on the Executive Board (EB) which spurred me to run for and be elected to the EB in 2012, chairing the board in 2015.  I’ve chaired both the Personnel and Governance committee, been a member of the Finance Committee and the Association Improvement Workgroup.  

Candidate Statement

I, Pam Aaltonen, believe I have the attributes, experience and perspective that will enable me to serve as an effective President of APHA and represent you, the Governing Council, well.

I have had a wonderful opportunity to be engaged with APHA over a number of years in different capacities, from that of an awe-struck new member to a seasoned colleague.  I’m a passionate advocate for public health and for the many individuals whose work enriches our field. As the former chair of the Executive Board & Council of Affiliates, and a former chair of the Indiana Affiliate, I have utilized my experience within these organizations to help clarify and strengthen relationships between and among APHA staff and members, affiliates, sections, boards, SPIGS, caucuses, forums, the Student Assembly and Association committees.  I have learned much from my colleagues and gained a broader appreciation for the value our varied components bring to APHA.  APHA’s strength lies in our diversity of who we are and what experiences and perspectives we bring to the Association. 

As President-Elect/President/Past President one of my goals is to ensure that APHA is the membership organization of choice for people working in public health.  Robust, engaged membership allows our voice to resonate LOUDLY and increases opportunities for discourse through advocacy, policy development, research, and education of those within public health systems and most importantly those who fund, influence, or benefit from our practice.   I’m convinced that it is during challenging times that we have a distinctive opportunity to move forward assertively with our message.

The expectations for this position include serving on committees; recognizing, mustering, and coaching into service talented members; expanding membership; inspiring others; and communicating our vision through public speaking and writing.  I will meet these expectations with passion, energy and leadership with your support and guidance.

Curriculum Vitae