Pamela M. Aaltonen, PhD, RN

Immediate Past-President

Headshot of Pamela Aaltonen, PhD, RN

Elected November 2017
Term Ending: November 2020

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 awe-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, an 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. As chair of the CoA, I sat on the Executive Board, which spurred me to run for and be elected to the Executive Board 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.