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V. Kay Lahdenpera

Photo of V. Kay Lahdenpera
1936
Biography

Nursing is like clothing, it comes in cycles, I was trained in working as part of a team and I do hope the team approach returns to nursing.”

Kay Lahdenpera is a legend in nursing in Alaska and has touched thousands of women’s lives throughout her 45-year career in public health. Born in Juneau, Alaska, in 1936 she is a third-generation Alaskan.

Lahdenpera earned her nursing degree with a specialization in public health and psychiatry from the University of Washington in 1961. After graduating she worked in New York at Bellevue Hospital and was the only nurse for 100 neglected children at St. Barnabas House. In 1965, Lahdenpera returned to Anchorage and was hired by the Greater Anchorage Area Borough Health Department as a public health nurse. In 1967 she became manager for the Region X, Title X Family Planning Clinic. Lahdenpera also pursued a Master’s Degree in Psychology at the University of Alaska Anchorage, but ultimately completed her Master’s in Public Health from Loma Linda University’s Extended Degree Program in1985.

During her 35 years at the Borough, then the Municipal Health Department, Lahdenpera was instrumental in implementing sex education in the Anchorage School District; adding a Region X, Title X Women’s Health program; establishing the clinic as a training ground for state public health nurses, village health aides, and many students from UAA; obtaining training for the first women’s health nurse practitioners (NPs) in Alaska through OBGYN board-certified doctors who volunteered numerous hours to assist with certifying NPs so they could complete their course requirements. Under supervision of these doctors, NPs were, for the first time, able to perform colposcopies, which become an invaluable service for low-income women receiving care at the Health Department and laid the foundation for NPs to be hired by local doctors. As a result, NPs’ scope of practice expanded to include everything from assisting with training medical students in the University of Washington’s WAMI program to prescribing medication.

Lahdenpera’s leadership style ensured her staff was an integral part of a team and she contributes her success to her team. Because of this team approach, there was very little turnover within the clinic under her leadership. The data that Lahdenpera and her team collected as part of the colposcopy project was presented at numerous local, national and international conferences ultimately elevating NPs as a vital and core part of the U.S. and international health care systems. In the 1980s, Lahdenpera and her team presented a poster entitled “Nurse Practitioners (NP) Colposcopy Project” at both the Circumpolar Health Summit and the Alaska Public Health Summit. This presentation received special interest from Canadian medical doctors to use NPs in rural communities throughout Canada. Lahdenpera and her team also presented at numerous national conferences including two presentations at the National Family Planning Reproductive Health Association Conference in Washington, D.C., and at the American Public Health Association Conference in Boston. These presentations, titled, “Nurse Practitioner Colposcopy Project in Anchorage, Alaska” and “Family Planning Project for Troubled Teens in Anchorage, Alaska” introduced the Colposcopy and the Family Planning for Troubled Teens projects on a national level and resulted in a professional consultation request from Region IV’s State Family Planning Division in North Carolina to help institute a similar family planning project for troubled teens in North Carolina.

Lahdenpera’s success took her to an international level in 1993 when she was invited to join the Eisenhower Ambassador Program and traveled to China to present the “Family Planning Project for Troubled Teens” and “Reproductive Health and STD Issues” programs. The international success of the programs expanded in 1997 when the team was invited to make a poster presentation at XV FIGO World Congress of Gynecology & Obstetrics, Copenhagen, Denmark, titled “Quality Assurance, Nurse Practitioners and Colposcopy Project in Anchorage, Alaska.” This presentation was the only on done by a nurse practitioner and a public health nurse manager at the World Congress for Medical Doctors.

Other professional endeavors have included serving on numerous professional boards including: Planned Parenthood, Alaska Mental Health Association, Anchorage League of Women Voters, Alaska Theater of Youth (President), Alaska Nurses Association (President), Alaska Youth and Parent Foundation (President), Kids’ Corp Inc. and the Retired Public Employees Association.

Lahdenpera has also received a plethora of awards for her accomplishments, including being the first recipient of the Alaska Nurses Association Community Service Award (1991) and the Alaska March of Dimes Nurse of the Year Award for “Legends of Nursing” (2009). Other awards have included: American Nurses Association Excellence in Nursing Award (1993); Title X Family Planning Program Excellence in Management Award (1994); Office of Women’s Health, U.S. Public Health Service, Region X “Appreciation for Your Work on Behalf of African American Women’s Health Care” Award (1996); National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, Inc. “Outstanding Local Service” Award (in 1997); BP and YWCA Women of Achievement Award (1997); the Service plaque from Health Care Coalition of Alaska (1993); DHHS, PHS Region X Women’s Health & Family Planning Award for Leadership in Promoting Statewide Women’s Health Activities in the PHS, Region X (1999); MOA Assembly Award for “dedication and service to the people of Anchorage for 35 years to improve the public health of Anchorage” (1999); Alaska Public Health Association (ALPHA) Long-Term Service Award in recognition of contributions to ALPHA and the health of Alaska (2000); American Academy of Nurse Practitioners State Award for “Nurse Practitioner Advocate” (2004); and Alaska Nurses Association Hall of Fame” Award (2009).

Induction ceremony acceptance speech https://youtu.be/udoDi2NbdX0

Notes

Kay Lahdenpera is a legend in nursing in Alaska and has touched thousands of women’s lives throughout her 45-year career in public health. Born in Juneau, Alaska, in 1936 she is a third generation Alaskan. Lahdenpera earned her nursing degree from the University of Washington in 1961. After graduating she worked in New York at Bellevue Hospital and was the nurse for 100 neglected children at St. Barnabas House. In 1965 Lahdenpera returned to Anchorage and was hired by the Greater Anchorage Area Borough Health Department as a public health nurse. In 1967 she became manager for the Region X, Title X Family Planning Clinic. Lahdenpera completed her Master’s in Public Health in1985.

During her 35 years at the Health Department, Lahdenpera was instrumental in implementing the Region X, Title X Women’s Health program and establishing the clinic as a training program for the first women’s health nurse practitioners (NPs) in Alaska. As a result of this training program, NPs were, for the first time, able to perform colposcopies and prescribe medication within their scope of practice. The clinic is a training ground for health care professionals, including medical students. Local physicians saw the value of NPs and began to hire them.

Lahdenpera has presented at numerous local, national and international conferences ultimately elevating NPs to become a vital and a core part of the U.S. and international health care systems. In the 1980s, Lahdenpera’s team presented a poster presentation at both the Circumpolar Health Summit and the Alaska Public Health Summit. This presentation received special interest from Canadian medical doctors to use NPs in rural communities throughout Canada. Lahdenpera and her team also presented at numerous national conferences including the National Family Planning Reproductive Health Association Conference and at the American Public Health Association Conference. These presentations introduced the Colposcopy and the Family Planning for Troubled Teens projects on a national level. Lahdenpera’s success elevated to an international level in 1993 when she joined the Eisenhower Ambassador Program that traveled to China. In 1997 Lahdenpera and her team made a Poster Presentation at the XV FIGO World Congress of Gynecology & Obstetrics, Copenhagen, Denmark. This presentation was the only presentation done by a nurse practitioner and a public health nurse manager at the World Congress for Medical Doctors.

Lahdenpera has volunteered on numerous professional boards throughout Alaska and has received a plethora of awards for her accomplishments including: being one of the first recipients of the Alaska March of Dimes Nurse of the Year Award for “Legends of Nursing” (2009), the first American Nurses Association Excellence in Nursing Award (1993); Title X Family Planning Program Excellence in Management Award (1994); National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, Inc. (Outstanding Local Service Award from (1997); BP and YWCA Women of Achievement Award (1997); and Alaska Nurses Association “Hall of Fame” Award (2009).

Induction ceremony acceptance speech https://youtu.be/udoDi2NbdX0