VARA Kay LAHDENPERA
• Public Health Care
VARA Kay LAHDENPERA
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).View Extended Bio