On November 18, the College of Health and Human Services will host the 2021 Health and Human Services Hero Awards to recognize individuals who are making a bold difference right here in the Central Valley. We will highlight the ten honorees in our Heroes Blog Series.

PLoewen2Name: Pam Loewen

Occupation: Retired Nurse and Fresno State Nursing Alumni Liaison and Historian

Nominated by: the School of Nursing and the Central California Center for Excellence in Nursing

Generations of Fresno State nursing alumni are forever preserved in time thanks to the tenacity of one fellow bulldog – Pam Loewen. After tracking down all of her former classmates from the class of 1966 for their 40th reunion, Loewen was tapped by the Central California Center for Excellence in Nursing to work on its Nursing Legacy Project. For Loewen, this was more than a project. It was a personal endeavor built on passion and perseverance. Since then, she has dedicated countless hours exploring the Fresno State archives, taking computer courses, and working with a web designer to collect the stories and photos of 5,000 nursing alumni, beginning with the very first class in 1962. 

Loewen is not just a historian, but a pioneer. She was the first in her family to attend college, and upon earning her bachelor’s degree in nursing in 1966, Loewen went on to become the first senior public health nurse from the Fresno County Department of Public Health. 

“The School of Nursing is one of the finest programs in the state,” Loewen said. “The high level of education and leadership prepared me well to work in any area of nursing.” 

Loewen later entered the U.S. Air Force Nurse Corps, and was stationed at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico from 1975 to 1977, where she was a charge nurse in the pediatric and OB-GYN clinics. She was among some of the first nurses to receive flight nurse training, flying patients stateside. In 1977, she became a flight nurse instructor, earning her the Air Force Commendation medal and the Meritorious Service medal.

Loewen recalls with fondness a special memory from her days as a flight nurse, flying patients out of Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, home of the Air Force Thunderbirds. 

“The pilot announced on the loudspeaker that we should look out the windows as we had a special escort,” Loewen said. “We looked out and saw that the Air Force Thunderbirds were flying in formation around our plane and saluting us from their cockpits!” 

While in inactive reserve and working as a school nurse, Loewen earned two master’s degrees from the University of Hawaii, one as a clinical nurse specialist and the other in community health. Her expertise would lead to her 20-year career as a public health nurse at the Monterey County Health Department, where she coordinated their High Risk Infant Follow-Up program for 16 years and headed their Tuberculosis Unit before retiring in 2004.  

Four years later, Loewen received Fresno State’s prestigious Top Dog Alumni Award for the College of Health and Human Services in recognition of her pioneering spirit and work in the field of nursing. Of the profession, Loewen said, 

“It is a humanitarian service, whether you are working for the Peace Corps or the military peacekeepers, or on the frontlines of our local hospitals helping to fight the COVID virus. Nurses are the real heroes.”

The 2021 Health and Human Services Hero Awards, which celebrates heroes from each of the seven departments, as well as centers and institutes within our college, will be held virtually this year. For more information on the event, contact Beth Wilkinson at bwilkinson@csufresno.edu.