Aja Tulleners Lesh, PhD, RN



Aja Tulleners Lesh, PhD, RN, is a professor at APU’s School of Nursing (SON). She served as Dean of the School of Nursing for 19 years and stepped down in 2022. She has been active in nursing for 40 years as a clinician, educator, and researcher. During her 14-year tenure as Dean, the School has expanded to span the breadth of nursing education from the traditional Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing to include LVN and RN to BSN, and to encompass a broad spectrum of graduate programs including the Entry Level Master’s, the MSN with Advance Practice specializations, Education, and Health Care Administration as well as the Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing and the Doctor of Nursing Practice. Programs are currently offered on the main campus, at satellite site, and at three regional campuses. Dr. Lesh has an extensive background in the area of maternal/child health, community and mental health, and family dynamics. She received her OB/Gynecological Nurse Practitioner Certificate from CSULA and has held clinical positions both in acute care and in primary care. Over the years Dr. Lesh has been the principal investigator of over $25 million in state and federal funding to support her research in the areas of family health and functioning. She has directed the Infant, Child and Family Project for the past 30 years, a program that has been instrumental in improving the health of young infants and their families throughout the San Gabriel Valley and surrounding areas. The Infant, Child and Family Project has been supported by a wide variety of funding sources including federal grants (CSAP), state grants(Department of Health and Department of Mental Health), county contracts ( DCFS), and local foundations support, including First 5 LA. Dr. Lesh has authored over 30 research reports on intervention outcomes. She is also the author and principal investigator of a defining study on at risk infants commissioned by the State Department of Health in 2000. She serves as a consultant for strategic planning, program development and program evaluation in the areas of health, education, and social services. Dr. Lesh also has a passion for international health. Since 1993 she has traveled extensively to support the professional expansion of nursing in areas such as China, South Africa, and Viet Nam. She developed study abroad opportunities for nursing students and research collaboration for nursing faculty in Brazil, China, Norway, South Africa, and Vietnam. Dr. Lesh continues to serve as a consultant for strategic planning, program development and evaluation in the areas of health, education, and social services. She designed evaluation studies for Healthy Start initiatives; federal and state funded substance abuse treatment programs, domestic violence shelters, and services for victims of abuse. She also established benchmarking for physician practice in local hospitals and provided consultation for translational research studies and health care improvement projects. As Dean, she strongly encouraged research and grants development at the School of Nursing resulting in the establishment of the Institute of Health Research and $11 million in grant funding in the past five years. Dr. Lesh is active in the profession and the community, lending her expertise to a number of professional organizations, community and hospital boards, as well as speaking nationally and internationally on nursing education, strategic planning, program development and evaluation. She utilizes her extensive clinical and administrative background to inform her research trajectory and her teaching. She continues to teach research, organizational systems, strategic planning, and evaluation research to APU nursing graduate and doctoral students. She has been recognized by the profession and the community, and as Woman Achiever of the Year by Business Life Magazine.


  • BSN, University of California, Los Angeles
  • MN, University of California, Los Angeles
  • PhD, Claremont Graduate University


  • NP Certificate, CSULA

Academic Area

  • School of Behavioral and Applied Sciences
  • School of Nursing


  • Evaluation Research
  • Strategic Planning
  • Maternal and Child Health
  • Family Dynamics
  • Ethics / Organizational Leadership
  • Community and Mental Health

Courses Taught

  • GNRS 504 - Bioethic and Health Care Policy
  • GNRS 506 - Spiritual Concept Analysis in Health Care
  • GNRS 708 - Qualitative Nursing Research Design I
  • GNRS 712 - Advanced Evaluation Research
  • GNRS 718 - Organizational Leadership and Strategic Planning
  • GNRS 781 - Developing a Grant Proposal
  • RMS 709 - Grant and Scientific Writing