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Honor our Physician Assistants during National Physician Assistant Week

Oct. 08, 2013 College News - National PA Week is celebrated annually in the United States from Oct. 6, the anniversary of the first class of PAs to graduate from Duke University in 1967, through Oct. 12. It is the perfect time for the MCW community to celebrate the contributions of MCW’s 123 physician assistants (PAs).

PAs support all of the missions of the College – patient care, education, research and community engagement. In their patient care roles, they work in the operating room, the emergency department, procedural areas like interventional radiology, and on the wards and in the clinics.  They provide care at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, Froedtert Hospital, and many other places in the community. On a national level, there is even a PA who serves in the U.S. House of Representatives (Rep. Karen Bass, D-CA).

Physician assistants are state-licensed to practice medicine in collaboration with physicians in a team-based effort to provide excellent patient care.  PAs take histories, perform physical exams, order and interpret lab and radiologic tests, diagnose and treat patients; prescribe medications; and provide patient education as part of the health care team.

The PA profession was first proposed to the American Medical Association in 1961 due to widespread concern about the shortage of primary care physicians, and was well-accepted.  In 1965, Dr. Eugene A. Stead, Jr. of Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina assembled the first class of physician assistants, composed of former U.S. Navy Hospital corpsmen with significant medical training from their military experience. He based the curriculum of the PA program, in part, on his first-hand knowledge of the fast-track training of medical doctors during World War II. 

Today, PA school curriculum largely mirrors that which is seen in medical school, combining both didactic and clerkship learning over an average of 27 months.  After graduating from an accredited program, which will usually confer a master’s degree, PAs may become nationally certified after passing their national board exam, and may practice after obtaining licensure from the state in which they plan to work.  They are required to complete 100 continuing medical education hours every two years to maintain their state license.  

There are more than 84,000 PAs nationwide.  To learn more about PAs, please visit the website of the American Academy of PAs, their national organization, at www.aapa.org.  Happy PA Week!

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Page Updated 10/08/2013