Mount St. Joseph University

Physician Assistant Profession Celebrates 50-Year-Milestone

Academics, Physician Assistant Studies, Physician Assistant, School of Health Sciences, Department of Physician Assistant Studies

By: Amanda Gratsch

File Under: national pa week, physician assistant studies

The Physician Assistant (PA) profession reaches 50 years of dedicated service and contribution to patients across the nation.

Created to improve and expand healthcare, PA has forever changed, and continues to change the American Healthcare system through its commitment to provide basic medical services under the supervision of a licensed physician.

According to the American Academy of Physician Assistants, in the mid-1960s, physicians and educators recognized there was a shortage of primary care physicians. As a result, Eugene A. Stead Jr., MD, of the Duke University Medical Center, put together the first class of PAs in 1965.

He selected four Navy Hospital Corpsmen who had received considerable medical training during their military service, basing the curriculum of the PA program on his knowledge of the fast-track training of doctors during World War II.

Thus, the Corpsmen were the first students in the program, successfully passing their medical skills test like the medical students at Duke University. The first PA class graduated from the Duke University PA program on Oct. 6, 1967.

The PA concept was praised early on and gained acceptance as early as the 1970s as a solution to physician shortages in the field. The medical community helped support the new profession and helped move forward with accreditation standards, establishment of a national certification process and standardized examination, and development of continuing medical education requirements.

Patrick Cafferty, MPAS, PA-C, Program Director and Chair of the Physician Assistant Studies program at the Mount, is excited to see how far the profession has come.

"Having had a front row seat over the past 35 years, I am amazed at how well the PA profession has grown. I'm very excited that our PA program is set to start during this 50th Anniversary year."

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the PA field is expected to grow as much as 30 percent from 2014-2024, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Futhermore, in honor of National PA week, the Mount has provided a historical exhibit of an array of photos, information, articles and more that reflects on the astounding history surrounding the PA practice. The exhibit is located in the Library Building, right outside of the library.

To learn more about the Mount’s Physician Assistant program, please click here for details.