Physician assistants fill vital need

In the mid-1960s, physicians and educators recognized there was a shortage and uneven distribution of primary-care physicians. To expand the delivery of quality medical care, Dr. Eugene Stead of the Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina put together the first class of physician assistants in 1965.

He selected Navy corpsmen who received considerable medical training during their military service and during the war in Vietnam but who had no comparable civilian employment. He based the curriculum of the PA program in part on his knowledge of the fast-track training of doctors during World War II.

On Oct. 6, 1967, the Duke University PA program graduated the first PA students who went on to start practicing as PAs. Today there are more than 79,000 graduates of PA programs.

The profession has evolved from certificate granting programs in the 1960s to a master's-degree level today. In the CSRA, licensed PAs work under the supervision of physicians, with a certain amount of autonomy, based on their experience. Today, they can be found practicing in all area hospitals and in private practice in the areas of medicine. surgery, internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, rehabilitation -- the list could go on.

During the week of Oct. 6-12, physician assistants celebrate their founding 44 years ago and are grateful to the physicians, educators and physician assistants who have paved the way for a new generation of health-care professionals. Please join us in celebrating our years of service in the CSRA.

Joseph S. Soparas, PA-C/L, MAPS

Augusta

(The writer is a physician assistant at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Augusta.)

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