Every year during the week of Oct. 6-12, we celebrate Physician Assistants through National PA Week. Why this week you might ask? Oct. 6, 1967, was the date of the first graduating PA class at Duke University. The program, and was profession, was established by Eugene Stead, M.D. based on the fast-track training module used to train doctors during World War II’s physician shortage.
Since then, PA programs have emerged all over the United States and are now being developed internationally. PA students are trained in the medical model, like physicians, and receive a broad education in medicine.
Baylor College of Medicine PA students undergo a rigorous and condensed training, including over 2,000 clinical hours, receiving a Masters in Physician Assistant studies, and can begin to work after becoming nationally certified and state-licensed to practice medicine.
What a PA does
Although PAs have been around since 1967, ambiguity still exists as to what a PA is and what a PA does. A PA is a clinician who practices medicine. As a PA, they can diagnose, prescribe and treat patients while practicing under a physician’s supervision. As such, PAs work in every specialty that you would find any medical doctor in.
Many people are familiar with primary care PAs, but PAs work everywhere, such as primary care, surgery, emergency medicine, and pathology. PAs work under a physician’s supervision; however, a PA is a Physician Assistant, not a Physician’s Assistant and therefore works autonomously, but in collaboration with a physician for treatment of their patients.
Just like any other medical profession, PAs are lifelong learners. Medicine is constantly changing, and PAs are always adapting to these changes. One such change is the anticipated influx of patients with the passing of the Affordable Healthcare Act. The PA profession is rapidly growing to meet these increasing demands. Within the last decade alone, the number of PA’s has more than doubled.
As a current PA student in one of the highest-rated PA programs in the nation, I am both proud and humbled by being a part of such a great class, a great profession and celebrating PA week. I tip my hat and raise my glass to all the PAs who are practicing medicine, saving lives, and educating us future PAs.
So let’s celebrate PAs this week! Interested in finding out more? You can go to www.aapa.org, talk to our impressive Baylor PA faculty, or if you run into our PA Program Director Professor Carl Fasser, ask him to tell you about his impressive career as a PA. He is a previous president of the American Academy of Physician Assistants and a graduate of Duke in one of the first PA classes; he also helped start the Baylor PA program. We are honored to study under him.
The PA profession has expanded tremendously since 1967, and I can only imagine where it will go from here.
Learn more about the PA program at Baylor College of Medicine.
Find additional resources to celebrate National PA Week.
-Cristina Cadena, first-year Physician Assistant student at Baylor College of Medicine