Celebrating the nation’s (and Oregon’s) Physician Assistants

September 24, 2013

PA WeekOHSU Celebrates National PA Week Oct. 6-12

Each year, the physician assistant (PA) profession celebrates national PA week October 6-12. During this time, physician assistants strive to increase awareness of and appreciation for the profession.

"National PA Week is also a time to pause and reflect on the exemplary work of our alumni working in Oregon, and beyond," said Ted Ruback, MS, PA, the Director of the OHSU Physician Assistant Program. "As well to acknowledge the many exceptional students currently enrolled in our program."

So what is a physician assistant? PAs are healthcare professionals licensed to practice medicine and prescribe medications in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. But they are so much more.

"To many, a PA is an unknown profession," said Claire Hull, MHS, PA-C, an assistant professor in the OHSU Physician Assistant Program. "However PAs are trained to carry out many important clinical functions, including performing physical examinations, diagnosing and treat illnesses, and ordering and interpreting lab tests." Hull also noted that PAs assist in surgery, provide patient education and counseling and make rounds in hospitals and nursing homes.

Did You Know?

The first PAs graduated from the Duke University PA program on Oct. 6, 1967.

The PA profession was created in the 1960s as a way to improve and expand healthcare. After World War II the number of primary care physicians began to decline as more and more physicians began to specialize. In response to this, Duke University Medical Center's Eugene A. Stead Jr., M.D., had an idea to create a new profession that was based on his knowledge of the fast-track training of doctors during World War II. As a result of Dr. Stead's work, the first Physician Assistant class included four Navy corpsmen who had received considerable medical training during their military service.

Currently, there are 183 accredited PA programs and over 90,000 certified PAs in the United States. "The PA educational program is modeled on the medical school curriculum, with a combination of classroom and clinical instruction," said Hull. "Many physician assistant and medical students learn and work side-by-side during their training."

The PA profession values the team-based approach to patient care, and all PAs practice medicine with physician supervision. "Physician assistants may have a great deal of autonomy in practicing medicine," said Ruback. "This team model is an efficient way to provide high-quality medical care. In fact, in rural areas, the PA may be the only healthcare provider on-site, collaborating with a physician elsewhere through telecommunication."

Now in its nineteenth year at OHSU, Ruback is proud of the program's national ranking (Ranked #6 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report) and the outstanding students it attracts. "I invite you to celebrate with us this October," said Ruback. "And to learn more about what it means to be a physician assistant." 


Gaines Hall

The OHSU Physician Assistant Program was established in 1995 with the mission of preparing physician assistants to provide primary care services to rural and urban medically underserved communities. The Program graduated its first class in September, 1997. In the spring of 2001, the PA Program became a free-standing Division within the School of Medicine.

The OHSU PA Program ranks 6th among graduate level physician assistant programs in the nation in the 2013 U.S. News & World Report Best Graduate School rankings. The OHSU PA Program is proud of the record of success our graduates have achieved as first-time takers of the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE). From 1999 through 2010, our students achieved a record of twelve straight years of 100% first-time pass rate. In the 17 year history of the program, our students have achieved a 99.1% first-time pass rate.

Physician assistants are important members of the healthcare team at OHSU. OHSU currently employs more than 80 Physician Assistants, who work in a variety of medical and surgical specialties, in the hospital, intensive care unit, outpatient clinics, operating rooms, and in clinical research.We hope you will take a moment to recognize the contributions these PAs make in patient care and to the university.

For more information about physician assistants, contact the American Academy of Physician Assistants at http://www.aapa.org, or the OHSU Physician Assistant Program at http://www.ohsu.edu/pa