School of Health Professions

Physician Assistant Profession Celebrates 50th Anniversary

PA 50 years

Fifty years ago this month, the first class of three physician assistants graduated from Duke University. In the decades since then, the number of accredited institutions graduating PAs has grown to 226, with about 8,600 graduates each year. The PA program at UT Health San Antonio began in 2002.

Coinciding with the anniversary was PA Week, which runs each year from Oct. 6-12. The Department of Physician Assistant Studies hosted several events to observe the week, said Assistant Professor and Academic Coordinator Leticia Bland. Those events included visits by PA students to local colleges to talk about careers in the field and what PAs do, as well as a visit to celebrate PA Day with military PA school colleagues at the Inter-Service PA program at Fort Sam Houston.

“I think it’s important how much a difference PAs have made in the medical world helping with the shortage of physicians,” Bland said.

The PA profession grew out of the need to address that shortage and began by training former military corpsmen to assist physicians, according to a news release from the Physician Assistant History Society. The PA model spread internationally in the 2000s.

The PA History Society curates and preserves the history of the profession. Its website offers oral histories, articles, still images and other information related.

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