How did the Physician Assistant profession begin?

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 PAs in 1965. He selected Navy corpsmen who received considerable medical training during their military service 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.

In Canada, Physician Assistants evolved from Sick Berth Attendants of the Navy, and Medical Technicians with advanced responsibility in the military. They had extensive training and with formal education expanded their role to meet the needs of the services in all the different environments the Canadian Forces Served.

For more information about the history of the PA profession, visit the American Academy of Physician Assistant’s PA History Center web page.

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