Celebrating physician assistants during national PA Week

Each year, the physician assistant profession celebrates national PA week October 6-12

October 7, 2015

Physician Assistants at Oregon Food BankAt OHSU, practicing physician assistants marked the occasion by sponsoring a PA Grand Rounds. Damien Fair, PA-C, Ph.D., associate professor of behavioral neuroscience and psychiatry, OHSU School of Medicine, presented the topic: "The importance of characterizing heterogeneity in typical development and in ADHD for future clinical practice." Dr. Fair is also associate scientist in the Advanced Imaging Research Center at OHSU.

Prior to attending the lecture together, PA students in the OHSU School of Medicine joined students from the Pacific University PA Program in a community service event at the Oregon Food Bank to mark the occasion. 

OHSU currently employs more than 90 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. 

Physician assistants are health care professionals licensed to practice medicine and prescribe medications in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. PAs perform physical examinations, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret lab tests, perform procedures, assist in surgery, provide patient education and counseling and make rounds in hospitals and nursing homes. 

The OHSU Physician Assistant Program has graduated more than 500 physician assistants since the program began in 1995. The program has a particular emphasis on educating PAs to provide primary care services to rural and urban medically underserved communities. 

The OHSU PA Program ranks fifth among graduate-level physician assistant programs in the nation in the 2015 U.S. News & World Report Best Graduate School rankings. 

Physician Assistant students at Oregon Food Bank"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," said Ted Ruback, M.S., P.A., founding program director. "In the 20-year history of the program, our students have achieved a 99.2 percent first-time, pass rate."

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

The PA profession was created in the 1960s as a way to improve and expand health care. 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, Eugene A. Stead Jr., MD, of the Duke University Medical Center created a new profession based on his knowledge of the fast-track training of doctors during World War II. The first Physician Assistant class included four Navy corpsmen who had received considerable medical training during their military service. These first PAs graduated from the Duke University PA program on Oct. 6, 1967. 

For this reason, national PA week is celebrated each year in October. Currently, there are 196 accredited PA programs and over 100,000 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. Many physician assistant and medical students learn and work side-by-side during their education. 

"We encourage you to take a moment to recognize the contributions PAs make in patient care," said Ruback.

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.