PA History at the Stead Center

Background: In 2004, the North Carolina Academy of Physician Assistants broke ground to build a combined office-conference complex in Durham, NC. They named the building after Dr. Eugene A. Stead, Jr. who launched the first formal education program for physician assistants at Duke University in 1965. The Physician Assistant History Society was provided low-rent space in the building in return for being responsible for maintaining the Stead Office Museum and designing and displaying historical related exhibits throughout the building and grounds.

Creating the Stead Office Museum

Dr. Stead died on July 12, 2005. Soon thereafter, his family donated furniture, books, pictures and other artifacts to the Society to be used to recreate his lake home office within the Stead Center. The Society's archivist, Mira Waller, and executive director, Reginald Carter, began immediately recreating the office based on photographs taken of the lake home office prior to Dr. Steads Death.

Photographs were replicated and hung to match their positions on the walls of the lake home office. Glass shelves were purchased to display medals, souvenirs and other artifacts donated by the family. Books were placed in a bookcase and the desk, chair and lamp were placed in the room; the desktop calendar with its entries left open to July 12th, the day Dr. Stead died.

Visitors to the Stead Center can view the office museum either through an open window in the lobby or through the doorway leading into the office.

Creating Lobby Wall Exhibits and Display Cases

With a generous gift from Ron Nelson, PA-C and past president of the Society, Reginald Carter designed and Mira Waller prepared shadow box exhibits honoring the founders of the PA Profession and highlighting the establishment of national PA organizations.

Thanks to Daniel McNeil, PA-C, the Oklahoma Academy of Physician Assistants provided funds to purchase display cabinets for the lobby. They arrived on December 28, 2006 and Reginald Carter and Adonna Thompson, who replaced Mira Waller as archivist, immediately began putting together exhibits to be displayed in the four cases. The displays highlighted artifacts from the museum, oral history, still and moving images collections; efforts to market the PA profession; the North Carolina PA Academy and the Oklahoma PA Academy.

Creation of Veterans Wall Exhibit

Tim Egan, Vic Germino and Ken Harbert donated posters to the Society to have placed in the Eugene Stead Center. The posters include "Reflections" by artist David Ehlert, "God loves the Grunt" and "Life Savers then … Care Givers Now" by artist George L. Skypeck, Soldiers - Poem and "Veterans Caucus poster "Honoring Navy PAs – Memorial Day, May 31, 1999." In September 2006, Adonna Thompson mounted the prints on the hallway wall near the Prentiss Harrison Resource Room and Alan Dippy, Preparator Nasher Museum of Art, Duke University, mounted letters above the prints to read "Reflections - In Honor of Those Who Served."

Gifting and Dedication of Combat Medic Statue

The original statue was commissioned by Don Pedersen, director of the Utah Physician Assistant Program, and unveiled on the Utah campus in July 2003. After visiting the Stead Center in February 2006, Don spoke with leaders of the North Carolina Academy about having the statue recast and placed in the Center's surrounding gardens. He and Kent Wallace, PA-C from Seattle took the lead in raising money from various PA organizations. A gifting ceremony was held on March 9, 2007 when the PA Foundation's Board met at the Center followed by a more elaborate dedication ceremony on April when the weather was more suitable. The statue is titled Life savers then - Care givers now and was sculptured by John Prazen (1939-2003).

On November 11, 2008 the garden surrounding the combat medic statue was named the John McElligott, HM2 USN FMF Veterans Memorial Garden in honor of PAs who have served in the US Armed Forces and like him, served as medics who pioneered the PA profession. Dr. McElligott was honored for his contributions to the PA History Society when it moved its national office to the Stead Center in Durham, NC in 2005 when the new building was open and dedicated.