Lovest Alexander, Jr. is a recognized leader in the recruitment of underrepresented minority health career students into the physician assistant (PA) profession. The Duke University PA Program recruited him in 1986 to be its Director of Minority Affairs. For over 30 years, he has traveled throughout North Carolina and the east coast, visiting colleges and universities, to inform health career counselors and students about the physician assistant profession and how best to prepare students for acceptance into PA programs. Before the PA profession became well-known, Alexander was not always welcomed with open arms on historically African American and Native American college and university campuses. It took him many years to convince health career counselors at these institutions that the PA profession was not a second choice career for gifted students. It was a difficult sale since at the time scholarship funds were limited and no advanced degrees were being awarded to PA graduates. Over time, he has played a key role in the Duke PA Program’s ability to increase its student diversity to an annual average of 25% underrepresented minorities. As a founding and active member of the American Academy of Physician Assistant’s African Heritage Caucus, Alexander shared his recruiting experience with his colleagues, advocated for additional scholarship funds for minority students and championed efforts to increase diversity and leadership opportunities for these individuals within the PA profession.
Alexander graduated from North Carolina Central University, Durham, NC (1964) and served on active duty in the US Air Force from 1966 to 1970. Most of his time in the military was spent at Stewart Air Force Base, Newburgh, NY and Wheelus Air Force Base, Tripoli, North Africa. As a Medical Laboratory Specialist, Alexander worked as a Research Assistant within the Aerospace Medical Division at Brooks Air Force Base, San Antonio, TX. After discharge, he was accepted into the University of North Carolina Medical School but had to withdraw during his second year due to a family emergency. Desiring to continue a career in medicine, Alexander entered the Duke University PA Program, graduating with a BHS degree (1978) and later a MHS degree (1991).
As a physician assistant, Alexander has worked in general internal medicine, endocrinology and student health services. He has held positions in student health at North Carolina Central University and at Duke University. He also served as a physician assistant in the US Army’s Reserve Medical Corps as a Chief Warrant Officer for 8 years, 1982-1990. This was prior to the US Army’s commissioning PAs with full officer status.
As an Assistant Professor in Community and Family Medicine, Alexander teaches in the Duke University PA Program and serves as a clinical preceptor for both PA and medical students. He is a role model for underrepresented minority students and for pre-health career students who he has counseled and let “shadow” him in the clinics.
Alexander is a member of Pi Alpha, the national honor society for physician assistants and has served as the Physician Assistant Education Association’s representative to the National Association of Medical Minority Educators. He has served on the Duke University Medical Center Minority Affairs Committee and on the Board of Directors for the North Carolina Academy of PAs, chairing its Professional Practice and Relations Committee and serving on its Minority Affairs Committee from 1978-1990. His honors include graduating Magna Cum Laude, Duke University; receiving a Braswell and Johnson Scholarship, University of North Carolina Medical School; Service Award from the President of the North Carolina Academy of Physician Assistant: U.S. Army Reserve Achievement Medal; and the Basileus Award for Service, Beta Phi Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. Because of his outstanding record of teaching and service to the community and the PA Profession, Alexander was named the Duke PA Program’s Distinguished Alumnus of the Year for 2006.
Acknowledgments: This biography was prepared by Reginald Carter with the assistance of Mr. Alexander and submitted to the Society on August 20, 2018. The portrait photograph was taken at the 2018 AAPA Conference for Distinguished Fellows and is courtesy of Mr. Alexander and the AAPA. The second photograph is courtesy of the PA History Society; Johns Creek, GA. Information for this biography was extracted from online biographical information provided by Duke University and the Duke University PA Program, Durham, NC and from Profiles in Black, a 1997 monograph, courtesy of the PA History Society, Johns Creek, GA.