Karen Bass is the first physician assistant to be elected to the US House of Representatives. She was first elected in 2010 and is currently serving her third term in office. Prior to serving in the US Congress, she served as a member of the California State Assembly from 2005 to 2010. She was appointed Majority Whip for 2005—2006, and Majority Floor Leader for the 2007—2008 legislative sessions. She was chair of the Select Committee on Foster Care and vice chair of the Legislative Black Caucus. Bass has the distinction of being the first African American woman elected as Speaker of the California House serving in that role from 2008 to 2010, prior to her election to the US Congress. Congress woman Bass serves on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs where she is Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations.
Bass is a native of Los Angeles. She attended Hamilton High School and Cal State Dominguez Hills with a BA in Health Sciences. As a child, Bass became interested in community activism observing and participating in the Civil Rights Movement with her father, a mail carrier. It was during this time that she decided to devote her life to effecting social change in her community.
She is a 1982 graduate and former faculty member of the USC Keck School of Medicine Primary Care PA Program. She was one of the first PAs to be hired to work in the emergency department at LSU Medical Center. In addition to her teaching role, Bass was director of the school’s Health Careers Opportunity Program (HCOP) designed to increase the number of individuals from educationally or economically disadvantaged backgrounds that enter health and allied health professions programs. She helped establish Project Prepare for the USC PA program which provided opportunities for individuals interested in becoming PAs to shadow PAs at work and learn firsthand how to improve their credentials for acceptance into a PA program. As an active member of the AAPA African Heritage Caucus, Bass participated in Project Access designed to introduce high school to the PA profession during AAPA annual meetings.
Bass helped establish and run the Community Coalition in 1990 in response to the 1980’s crack cocaine epidemic that devastated South LA. The goal of the Coalition was to provide preventative community-centered solutions to address the root causes that fueled crime, addiction, and violence in the community. Overtime, the Community Coalition has helped thousands of African American and Latino residents to build a prosperous and healthy South L.A. The Coalition has become a model for other cities.
Bass received the 2010 Profiles in Courage Award by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation for her bipartisan work in proposing a solution to California’s budget crises. On her election to Congress in 2010, the president of the AAPA noted that the Academy was thrilled with the election of Karen Bass to the 112th Congress, not only because she is a physician assistant, but because of the exceptional leadership she has demonstrated in her community.
Acknowledgments: This biography was written by Reginald Carter based upon information found on Congress Woman Karen Bass’s website at http://bass.house.gov/about-me/full-biography, and was submitted to the Society in January 2015. The portrait photograph is extracted from Congress Woman Bass’s Website. The photograph of Ms. Bass when she was a member of the USC Keck School of Medicine Primary Care PA Program is image captured from a video tape produced by the Los Angeles County Office of Education, ETN Educational Telecommunications Network, Los Angeles CA in 1990 titled Health Talk: From Vision to Reality: Careers in Health Care: Physician Assistants..