Charles Bearden has been a practicing PA for over 46 years. He has the distinction of being the longest practicing organ recovery/transplant coordinator in the United States with 42 years of coordinating over 2500 heart, lung, liver, kidney, pancreas, and intestinal organ transplants. Mr. Bearden is currently the Senior Organ Transplant Coordinator for Clinical Consulting Associates.
Prior to beginning his Physician Associate studies, Mr. Bearden worked as a Cardiovascular Technician at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, GA and trained under Dr. J. Willis Hurst. Dr. Hurst was starting the PA Program at Emory and encouraged him to apply to the first Physician Associate Program class at the Emory University School of Medicine in 1971. He was accepted and at the age of 19 began his PA education. He served as class vice president and graduated in 1973. He made the highest score in his class on the first National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) Certifying Examination for PAs held in 1973. In 1974, Mr. Bearden served on the NBME Committee to validate the first PA National Board Examination. He was NCCPA certified in both Primary Care (1975) and Surgery (1980).
Mr. Bearden’s first position after graduating from PA school was with a private family practice in Dunwoody, GA. He then moved to a neurosurgery practice in Atlanta. Mr. Bearden worked as a criminal investigator and regulatory agent for the Georgia State Board of Medical Examiners from 1977-1978, until he found his true calling as one of the first organ recovery and transplant coordinators with DCI Donor Services. He co-founded and co-directed the first Organ Bank in Atlanta and remained with the Atlanta branch of DCI until 1988 when he relocated to their Chattanooga, TN, office. Mr. Bearden remained with DCI Donor Services until 2003 when he accepted a position as a Traveling Organ Recovery Coordinator with Clinical Consulting Associates (CCA). In 2008, Mr. Bearden became one of the first Virtual Organ Transplant Coordinators in the country for CCA and he continues his work today. He has been certified by the American Board of Transplant Coordination for 30 years. He is widely considered a pioneer in his field and a pioneer first generation PA.
Mr. Bearden has had many honors during his career. He was knighted in 2014 by the Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem. He was invested as the Commander of the Southeast Commandery in 2016 and as a Knight Commander in 2017. Mr. Bearden was awarded the Silver Cross of Merit in 2013 and Officer of the Campanionate of Merit in 2016. Mr. Bearden is also a member of the Advisory Board of Organize.org and was a participant in the 2016 White House Summit on Organ Donation and Transplantation. In addition, Mr. Bearden also serves as the Chair of the Order of St. Lazarus Organ Donation Awareness Committee, 2010 to the present. In 2019 he was awarded the Civilian PA of the Year by the AAPA Veterans Caucus “for his concern, caring and devotion towards patients, profession and country, his commitment is our profession’s future.”
Charles and his wife Dana live on Pauls Point, Tennessee with their four dogs and two cats. They travel frequently and spend a lot of time visiting Northern California. He is an accomplished photographer, gardener and Civil War historian. Charles and Dana serve as members of the Board of Directors of the Bersheeba Springs Free Medical Clinic in Grundy County, Tennessee.
Acknowledgments: This biography was written by Michelle Schabowski with assistance from Charles Bearden and Alfred Sadler Jr. and was submitted to the Society in July 2019. The photographs are courtesy of Mr. Bearden.