Dr. J. Dennis Blessing is an acclaimed academician, an eminent researcher and a professional leader. He has held state academy leadership positions in North Carolina, Kansas and Texas. He has served as president (1997) of the Association of Physician Assistant Programs (APAP) – now the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA) – and the Physician Assistant History Society (PAHx Society, 2004-2005). He is an advisor to the PAEA Pedersen Research Institute. His contributions to the American Academy of Physician Assistants(AAPA) include being a delegate to the organization’s House of Delegates, serving on reference and research committees and the Education Council. Blessing has held faculty appointments at Wichita State University, The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and the University of the Incarnate Word. He is an editor and contributing author of seven books that include Physician Assistant’s Guide to Research and Medical Literature, Clinical Problem Solving for Physician Assistants and coauthor of Ethics and Professionalism: A Guide for the Physician Assistant and Introduction to Research and Medical Literature for Health Professionals (5 editions). He is a prolific writer with over 160 publications in related health professional journals and books. Blessing received nearly two million dollars in research and training grant funds throughout his distinguished professional career. He retired in 2015 after serving as the Associate Dean for the School of Health Professions, The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.
Blessing was born in Middlesboro, Kentucky but spent most of his formative years living in a small community outside Beaumont, Texas. His father worked on oil pipelines and his mother was a secretary. He has three sisters. After finishing high school, he tried college, but did not know what he wanted to do, so volunteered for the Army. He was trained as a medic and served as an operating room (OR) technician with the 12th evacuation hospital located in Cu Chi, Vietnam (1968-1969). After being discharged from the Army, Blessing attended and graduated from the Sam Houston State University with his Bachelor of Science (1973). Meanwhile, he worked as an OR technician and orderly at a local hospital to earn extra cash. After college, he began looking at his options, one being PA school. He was accepted into and graduated from the Duke University PA Program with a Bachelors of Health Science (1976). He would later continue his education at Wichita State University where he acquired his Masters of Health Science (1985) and at Kansas State University where he received his PhD (1989).
Blessing has been a physician assistant educator since 1983. He was a tenured Distinguished Teaching Professor (a University of Texas System Regents designation), Department Chair and Associate Dean. He has worked clinically part-time during his educational career and has experience in family medicine, rural health, Native American health, indigent health, emergency medicine, transplantation, surgery, and urology.
Blessing’s honors and recognitions include awards for teaching, faculty excellence, professional leadership, and service. He has been appointed to a faculty fellowship in the Professional Capacity Building Program of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities and the Department of Health and Human Services. He received the first Outstanding Research Award from the Association of Physician Assistant Programs, Gold Award for the Best Regular Column/Contributed from the American Society for Health Care Publishers and Editors, the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Duke University Physician Assistant Program, Outstanding Service Award from the Association of Physician Assistant Programs, and an Army Commendation Medal. He has been recognized for the bestselling textbook in 2012 by Jones & Bartlett and the University of Texas School Of Health Professions Outstanding Publication Award.
Blessing is retired and lives in Lumberton, Texas where he is active with the local Vietnam Veterans of American chapter. He hunts and fishes with family and life long friends.
Acknowledgments: This biography was written by Reginald Carter with the assistance of Dr. Blessing, and was submitted to the Society on May 1, 2019. The photographs are courtesy of Dr. Blessing . Source of information used for this biography came from the Duke PA Program Alumni Hall of Fame biographies.