James F. Cawley, MPH, PA- C


James F. Cawley, is a prolific scholar, educator and professional leader whose research interests has focused on the physician assistant (PA) profession. In addition to co-authoring four books on PAs, he has published extensively in the areas of preventive medicine, non-physician health providers and health workforce policy. Cawley has authored more than 85 peer-reviewed articles published in such journals as Journal of Health Services and Research Policy, Health Affairs, Annals of Internal Medicine, the Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants, Academic Medicine, and British Medical Journal. As an editor and columnist, he has authored more than 250 columns over the past 25 years and his commentaries have been timely, informative and challenging. He was a Contributing Editing for Physician Assistant/Health Practitioner, a columnist for Clinician Review and Clinician News, and an Editor of the PA Journal.

One of his books, Physician Assistants in American Medicine, co-authored with Dr. Roderick Hooker, is assigned reading for physician assistant students and is a valuable reference for those interested in understanding the emergence of the PA profession into the American Health Care System. He is a Distinguished Fellow of the AAPA, was a Primary Care Health Policy Fellow in the federal Health Resources and Services Administration, and is a past president of the Physician Assistant Education Association and the PA Foundation. He has also been president of the Maryland Academy of Physician Assistants, served as its Legislative Chair for five years, and in 2011 was named its Outstanding Physician Assistant of the Year for the second time.

Cawley earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from St. Francis College in 1970, and a second bachelor’s degree in science as a physician assistant from Touro College (New York) in 1974. He joined the faculty of the Health Associate Program in the School of Health Services at the Johns Hopkins University in 1974 and practiced as a primary care PA at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. He earned his MPH in infectious disease epidemiology from The Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in 1979. In 1988, he was a fellow in the Epidemiology Program Office of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 1994, he was Chair and principal writer of the Report of the Advisory Group on Physician Assistant in the Workforce for the Council on Graduate Medical Education. He has served as a consultant and grant reviewer for the Health Resources and Services Administration, the Veterans Administration, and Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation in the Department of Health and Human Services. He has also served as a consultant on the PA profession and PA education to dozens of educational institutions nationally and globally. He has held faculty appointments in the PA programs at Stony Brook University and Yale University School of Medicine. He was a doctoral student in the Department of Health Services Management and Policy in health policy at The George Washington University.

Cawley is Professor and Chair of the Department of Prevention and Community Health in the School of Public Health and Health Services, Director of the Physician Assistant/Master of Public Health Program, and Professor of Physician Assistant Studies in the School of Medicine and Health Sciences at The George Washington University. The dual-degree Physician Assistant/M.P.H. program, which he co-founded, is the first of its type in the United States. Cawley also holds an appointment as Adjunct Associate Professor in the Arizona School of Health Sciences. He has been with the GWU PA Program since 1982 and teaches courses on the PA profession and the health workforce, preventive medicine, epidemiology, and community health in the School of Public Health and Health Services.

In 2006, he served as a Visiting Scientist in the Department of the History of Medicine at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He is co-author of Physician Assistants in a Changing Health Care Environment, and with Roderick S. Hooker of Physician Assistants: Policy and Practice, 3rd Edition published in 2010.

Cawley received the prestigious Eugene A. Stead Award of Achievement by the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) in 2011. This award of excellence focused on his pivotal role in moving the PA field forward throughout his distinguish career. He has held numerous leadership positions within the physician assistant profession, including President of the Physician Assistant Foundation, President of the Maryland Academy of Physician Assistants, and President of the Physician Assistant Education Association. He served for five years as a commissioner on the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants and was a former member of the Board of Governors of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. He also served as Chair of the Editorial Board of the Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants. He is also Chair of the Research Advisory Committee of the American Academy of Physician Assistants and a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of the Journal of Physician Assistant Education. In 2011, he was awarded the Patron of the PA Profession Award bestowed by the University of Utah Physician Assistant Program. He remains an active teacher and researcher.

This biographical sketch was prepared by Reginald Carter and J. Jeffrey Heinrich and edited by James Cawley and submitted to the Society in September 2012. The portrait photograph is courtesy of Mr. Cawley. The second photo is from the AAPA Photographic Collection, Physician Assistant History Society, Johns Creek, GA.

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Cawley during poster presentation session, San Francisco Conference, 1991.


Ruth Ballweg, Jim Cawley, Dick Smith, and J. Jeffrey Heinrich at the Duke Medical Archives, 2006