Jesse Edwards is the cofounder of the Physician Assistant Program at the University of Nebraska (UNMC), Omaha, Nebraska. Edwards joined the faculty of the Department of Pediatrics at the UNMC in 1967, later moving to the Office of the Dean, College of Medicine. In 1971 the Nebraska State Legislature mandated the establishment of a physician assistant program at the UNMC. Edwards was asked to lead the effort, assisted by a medical doctor who provided clinical oversight. In the early stages of the program’s development, Edwards was kept busy establishing the administrative structure of the program, drafting the first PA statute in Nebraska, consulting with members of the State Legislature about the concept, and traveling extensively throughout the State to promote the concept to physicians and to ask them to provide clinical clerkship sites for UNMC PA students.
Prior to his tenure with the UNMC, Edwards completed a noteworthy career in the United States Air Force (USAF). He enlisted as a Private soon after graduating from Mineral Wells High School in Texas in 1946. He retired as a Major in 1967. His military specialization was medical administration and his duty assignments were varied and worldwide. His capstone military assignment was with the USAF Surgeon General’s Office in Washington, D.C. As a member of a select group of manpower specialists he played a significant role in establishing the first ever scientific approach to determining the manpower specialty mix for Air Force medical treatment facilities. The method employed is based on work-sampling techniques, and is still used today.
From 1973 until 1990 Edwards was an active leader in the Association of Physician Assistant Programs (APAP), now the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA). He served as President during 1988-1989. During this time he developed and implemented the use of the first computerized test item bank specifically intended to assistant PA students in their self-evaluation efforts. This test item bank was known as Mr. TIB (Test Item Bank). It was used by almost all PA Programs and students for the purpose of evaluating their cognitive clinical knowledge. It also provided a means by which one PA Program could assess their students’ progress in relation to students in other programs. Mr. TIB was the precursor to the current PACKRAT evaluation tool available through the PAEA. His service to the profession also includes serving as a consultant to several emerging PA Programs, and service to the ARC-PA Accreditation Organization.
In 1992 Edwards designed and had implemented a distance learning program for the Master of Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS) degree. This curriculum allowed practicing physician assistants to attain a graduate degree without travel to an educational institution. For most working PAs it was the only viable option for furthering their education. Thousands of practicing PAs have greatly benefited from this degree program.
Edwards is widely known for his advocacy for military physician assistants. In large measure because of his efforts, the UNMC has granted college credit and degrees to the military PA Programs since 1975, with an exception of five years in that period. In recognition of his sustained contributions to USAF physician assistants the Air Force in 2000 created the “Jesse Edwards Outstanding Company Grade Physician Assistant of the Year Award.”
Edwards has garnered numerous honors and awards during his 40 plus years at the UNMC. He is an Honorary Member of the American Academy of Physician Assistants, the Nebraska Academy of Physician Assistants, the Society of Air Force Physician Assistants and the Society of Army Physician Assistants. At the UNMC, among other honors, he has received the Outstanding Service Award of the School of Allied Health Professions, the UNMC Distinguished Teacher Award and the UNMC Certificate of Outstanding Professional Achievement. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the AAPA’s Veterans Caucus and in 2005 was made an honorary Admiral in the Navy of the Great State of Nebraska. In recognition of his lifetime achievement and commitment to the Physician Assistant Education Association and PA education, Edwards received the organization’s presidential award in 2007.
Edwards is semi-retired and spends time between homes in Nebraska and Arizona with his wife Sharon, children and grandchildren.
Acknowledgments: This Biographical Sketch was prepared by Jesse Edwards and edited by Reginald Carter, PhD, PA. The photographs were donated by Mr. Edwards to the Society.