With federal and private funding and under the auspices of the American Medical Association and the National Board of Medical Examiners, fourteen national health organizations came together in August 1974 to establish the National Commission on the Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA), as a free-standing, independent commission to assure the public of the competency of physician assistants. David Glazer was recruited from Emory University in December 1974 to serve as the organization’s first executive director. With a staff of five individuals, he opened an office in Atlanta, GA in February 1975 and continued to oversee the development of a state-of-the-art certification and recertification process for physician assistants until he relinquished his position in 1996.
Glazer appeared before numerous state regulatory and legislative bodies in the 1970s to encourage NCCPA certification as a prerequisite for admission to PA practice. The requirement that PAs be reregistered every two years based upon continuing medical education and recertified every six years through examination gained the trust and respect of legislators and medical licensing boards and became a model for other health professions. Within two years, thirty-three states had established regulations requiring a currently valid NCCPA certificate for PA practice. Under his leadership, the commission spearheaded several major role and task analysis studies to serve as a blue print for test-writing committees and for the National Board of Examiners which constructed the examination and assured its validity and reliability. New methods were developed to evaluate the clinical skills of examinees through direct observation. Although proven reliable, the clinical skills problem portion of the examination was discontinued in 1997 when the examination became computerized. A major change occurred when the single examination was separated into a core plus two specialty examinations, primary care and surgery. This was done to accommodate a growing number of PAs who were specializing in surgery and who had the backing of the American College of Surgeons to do so. The other major change that took place in 1992 as an AAPA-NCCPA partnership was the development of an alternate mechanism for recertification known as Pathway II which consisted of a take-home examination plus an elective component.
Glazer and the commission faced many challenges over the years including: (1) keeping a diverse group of health professionals focused on competency issues and apolitical; (2) maintaining a valid recertification process that allowed PAs the flexibility to work in different medical and surgical specialties and (3) assuring that only candidates trained as PAs through formal education, or by meeting a stringent array of informal training criteria, be admitted for certification testing. NCCPA played a pivotal role in the formation of the prestigious National Commission on Health Certifying Agencies (now the National Organization of Certifying Agencies). NCCPA served as the model for NCHCA standard of recognition. The first NCHCA President was NCCPA’s delegate. Glazer was involved in the preparation of the NCHA constitution and bylaws, served as the Chair of both the Nominating and Membership Committees and was the 4th NCHCA President.
Glazer was born in November 1936 in New Haven, CT but moved to a suburb of Washington DC in Montgomery County Maryland when he was nine. His father was born in Latvia and immigrated to the United States at age six and spent most of his life in the clothing industry. His mother grew up in Bridgeport, CT. After graduation from Bethesda Chevy-Chase High School, Glazer attended and received a BA degree in 1959 from the University of Maryland. He continued his studies at the University of Connecticut receiving a master’s degree in psychology in 1961, and did subsequent graduate work at Georgetown and the University of Michigan. He was interested in research psychology and considered a career in counseling but decided to take a job in the defense industry doing research in human performance, human reliability studies, in weapon systems, and in space systems – working on the NASA Apollo moon mission testing astronauts’ abilities to perform complex procedures while under stressful conditions. He also spent several years working with the USN, studying the impact of human audition in sonar systems.
A friend at NASA recommended Glazer for a faculty position in the Department of Allied Health at Emory University School of Medicine. Glazer was offered the position of Director of Biomedical Information, operating a statewide continuing medical education program, and moved to Atlanta, GA in 1969. At the time Emory had a program to train coronary care technicians and a private foundation was willing to give money to convert the program into a primary care PA program. When Emory USM Executive Associate Dean Robert Jewett MD became the program’s director in 1972, he recruited Glazer to be the associate program director, working with students, helping to develop the curricula and also doing some studies evaluating the effectiveness of this new class of midlevel health practitioners. Given his background, Glazer soon became involved in the Association of Physician Assistant Program’s research and development committee. Thomas Piemme, APAP’s president at the time, encouraged Glazer to apply for the directorship of the newly created NCCPA. His background in psychology, testing methodology, measurement of human performance and experience with the PA program at Emory University made Glazer an ideal candidate for the job. He was hired with the intent of moving the NCCPA headquarters to Washington, DC but after the board of commissioners met in Atlanta and saw how much work had been accomplished in only a few months, they voted to leave the NCCPA office in Atlanta.”
After leaving the NCCPA, Glazer became president of a startup company developing equipment for use in bilingual education. In 1998, Don Fisher who had left the AAPA to become the executive director of the American Medical Group Association invited Glazer to join his organization as its southern regional director. AMGA represents large, multi-specialty medical groups. Glazer represents groups in eleven states. He is responsible for conducting regional educational programs for clinic administrators, recruitment and occasional advocacy where proposed state legislation may have national implications for medical groups.
He continues to reside with his wife of 50 years, Reyna, in Atlanta. Glazer has two married daughters and a three-year old granddaughter.
Acknowledgments: This biographical sketch was prepared by Reginald Carter with the assistance of David Lewis Glazer and submitted to the Society on June 1, 2008. The first photograph is courtesy of Mr. Glazer and the second photograph is courtesy of the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants and the Society for the Preservation of Physician Assistant History.