Dr. Kenneth R. Harbert is a respected clinician, medical educator and administrator who, over a span of 35 years, helped establish eight physician assistant programs in the USA and assisted Drs. Bart van Bergen and Fons Wierink to adapt and develop the physician assistant profession in the Netherlands. Clinically, Harbert has worked in a variety of specialties and settings. As a clinical administrator at the Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, PA, Harbert helped develop some of the first guidelines for the use of physician assistants in hospitals. These guidelines were soon adopted by other hospitals throughout the USA. Also at Geisinger, Harbert collaborated with Sarah Zarbock, PA-C, to hold a conference on physician assistants. The proceedings of the conference titled Physician Assistants: Present and Future Models of Utilization was published in 1986. As an educator, Harbert has taught a diverse group of health care providers including post graduate physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, emergency medical technicians, nurses, and medical students. Harbert is a staunch supporter and leader of Veteran Affairs within the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA). He has worked on many projects for the Veterans Caucus and written extensively about the history of the organization. Harbert has donated his personal collection of artwork, papers and memorabilia to the PA History Society to make sure future generations of physician assistants understand the contributions made by former military corpsmen to the PA profession.
Harbert was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and is a graduate of the Pennsylvania State University where he obtained a Doctorate in Health Education, and Central Michigan University where he obtained a Masters of Health Administration, and the State University of New York at Stony Brook where he obtained a Bachelor Of Science Degree as a Physician Associate. He is board certified as a Master Health Educator, a Physician Assistant and an expert in Traumatic Stress. He was the first Physician Assistant inducted as a fellow into the first organization of physicians in the United States known as The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. He served in the United States Navy as an enlisted corpsman, the United States Coast Guard Reserve as a Physician Assistant Medical Officer and the United States Public Health Service Inactive Reserve as a Physician Assistant Medical Officer.
Harbert has the distinction of being one of the first PAs to work in psychiatry. As a clinician, he has worked in emergency medicine, family medicine and acted as a hospitalist. His area of clinical research has focused on Traumatic Stress, PTSD and Crisis Intervention. Since the late seventies he has been working with veterans and their families. He co-founded and co-directed the Vietnam Veterans of America “Back in the World” Program. In addition, he has been the clinical director for Critical Incident Stress Teams in Idaho, Alabama, Pennsylvania and Tennessee. He developed and co-directed the multispecialty Crisis Response Team for the Geisinger System of Care. He directed the development and implementation of the Albuquerque New Mexico Medical Reserve Corp organizing and implementing emergency preparedness training and disaster health care services for the state of New Mexico. He was the founder and executive director of the American Academy of Physician Assistants Veterans Caucus serving over twenty years.
From 1983 until 1993 he was the administrator in charge of PA, NP and Nurse Midwives within the Geisinger System of Care where he was responsible for non-physician providers in 48 different specialty areas. In addition he developed and implemented post graduate training programs in Surgery and Internal Medicine for Geisinger Medical Center. In 1980 he was the Director Of Medical Education for the Greater Southeast Community Hospital serving as the administrator for a number of Post Graduate Physician Training programs in Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, Pediatrics and General Surgery. He served as the visionary Project Director for the Center of Excellence for Remote Medically Underserved Areas (CERMUSA) which designed and directed research activities for the Office of Naval Research (DOD) focusing on telemedicine for military health care providers worldwide.
Harbert has served on a number of national committees for the American Academy of Physician Assistants, Medical Reserve Corp, Department of Defense, and the Health Resources and Services Administration, National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants. He was instrumental along with Marshall Sinback and John Trembath in developing the guidelines for the use of Physician Assistants in hospital settings. He served as the Vice President and Chair of the Small Grants committee for the Physician Assistant Foundation. He was a charter board member of the Pennsylvania Society of Pas, The Maryland Academy of Pas and the DC Chapter of Pas. He was a charter board member of the Association of Post Graduate Physician Assistant Programs.
Harbert is well published and has made professional presentations to a variety of agencies and organizations including the American Academy of Physician Assistants, the Physician Assistant Educational Organization, and the Nurse Practitioner Association for Continuing Education, the Department of Health and Human Services, the American Red Cross, and the Department of Defense. He served as the external evaluator for the Health Resources and Services Administration grant that evaluated faculty development and curriculum best practices involving all the Physician Assistant programs within the United States. He has appeared on television, national and satellite radio discussing health education and the role of Physician Assistants.
Harbert currently serves as the Dean at South College. He has held numerous leadership roles within the American Academy of Physician Assistants and is a member of the Tennessee Crisis Response Network, International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, and is a Train the Trainer for the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation and the Disaster Mental Health section of the American Red Cross. He has been married for 28 years to Peggeen Harbert and has two wonderful daughters Renee and Dedra and two active grandchildren Ian and Aylen.
Acknowledgments: This biography was written by Kenneth Harbert with the assistance of Reginald Carter, and was submitted to the Society in September 2012. The banner photograph is courtesy of the PA History Society. The second photograph is courtesy of Dr. Harbert.