Les Howard, PA

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Les Howard, PA, learned about the Physician Assistant Profession in 1979 from his Laboratory supervisor, SSGT Richard Bransdorf, during Phase II, US Air Force Medical Laboratory Technician training at Sheppard Regional Medical Center, Sheppard Air Force Base, Wichita Falls, Texas. SSGT Bransdorf had just been selected into the Air Force PA Program when he and Airman Howard first spoke about the profession. Upon completion of his military obligation in 1983, Mr. Howard worked in the Toxicology lab at Sepulveda Veterans Administration hospital, Sepulveda California, where he was again encouraged and mentored to become a PA by graduates of the Charles R. Drew PA program.

In 1985 he attended the University of South California (USC) Primary Care PA program, which turned out to be a good fit because of the opportunity to train at Los Angeles County(LAC)+USC County General Hospital and a primary preceptorship in rural health at the Sam Dixon Family Health Center in Val Verde California. The USC PA program also stressed diversity, advocacy for the profession and leadership. Les graduated from the USC Primary Care PA program in 1986 and will always say “Earning the PA Certificate was the hardest 15 months of his life, but it opened so many doors for me.” As a clinician, Howard practiced in medically underserved areas of Long Beach, East Los Angeles and Inglewood California, serving predominately Cambodian, Hispanic and African American residents of Los Angeles County. Those experiences strongly impressed on Les the need to create a diverse PA workforce, reflective of California’s urban and rural patient populations. That realization defined Howard’s numerous contributions to the PA profession for the next 30 years in leadership and academia.

Between 1988-1993 Howard served the California Academy of Physician Assistants (CAPA) as Minority Affairs Committee (MAC) chair, Student Scholarship Committee, Director-at-Large, Vice President, President Elect, and President. He was an AAPA House Delegate and elected by the House of Delegates to serve on the AAPA Nominating Committee in 1993. Howard was the second AAPA/APAP representative appointed to the National Association of Medical Minority Educators, and served as National Association Medical Minority Educators (NAMME) Western Region Scholarship Chair. Howard was involvement with the AAPA African Heritage Special Interest Group and AAPA African American Caucus (AHC). He chaired the AHC National Mentoring Program Planning Committee 1994-1995. Then in 2010, served as AHC President Elect, and AHC President in 2011.

Howard’s academic endeavors have included: Lecturer, Department of Health Science, California State University Dominguez Hills; Clinical Instructor, USC School of Medicine, Department of Family Medicine; and Associate Director of the USC PA program. He was recruited by Karen Bass, PA to be the coordinator and later Project Director of the USC PA Health Careers Opportunity Program (HCOP) Project Prepare Pre-PA Program.

He has also served as Clinical Coordinator at the Charles R. Drew PA Program.  Howard is credited for being Founding Program Director of two rural PA Programs: San Joaquin Valley College and Riverside Regional Medical Center/Riverside Community College. In the 1990s, Howard chaired APAP’s Minority Affairs Committee and was a member of the APAP Advisory Council on Minority Attrition within Physician Assistant Programs. From 2010-2012, he served on the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA) Cultural Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

Les has represented California PAs through the following California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD) appointments, to include: Statewide Council on Primary Care Training; Minority Medical Education and Training Program; Shortage Area Medical Training Program; Song Brown Mental Health Task Force; and Health Professions Education Foundation Advance Practice Healthcare (APH) Scholarship and Loan Repayment Selection Committee. He has also served on several federal Task Forces and grant review panels on primary care workforce, medically underserved clinical site development, underrepresented minority and veteran recruitment into the PA profession. He has participated in the U.S. Public Health Service Associate Recruiter and then the National Health Service Corps Ambassador programs since 1993.

Howard has published articles on Minority PA recruitment in U.S. Public Health Reports, Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants and PA Advance magazine. He has given 20 presentations nationally on Diversity, PAs and the National Health Service Corps, pipeline recruitment programs and Allied Health and Physician Assistant Workforce issues. He has been Principal Investigator on state and federal Physician Assistant and health professional training grant awards totaling $1,485,693.

His honors include:

  • Faculty Advisor to 6 Student Academy of the American Academy of Physician Assistant “Outstanding Student Societies”
  • APAP/Upjohn Company “Outstanding Young Faculty Award”
  • “Physician Assistant Faculty Scholar” Physician Assistant Faculty Development Project of Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston
  • California Academy of Physician Assistants (CAPA)/Syntex “Leadership Award”
  • Significant contributions to the Associate Recruiter Program of the U.S. Public Health Service
  • Pfizer “Innovations in Health Care Award” AAPA Physician Assistant Foundation
  • NAMME “Distinguished Service in Health Care Award”
  • “Award of Appreciation for Commitment and Dedication to Medical Education” Class 35, Charles R. Drew PA Program
  • “Recognition for Dedication and Service to our Physician Assistant Education.” Class 36, Charles R. Drew PA Program
  • PAEA “Excellence in Diversity Award” San Joaquin Valley College (SJVC) Primary Care PA Program
  • Inducted into USC Primary Care PA Program Pi Alpha National Honor Society
  • “Certificate of Appreciation for exemplary service”, Committee on Diversity and Inclusion, PAEA

Currently, Howard holds the following academic and administrative positions: Pipeline Recruitment Coordinator, KECK/USC PA Program Pipeline Program; Adjunct Faculty Marshall B. Ketchum School of Physician Assistant Studies; Adjunct Faculty, Allied Health Department, East Los Angeles College; and California PA Project Access, Coordinator of Pre-PA student pipeline recruitment activities.

Acknowledgments: This biography was written by Darryl Mayo, MPAS, PA with the assistance of Les Howard, PA, and was submitted to the Society in April 2018.  Photographs are courtesy of Claire Norman, Anthony Frasier PA-C and Les Howard PA.

When using information from this biography, please provide the proper citation as described within the PA History Society Terms of Use.

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AAPA Nomination Committee, 1993. (Left to Right) Marilyn Harms, Les Howard, Wendell Wharton, Randy Bundschu, Jr., Bill Kohlhepp, and Heidi Layer

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Les Howard teaching PA students at the University of South California, circa 1990

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Karen Bass and Les Howard during PA Day at University of South California, circa 1990