Dr. Pedersen has been involved with Utah Physician Assistant Program (UPAP) since 1979, initially serving as Academic Coordinator. He was the Program Director from 1989 to 2010 after attaining a faculty appointment in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine (DFPM) in the University of Utah School of Medicine. He has served as the Chief of the Division of Physician Assistant Studies and is now in phased retirement from that position. Dr. Pedersen is a full professor and has authored over 60 articles and book chapters relating to clinical practice and physician assistant education. Under Dr. Pedersen’s leadership UPAP became a graduate program in the School of Medicine offering the Master’s of Physician Assistant Studies degree. Nationally, he is a past President of the Association of Physician Assistant Programs (APAP, now the Physician Assistant Education Association, PAEA) with 4 years of service on the Board of Directors and in 1998 he founded the Associations official journal Perspective on Physician Assistant Education (now the Journal of Physician Assistant Education). He served as the journal’s editor and publisher for the initial seven years. He also created the Association’s Research Institute, which provides small grants for educational research by PA program faculty on a national level. During his tenure with the Association he established a liaison position with the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine and served in this capacity for two years. He also represented the Association as the liaison to the Global Health Education Association. Dr. Pedersen has served as the President of the Physician Assistant Foundation (PAF), the philanthropic arm of the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA). He completed eight years of service on the PAF Board of Trustees and was awarded Emeritus Trustee status. Through the PA Foundation, he and his wife, Kathy, established an endowed grant program in honor of Don’s father to award international humanitarian outreach grants to PAs and PA students. He completed ten years on the state of Utah Physician Assistant Licensing Board, serving two years as chair. Pedersen also served on the Board of Directors of the NCCPA Health Foundation, concluding his term in 2016.
Dr. Pedersen served 16 years in the Army National Guard and the Air Force Reserves with active duty at Langley AFB during Operation Desert Storm. In 2001 he initiated the Combat Medic/Corpsman Memorial Sculpture project that culminated in July of 2003 with a life-sized sculpture that now graces the entrance to the PA building at the University of Utah. Two additional sculptures have been placed at PA Programs around the country through his efforts. He was a founding Board member of the Society for the Preservation of Physician Assistant History. He helped pioneer the Utah PA Program’s international clinical activity in Papua New Guinea and Thailand and served on the AAPA International Working Group. Following the 2004 tsunami, Dr. Pedersen traveled to southern Thailand as a volunteer, serving 3 weeks helping identify the dead through DNA samples. He worked with the Thai military at Wat Yan Yao, a Buddhist temple where the makeshift morgue was established and approximately 4000 bodies were processed.
In 1998 he was voted Outstanding PA Educator of the Year by the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) and received the President’s Award from the Association of Physician Assistant Programs (APAP). In 2007 he received the Distinguished Service Award from the Utah Medical Association. In 2009 he received the Research Achievement Award from the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA). In 2010 he received the Outstanding PA of the Year Award from the AAPA. In 2011 he received the Global Health Excellence and Leadership Award by the University of Utah. In 2016, Dr. Pedersen received the PAEA Lifetime Achievement Award. To read his remarks, please click here.
In 2022, Don Pedersen and Kathy Pedersen created the Don Pedersen Endowed Chair in the Division of Physician Assistant Studies at the University of Utah. This is Utah’s first endowed chair in PA studies. (from UtahMed article: A New Chapter in a Living Legacy by Wayne Lewis)
Dr. Pedersen has been oil painting for the past 15 year and has had numerous shows of his works. He donates paintings to charity and the Physician Assistant Foundation (PAF) and displays many of his works at the Utah Program. He enjoys skiing and surfing. Don and Kathy currently volunteer as physician assistants at free clinics in Salt Lake City and also pursue international opportunities for PAs and PA students.
Acknowledgments: This biography was written by Don Pedersen and was submitted to the Society in October 2012. The photograph in the banner is courtesy of Dr. Pedersen. The rest of the photographs are courtesy of the PA History Society.