Dr. Alfred M. Sadler, Jr., MD, FACP, (1941- ) first became acquainted with the physician assistant concept on a visit to Duke University in 1968. He has been involved in some aspect of the PA world ever since.
In 1970 Dr. Sadler was appointed Assistant Professor of Surgery and Public Health and Director of the Yale Trauma Program by Dr. Jack W. Cole, Chairman of Yale’s Department of Surgery. During that year he founded and directed the Physician Assistant Program at the Yale University School of Medicine. He was ably assisted by Paul Moson, a graduate of the second class of the Duke PA Program. In 1972, he coauthored, “The Physician’s Assistant: Today and Tomorrow” with his brother, Blair and associate, Ann A. Bliss, a nurse and psychiatric social worker. The book was an outgrowth of a “White Paper on Physician’s Assistants: Looking at the Future” which they prepared at the request of five foundations. The book addressed important policy issues relating to PAs and emphasized the importance of interdependence among health professionals.
Dr. Sadler served as the first president of the Association of Physician Assistant Programs (APAP, now PAEA) in 1972 – 1973. He played a key role in establishing the organization and worked with the American Medical Association and the Association of American Medical Colleges to develop accreditation standards for PA programs. He was instrumental in launching the first certifying examination for PAs by the National Board of Medical Examiners in 1973. With Dr. Thomas Piemme, he helped found the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants in 1974 and obtained foundation support to open a national executive office in Washington, DC for APAP and the Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA). Under his leadership, the first annual conference on New Health Practitioners (later to be named the annual conference on Physician’s Assistants) was held in 1973.
While at Yale, Dr. Sadler chaired the Connecticut Advisory Committee on Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and led a statewide study which spurred legislation to establish regional EMS systems in Connecticut. He coauthored the book, “Emergency Medical Services — the Neglected Public Service” with Blair L. Sadler and Samuel B. Webb, a colleague at the Yale School of Public Health, published by Ballinger Press.
Dr. Sadler is a graduate of Amherst College, Amherst, MA in 1962 and the Drexel University College of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA. In 1967, after completing a Surgical Internship at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, he joined the U.S. Public Health Service at the National Institutes of Health. He and his twin brother Blair, a lawyer, analyzed medical-legal issues including: the procurement and use of human tissues and organs for transplantation; the use of human subjects in clinical research; and the licensure and certification of allied health personnel. Together they helped draft the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act in 1968 which was adopted by all 50 states during the next three years and provides the legal underpinning for the national network of organ sharing that we have today. They also worked as special assistants to Dr. Roger O. Egeberg, Assistant Secretary for Health and Scientific Affairs, preparing a position paper on the credentialing of PA’s and Nurse Practitioners. Dr. Sadler was a Founding Fellow of the Institute of Society, Ethics and the Life Sciences (Hastings Institute) in1969.
In 1973, Dr. Sadler joined the Robert Wood Johnson (RWJ) Foundation, in Princeton, NJ, as a Senior Officer. At RWJF he worked to foster the training of physicians in primary care, encourage the further development of physician assistants, expand the Clinical Scholars Program, and enhance the field of emergency medicine. RWJF replicated the Yale regional EMS model in 44 areas of the country. Dr. Sadler served as a lecturer in health policy for undergraduate students at Princeton University. An updated and expanded edition of “The Physician’s Assistant — Today and Tomorrow” was completed by Sadler, Sadler and Bliss in 1975 and published by Ballinger Press.
By 1976, Dr. Sadler’s clinical interests evolved from surgery to primary care. He completed an internship, residency and clinical fellowship in internal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA. In 1979, he was appointed the first chief of Geriatric Medicine at the Center for the Health Sciences at the UCLA School of Medicine and helped establish its geriatric medicine division.
In 1981, he left academic medicine for private practice on the Monterey Peninsula. During the next 32 years, he practiced general internal medicine in Monterey; established, with a PA, a health center for the underserved in Marina; served as Medical Director of a retirement community in Carmel Valley; directed an urgent care center in Salinas, staffed in part by physician’s assistants; directed the Employee and Occupational Health Department of the Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital; and precepted PA and Nurse Practitioner students from Stanford and San Jose State Universities. Dr. Sadler continues part-time primary care and urgent care practice today.
As a regional and national leader in health policy, emergency medicine services, primary care and physician assistants, Dr. Sadler has received many awards and recognitions which include membership in Alpha Omega Alpha, the National Kidney Foundation’s Award for Distinguished Service, the Jack W. Cole award at Yale University, and membership in the Amherst College Copeland Colloquium. In 2014, Dr. Sadler received the Distinguished Service Award from PAEA. You may see a video of his acceptance speech here. He is an honorary member of the American Academy of Physician Assistants (1975). He is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award of its Northern California Chapter and one of 40 “Luminaries” selected by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation at its 40th anniversary in 2012. He joined the PA History Society as Trustee in 2009, serving as Historian in 2010-2011, President Elect in 2013 and President in 2014.
He is a coauthor with Thomas Piemme, Reginald Carter and Ruth Ballweg of “The Physician Assistant: An Illustrated History,” (2013) supported by the grants from the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. In 2015, Dr. Sadler authored two articles for the Japan Surgical Society Journal; click on the titles “Physician Assistant Training in the United States – with a Surgical Emphasis” and “Physician Assistants in the United States – Lessons Learned” to view those articles. In June 2015, Dr. Sadler spoke at the white coat ceremony to the inaugural class of students at the MGH Institute of Health Professions/Brigham and Women’s Hospital PA program. Read more about his keynote address here. He and his brother, Blair, recently wrote an opinion piece for The BMJ entitled: Will an Opt-Out Organ Transplant Law Save Lives?
Acknowledgments: This Biographical Sketch was prepared by Dr. Alfred Sadler with the help of Dr. Reginald Carter. The black & white portrait was donated by Dr. Sadler to the Society for the Preservation of Physician Assistant History. The photo in the banner was taken by Ms. Lori Konopka-Sauer and donated to the PA History Society.