Eugene S. Schneller’s book titled Physician’s Assistants: Innovation in the Medical Division of Labor was published in 1978. He was the first sociologist to analyze the newly emerging PA profession which he felt, at the time, was a significant innovation in the medical division of labor. The way PAs had to negotiate their roles and scope of practice with their supervising physician fascinated him. Schneller coined a new sociological term, “performance autonomy,” to describe how PAs advance their careers, unlike that of any other health professional. The book is cited as a milestone in the development of the PA profession and was used to shape public policy in favor of PAs during the 1980s.
Schneller became interested in PAs when he joined the Department of Community Health Sciences at Duke University in 1972. He helped craft the social science curriculum for the PA program and the concept meshed well with his research interest on professional role development. To determine how changes in the health sector would influence PA role development and career satisfaction over time, Schneller began a longitudinal study of graduating PAs in 1975. With support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation he surveyed a target group of PAs about the realities of their work compared with their original expectations, the adequacy of their training and overall career satisfaction. Follow up studies were conducted again in 1986, 1999 and 2000. He found that although over 30% were no longer working as PAs in 2000, most felt that their expectations about autonomy had been realistic; they expected to be given more autonomy as they proved themselves and were given it.
Schneller earned his bachelor’s degree at C.W. Post College (a branch of Long Island University) in 1968 and his PhD in sociology from New York University in 1973. In addition to Duke University, he has held academic appointments at Union College, Schenectady, New York and the University of Arizona. He chaired the Department of Sociology at Union College and is currently Professor and former Director, School of Health Administration and Policy, College of Business, Arizona State University and former Director of the Division of Health Administration and Policy in the Arizona College of Public Health. He was formerly Counselor to the President of Arizona State University for Health Professions Education, Associate Dean for Research and Administration at the College of Business and Director of the L. William Seidman Research Institute. Schneller served two terms on the state Medicaid advisory committee and the Health Care Group and was appointed Primary Care Fellow, U.S. Public Health Service for 1995 and was selected by the Association of University Programs in Health Administration to occupy their seat as a commissioner on the Accrediting Commission on Education for Health Services Administration. In 2007 he was named Dean’s Council of 100 Distinguished Scholar in the W. P. Carey School of Business.
He has authored numerous papers in the health field, served on many commissions and boards and served as a consultant for health professional organizations. Schneller’s recent research has focused on standardization for clinical preference items and on the emergent and changing role of hospitalists. Other projects have included scrutiny of the health care supply chain, group purchasing organizations, and models of change in the health professions and inquiry into factors affecting graduate medical education. His recent books, Strategic Management of the Health Care Supply Chain , and Orchestrating Change in the Public Services provide guidance and a penetrating analysis of large scale innovation in health and education that have occurred in the US, England and Canada.
For his ground-breaking work, Schneller has received numerous honors including being made an honorary PA by the Duke University PA program in 2004. He is a recipient of the American College of Healthcare Executives’ Regent’s Award and is recognized as a Distinguished Faculty Fellow at the Public Procurement Research Center, Florida Atlantic University. Schneller’s wife Ellen worked at Duke University Medical Center as a speech pathologist during his years in Durham. His son AJ, born in Duke University Medical Center, is an environmentalist with a Ph.D. from the University of Arizona. His son Lee, who studied media in both the U.S. and England, is the creative producer for E! News. Schneller has lectured and carried out development programs in a wide range of countries including Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Hungary, Russia and Dubai.”
Acknowledgments: This biographical sketch was prepared by Reginald Carter with the assistance of Eugene S. Schneller and submitted to the Society on May 1, 2008. The photograph is courtesy of Dr. Schneller, circa 2005.