James Van Rhee, MS, PA-C (1960 – ) began his healthcare career as an medical technologist before attending the University of Iowa to become a physician assistant (PA). His first full-time PA position was in Internal Medicine at Henry Ford Hospital. He is currently the program director for the pioneering online PA program at Yale University.
Mr. Van Rhee was born in 1960 and grew up in Jamestown, Michigan, just outside Grand Rapids. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Medical Technology from the Grant Valley State University in 1982, followed by a Bachelor of Science in Medicine (Physician Assistant) from the University of Iowa in 1989. In 1998, he received a Master of Science in Physician Assistant Practice from Rosalind Franklin University.
Mr. Van Rhee practiced clinically in both outpatient and inpatient internal medicine, first in Detroit and later in Grand Rapids, Michigan. As a clinical preceptor of PA students, his interest in education grew, and in 1996 he became the academic coordinator at the new PA program at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, MI. He then took on the positions of department chair and program director, first at Western Michigan University’s PA program, followed by Wake Forrest University. He became the founding program director of the PA program at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, IL. Then in 2013, he joined the Yale School of Medicine Physician Associate Program, first as the program director of their in-person program, and then as founding program director of Yale’s Online PA Program in 2016.
The Yale Online PA Program is the first online PA program in the United States. Students are able to complete the vast majority (98%) of their PA education in their own communities. The program includes a lecture-based curriculum with PBL components and innovative technology assists students with developing lifelong learning and critical thinking skills. During the pandemic, Mr. Van Rhee has shared his experience in online learning with other programs and has published on technology in the classroom and online education.
Mr. Van Rhee has served the PA profession in various national roles and organizations. He served as the chair of the PACKRAT committee from 2001 to 2008, leading the conversion of the PACKRAT exam to an online platform, offering students an experience which more closely paralleled the PANCE exam. He also served the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA), first as a site visitor for 16 years and then as Commission Vice-Chair for two years and Commission Chair for an additional two years. His efforts have been recognized with the Outstanding Achievement Award in 2013 and the Research Achievement Award in 2019, both from the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA).
Early in his career, his research interest was focused on Problem Based Learning. From 1999 to 2006, he was the principal investigator for a large HRSA grant with the goal of evaluating the use of PBL curricula for PA education. This research led to five publications in the Journal of PA Education and its predecessor, Perspectives on PA Education. He was also the co-principal investigator for a HRSA training grant focused on developing a health literacy curriculum for PA students.
He has been instrumental in helping graduates prepare for and succeed on their national board examinations. He is the author of the book, PA Board Review: Certification and Recertification and has led a national PA Board Review course that is now offered online.
He became the first consulting editor, in 2015, for the Physician Assistant Clinics and is one of the lead authors for the soon to be published textbook, Clinical Medicine for Physician Assistants.
In his spare time, he is a huge baseball fan, trivia fanatic, and lover of books related to American history.
Acknowledgments: This biography was prepared by Maha Lund with the assistance of Mr. Van Rhee and submitted to the Society in November 2021. Photographs are courtesy of Mr. Van Rhee.