For most of us, being president of a PA state chapter is a position that we aspire to once but are daunted by the thought of serving twice. Accepting the presidency of two different PA state chapters and serving a total of 4 terms as a state chapter president is a feat worth recognition. Joseph Varano, PA-C, served 1977-1979 as the first president of the Pennsylvania Society of Physician Assistants. Under his presidency, the governor signed the enabling PA legislation for the state in 1978. When Varano later moved to Connecticut, he was provided another opportunity to serve the PA community, this time as president of the Connecticut Academy of Physician Assistants (1993-1994, 1997-1998 and 2003-2004). He also served on the Connecticut PA Foundation’s Board of Directors for several years. Varano showed a heartfelt and unselfish devotion to the PA profession in its early days and truly wanted to give back to a profession that had given him so much.
Varano was one of three siblings born to an English “war bride” and a 2nd generation Italian/American father. He grew up in the small town of Kulpmont, PA, where his father supported his family at Cummins Diesel, and his mother worked at the grade school cafeteria. His early passions were being in the Drama Club and the school band with his instrument of choice being the trumpet. He graduated from Mount Carmel High School in 1966 and found ways to finance his continued education on his own.
Varano successfully completed training as a radiologic technician at the Geisinger Medical Center School of X-Ray Technology located in north-central Pennsylvania. It was here that he learned about the PA profession. He was accepted into the 1st class of the Alderson-Broaddus College PA Program in 1969. Alderson-Broaddus at the time was the only PA program to offer a four-year baccalaureate program. During PA school, Varano remained active in drama and was also the Greek Editor for the school’s yearbook, “The Battler”. Varano was a committed student and graduated in 1973. He achieved his Master of Science Degree as a 1986 graduate of the University of Hartford, West Hartford, CT.
Varano started his PA career practicing general surgery and surgical oncology and finished his career in neonatology before retiring in 2014. His first position was with Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia, PA. It was during this time he served as the first president of the Pennsylvania Society of Physician Assistants. He briefly worked at Duke University, before returning north to become a resident of Connecticut where he spent the majority of his career in the neonatal ICU of Hartford Hospital.
Varano was always a supporter of the profession, the American Academy of PAs (AAPA) and the state organizations. In Connecticut he not only served as president of the state chapter, but also as a delegate to the AAPA House of Delegates (HOD) from 1995-2013. He was Chief Delegate in 1997-1998, 2001-2003 and 2004-2006. His volunteer spirit was not limited to the state chapter though. In the AAPA, he served as a member of the Nominating Work Group for 2002-2008 and chaired the Group twice for 2004-2005 and 2007-2008. He was a founding member of the Society of Physician Assistants in Pediatrics and served as president from 2000-2001. Mr. Varano was awarded the Connecticut Academy of PAs Founder’s Award in recognition of his longtime service and dedication to the organization. The AAPA recognized Varano as a Distinguished Fellow of the AAPA for his many years of dedicated service to the profession. He was also a founding member of the Physician Assistant History Society.
Joseph Varano died on May 3, 2021, at the age of 72.
Acknowledgments: This biography was prepared by Steve Wilson, PA-C, with the assistance of Deborah Shearn (Joseph Varano’s sister) and Jason Prevelige, PA-C (Connecticut Academy of PAs Historian). It was submitted to the Society in October 2022. The banner photograph is courtesy of the ConnAPA Newsletter and the photograph on the side is from the Shamokin, Pennsylvania newspaper, The News Item, circa 1978.