Perry Westberry, PA-C, has been practicing in internal medicine for the past 44 years. He has witnessed the emergence and evolution of the PA profession as one of only 171 “certified” informally trained PAs*.
Mr. Westberry was certified by the NCCPA in 1983, and has served on various committees of the Georgia Association of Physician Assistants (GAPA). As the profession developed over the past 50 years, he has witnessed PAs overcome barriers and gain autonomy. He has had a long and satisfying career and continues to enjoy practicing medicine as a PA today.
He was born and raised in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia. After graduating high school, he attended Georgia Institute of Technology where he studied chemistry, biology, and health systems engineering. He began his career working as a nursing assistant at Crawford Long Hospital in Atlanta, now affiliated with Emory University. While working there, he met Dr. James A. Kaufmann, the founder of the Kaufmann clinic, who quickly hired him as a medical assistant. After working with Dr. Kaufmann and joining him on his daily rounds with patients, Mr. Westberry considered medical school. He also applied and was accepted into the Cardiology Medical Specialty Associate program at Grady Memorial Hospital, but chose not to attend. This program later evolved into the Emory University Physician Assistant Program.
In 1978, Mr. Westberry obtained an associate’s degree in nursing from Clayton State College in Morrow, GA and became a registered nurse. During this time, he was practicing at Crawford Long Hospital and was soon working side-by-side with physician assistants. Later, one of his PA colleagues encouraged him to take the national boards, and in 1983 he became a certified Physician Assistant. He was then able to become licensed by the state of Georgia and began practicing “officially as a PA”.
He served three years as the Membership Committee chairman with GAPA and helped to develop a committee to address impaired practitioners. For the past twenty years, he has also been involved in the education of Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners through various programs in the southeast.
Despite never attending a Physician Assistant program, Perry Westberry has had a long and fruitful career as a PA. For 44 years, he has served his patients at the Kaufmann Clinic and developed lasting relationships. He believes that the development of trusting relationships with patients and educating them to improve their health are among the most vital elements of PA practice. His advice to current and future PA students is to “find out what you like in medicine and do it.” Mr. Westberry is looking forward to retirement, but until that time he will continue caring for his patients.
Acknowledgments: This biography was drafted by Sullivan University PA students Sandy Drake, Jonathon Ennis, Erika Ford, and Brandon Fordham after completing an interview with Mr. Westberry. This biography was submitted to the Society on August 18, 2015 and edited for clarity and posted in June 2017. The photograph is courtesy of Mr. Westberry.
*Note: Approximately 480 PAs during the ‘70s and early ‘80s, received “on-the-job” training by experienced physicians. Out of that group of “informally trained” PAs, 171 became certified by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA).