James F. Cawley, MPH, PA-C, DHL (hon) is a prolific scholar, educator and professional leader whose research interests has focused on the physician assistant (PA) profession. Cawley is Professor in the School of PA Practice in the College of Medicine at the Florida State University. He is also Visiting Professor and Scholar-in-Residence in the Physician Assistant Leadership and Learning Academy (PALLA) in the Graduate School at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. Cawley taught and conducted research for over 40 years in the School of Medicine and Health Science at The George Washington University Physician Assistant Program and is Professor Emeritus and past Chair of the Department of Prevention and Community Health in the Milken Institute School of Public Health at GW. In addition to co-authoring five books on PAs, he has published extensively in the areas of the PA profession, primary care, preventive medicine, non-physician health providers, and health workforce policy.
Cawley has authored more than 150 peer-reviewed articles published in such journals as Journal of Health Services and Research Policy, Health Affairs, Annals of Internal Medicine, JAMA, the Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants, Academic Medicine, and British Medical Journal. As an editor and columnist, he has authored more than 250 columns over the past 25 years and his commentaries have been timely, informative and challenging. He was a Contributing Editor for Physician Assistant/Health Practitioner, a columnist for Clinician Review and Clinician News, and an Editor of the PA Journal. In 2006, he was a Visiting Scientist in the Department of the History of Medicine at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine doing historical work on the history of the PA profession. He is co-author of Physician Assistants in a Changing Health Care Environment, and with Roderick S. Hooker of Physician Assistants: Policy and Practice, 4th Edition published in 2017.
One of his books, Physician Assistants in American Medicine, was assigned reading for physician assistant students at GW, has gone through four editions, and is a valuable reference for those interested in understanding the emergence of the PA profession into the American health care system. He is a Distinguished Fellow of the AAPA, was a Primary Care Health Policy Fellow in the federal Health Resources and Services Administration, and is a past president of the Physician Assistant Education Association. He has also been president of the Maryland Academy of Physician Assistants, served as its Legislative Chair for ten years, and in 2011 was named its Outstanding Maryland Physician Assistant of the Year for the second time.
Cawley earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from St. Francis College in 1970, and a second bachelor’s degree in science as a physician assistant from Touro College (New York) in 1974. He joined the faculty of the Health Associate Program in the School of Health Services at the Johns Hopkins University in 1974 and practiced as a primary care PA at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. He earned his MPH in infectious disease epidemiology from The Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in 1979. In 1988, he was a fellow in the Epidemiology Program Office of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and completed the Epidemic Intelligence Services (EIS) course in epidemiology and biostatistics. In 1994, he was Chair and principal writer of the Report of the Advisory Group on Physician Assistant in the Workforce for the Council on Graduate Medical Education (COGME). Cawley was Vice Chair of the federal Advisory Committee on Training for Primary Care Medicine and Dentistry. He has served as a consultant and grant reviewer for the Health Resources and Services Administration, the Veterans Administration, and Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation in the Department of Health and Human Services. He has also served as a consultant on the PA profession and PA education and accreditation to dozens of colleges and universities nationally and globally. He has held faculty appointments in the PA programs at Stony Brook University and Yale University School of Medicine. He was a doctoral student in the Department of Health Services Management and Policy in health policy at The George Washington University.
Cawley is Emeritus Professor in the Department of Prevention and Community Health in the Milken Institute School of Public Health, and for 20 years was the Founding Director of the Physician Assistant/Master of Public Health Program. The dual-degree Physician Assistant/M.P.H. program, which he co-founded, is the first of its type in the United States. Cawley also holds an appointment as Adjunct Associate Professor in the Arizona School of Health Sciences of A.T. Still University. He was a tenured professor in the GWU PA Program from 1982-2018 and where he taught courses on the PA profession and the health workforce, preventive medicine, epidemiology, and community health in the Milken Institute School of Public Health.
In 2013, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree by the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. Cawley has also held faculty appointments on the PA faculty at Johns Hopkins, Stony Brook University, and Yale University School of Medicine. Cawley has co-authored five books on PAs and published extensively on the PA profession and health workforce policy. He is a past President of the Physician Assistant Education Association, a past President of the PA Foundation, and has served as Senior Research Fellow at the American Academy of Physician Assistants.
Cawley received the prestigious Eugene A. Stead Award of Achievement by the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) in 2011. This award of excellence focused on his pivotal role in moving the PA field forward throughout his distinguish career. He has held numerous leadership positions within the physician assistant profession, including President of the Physician Assistant Foundation, President of the Maryland Academy of Physician Assistants, and President of the Physician Assistant Education Association. He served for five years as a commissioner on the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants and was a former member of the Board of Governors of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. He also served as Chair of the Editorial Board of the Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants. He is also Chair of the Research Advisory Committee of the American Academy of Physician Assistants and a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of the Journal of Physician Assistant Education. In 2011, he was awarded the Patron of the PA Profession Award bestowed by the University of Utah Physician Assistant Program. He served twice as President of the PA Foundation, and from 2015-2017 served as Senior Research Fellow at the American Academy of Physician Assistants. He remains an active teacher, mentor, and researcher.
Acknowledgments: This biographical sketch was prepared by Reginald Carter and J. Jeffrey Heinrich and edited by James Cawley and submitted to the Society in September 2012. This biography was updated in December 2020 by Mr. Cawley. The portrait photographs are courtesy of Mr. Cawley. The second and third photos are from the AAPA Photographic Collection, Physician Assistant History Society, Johns Creek, GA.