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David E. Larson, MMS, PA-C

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Dave E. Larson, MMS, PA-C, was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1948 and spent his early years on a farm with his Great Aunt Mable and Uncle Roscoe while his mother, Veolada worked in town. His family eventually moved to Denver, CO, when he was two years old. After living in Denver for a few years, they relocated to SE Denver before moving in with his grandparents. Larson attended Thatcher School for 1st grade and lived with his  Maternal Grand Parents for a few months.  His mother remarried to his stepfather, Ernest (Ernie), who treated him as his own and gave him the last name Larson. Larson gained three brothers as the family grew: Ernie, Matthew, and John.

Larson attended South High School in Denver until completing his sophomore year, after which he moved to a farm in Wisconsin. He graduated from Marshfield Senior High School at 17 and initially worked part-time assisting with roofing houses while working on the farm. Seeking to move away from farm life, he found a position as an orderly in the X-ray department of a local hospital in 1966.

With the Vietnam War escalating, Larson enrolled at the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point. During this time, he learned about the PA profession from a friend and found it intriguing. In 1968, anticipating being drafted, he joined the Army for three years. He underwent rigorous training to become a Special Forces Medic, Part of his training, was Reynolds Army Hospital in Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, where he gained on-the-job training and rotated through different departments. His experience there and personal milestones, like getting married and starting a family, shaped his decision to apply to the first PA class at the Marshfield PA program.

Accepted into the inaugural PA class in 1972, Larson enjoyed his educational experience and excelled in his studies. While his wife pursued nursing school, he worked at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Marshfield, Wisconsin, gaining valuable experience. Despite a tempting job offer in Baraboo, Wisconsin, Larson and his wife prioritized her education, and he took a position as a research project leader at the Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation.

Larson’s advocacy journey began with his involvement in the Wisconsin Society of Physician Assistants as a PA student, ultimately leading to the establishment of WAPA in 1975. Elected as the founding President of WAPA, Larson served in this role from 1975 to 1977, spearheading the drafting of by-laws and organizing the inaugural meeting in Marshfield with mentor John McCarty. He continued to drive progress by compiling newsletters, recruiting board candidates, and overseeing the election process. His resilience and leadership shone through despite facing challenges at the House of Delegates Meeting in Houston in 1977, where the WI delegation initially struggled for recognition due to practice parameter discrepancies.

His dedication to the PA profession led him to Arizona in 1979, where he became actively involved in the Arizona State Association of Physician Assistants (ASAPA). Serving as president (three times), membership chairman, and later treasurer, Larson’s advocacy efforts within ASAPA resulted in significant growth, financial stability, and legislative advancements benefiting PAs in the state. Under his tenure, ASAPA experienced growth, financial success, and enjoyable times. During his tenure as president of ASAPA in 1986, 1991, and 2000, he spearheaded efforts to enact legislative changes that improved the practice status of PAs in the state. The Arizona Medical Association (ArMA) played a vital role in supporting ASAPA, with close collaboration between the two organizations. Through initiatives like the Doc of the Day Program, which provided medical coverage for the legislature, PAs have had the opportunity to engage in lobbying efforts and present the views of the PA profession at ArMA board meetings. In his second term as president of ASAPA, Larson navigated discussions around potentially establishing a satellite Mayo Clinic in Arizona. Addressing concerns within the medical community about the clinic’s impact on PAs, he facilitated dialogue to emphasize the employment opportunities it could provide for PAs in the state.

Recognizing the absence of a PA program in Arizona, Larson collaborated with key stakeholders to establish a PA Program Committee. Together, they engaged with universities like Arizona State University and University of Arizona to advocate for the creation of a PA program in the state. This advocacy led to the establishment of PA programs by Midwestern University and Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine (Now AT Still University), marking a significant milestone in expanding educational opportunities for aspiring PAs in Arizona.

Larson’s impact extended beyond Arizona as he engaged with the American Academy of PAs (AAPA), serving on committees and leading initiatives like PA Day. His many contributions to the PA profession and the AAPA, including recognizing actor Eric Laneuville for portraying a PA on TV, earned him the title of AAPA Distinguished Fellow in 2008.

Throughout his career, Larson’s passion for travel and professional growth led him to diverse opportunities. He had the fortune of knowing PA Mike Goodwin, who worked as an independent contractor for Motorola in Occupational Medicine and provided medical coverage for the Iridium Satellite launch team. As such, Larson had the opportunity to travel to Kazakhstan once for 32 days in 1998 and China twice for a total of 56 days both in 1998. Upon his return from his first trip to China, he halfheartedly sought new job opportunities and soon found himself being asked to return to China for another launch within a month. He continued his worldwide experiences from working in Saudi Arabia to Egypt. Reflecting on his journey, Larson credited inspirational figures like Dr. Bill Boulet and Dr. Elden Grady Mills – who emphasized a fundamental principle in medicine: “The patient is the one with the disease” – for shaping his approach to patient-centered care and medical practice.

In retirement, Larson, his wife Debbie, and dog Clyde continue to explore the world while residing in Arizona. They cherish the memories of a fulfilling career dedicated to advancing the PA profession and serving others. Also enjoying family Son Eric, Daughter Ayme and 7 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren!

Acknowledgments: This biography was written by Randy Danielsen with the assistance of Dave Larson. It was submitted to the Society in June 2024. All photographs are courtesy of Mr. Larson.

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