James “Jim” Delaney, MSPAS, PA-C, CAQ-OS, DFAAPA, has spent his life focused on serving others through both his career in medicine and his dedication to professional organizations. As one of Kaiser Permanente’s first PAs, he was a trailblazer for PA practice and later went on the lead AAPA as President and Chair of the Board.
Delaney was born in Urbana, Illinois. Since his father was in the Air Force, the family frequently were required to move around the United States. A considerable amount of Delaney’s youth was spent in Arlington, Virginia, where his father was stationed at the Pentagon and worked for the Eisenhower Administration. Later, when his father retired, the family moved to California.
Delaney started his career in healthcare in 1969 as an emergency room and orthopedic technician with Southern California Kaiser Permanente. Delaney’s introduction to the PA profession started in the early 1970s when he met PA Albert Bibby, who had graduated from the Duke University PA program in 1969. Bibby had been recruited by Raymond Kay, MD, an early pioneer with Kaiser Permanente, to help him develop a Kaiser Permanente nurse practitioner program. Because PAs were not yet licensed in California during that time, PA Bibby only served as a “consultant” to Dr. Kay. It was from that chance meeting of PA Bibby that Delaney applied to and was accepted into the inaugural University of Southern California (USC) Primary Care PA Program. During his first year in the program, Delaney successfully challenged the Los Angeles County Paramedic Examination Board, and started working as a paramedic with the city of Pasadena fire department. Delaney continued his relationship with Kaiser, working an occasional weekend or holiday when he was available. Delaney graduated from USC in December of 1975, and two months later the state of California passed legislation enabling PA practice and licensure. Because of his relationship with Dr. Kay and newly enacted PA practice legislation, Delaney transitioned roles at Kaiser Permanente in 1976 thus becoming the first physician assistant to be employed by Southern California Kaiser Permanente. As their first PA, Delaney had some uphill battles to conquer, but the relationships he had formed prior with Kaiser Permanente leadership pushed him to change the culture and gain acceptance from those wary of the profession, such as the physician specialists and hospital nursing staff. Delaney laid the foundation for the successful integration of PAs in all areas of healthcare delivery within Kaiser Permanente. Today, Kaiser Permanente in California employs hundreds of PAs who practice in all areas of medical and surgical specialties.
Delaney initially worked in family practice for six years before finding his passion for orthopedics. He worked with Kaiser Permanente’s Department of Orthopedic Medicine from 1982 to 2009, where he was promoted to several leadership positions in the Kaiser system, including department administrator. After 40 years, Delaney retired from Kaiser and moved to Texas, where he practiced at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (UTSMC) in orthopedics from 2009-2016. Throughout his career in medicine, he was also passionate about medical education and taught students at Kaiser Permanente and the UTSW PA Program. He was recognized with several teaching awards from Kaiser and the American Academy of Family Physicians. In addition, Delaney has continually advanced his education by obtaining a Master of Science in PA Studies and a Doctorate of Medical Science from A.T. Still University in 2019 and 2023, respectively.
Delany’s dedication to professional organizations has been immense. He was involved with the California Academy of PAs, where he held a multitude of leadership positions and served two terms as president, once in 2001 and again in 2004. After this, he served as Director at Large (2006-2008) for the American Academy of PAs. He also served as Second Vice-Speaker of the House of Delegates (2008-2010) and First Vice Speaker of the House of Delegates (2010-2011). These experiences, along with significant committee work, served as valuable stepping stones to eventually serve as President of AAPA (2012-2013). His time on the AAPA board was a transition period for the Academy. Between 2007 and 2011, AAPA had three Executive Directors/CEOs, and each change in leadership brought new direction and challenges. His leadership in the profession did not stop after serving as AAPA President. After moving to Texas, Delaney became active in the Texas Academy of PAs, serving as Legislative Committee Co-Chair (2017-2019) and Director at Large (2019-2021). He continues his leadership service in Texas by serving as an elected delegate to the House of Delegates. Delaney has also provided significant leadership as a Trustee to the American Academy of PAs’ PA Foundation, where he was Treasurer (2018-2021), Vice President (2021-2022), and President of the PA Foundation (2022-2023).
Delaney splits his time between the Dallas, Texas area and the California Coachella Valley with his wife, Linda Delaney, DMSc, MPAS, PA-C, whom he met while they served on the AAPA Board together in 2008. Linda is a PA leader in her own right and currently serves on the NCCPA Board and was previously the President of the Texas Academy of PAs.
Acknowledgments: This biography was written by Joshua Penninger, MSM, PA-2 with the assistance of Jim Delaney. It was submitted to the PA History Society in April 2023. Photographs are courtesy of Mr. Delaney.