PA logo


Malcolm Peterson, MD

X icon

Dr. Malcolm Peterson (1927-1987) was a physician advocate for the PA profession during its formative years, eventually being elected as the first president of the AMA’s Joint Review Committee for Educational Programs for the Assistant to Primary Care Physician (JRC-PA, now the ARC-PA) in February 1972.  As a representative of the American College of Physicians (ACP), he served on the AMA’s Subcommittee of the Council on Medical Education’s Advisory Committee on Education for Allied Health Professions which drafted the Essentials of an Accredited Educational Program for the Assistant to the Primary Care Physician.  The Essentials were adopted by the AMA House of Delegates in December 1971 establishing a national process of accreditation for PA programs.  In 1965, Dr. Peterson was appointed Chief of the Health Services Research and Development Center, Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, to provide improved access and affordable health care services to local communities.  This led to his interest in the use of PAs and his advocacy for the PA profession.  In 1972, he was named Dean of the newly created Johns Hopkins School of Health Services which helped develop the Johns Hopkins PA program which was accredited in 1974 but closed in 1979.  While at Johns Hopkins, Dr. Peterson held appointments both in the Medical School and the School of Public Health and Hygiene.

After leaving Johns Hopkins, Dr. Paterson held clinical and teaching positions in a number of institutions, including the University of Washington, Seattle.  While at the University of Washington, he served as an associate professor of health services and medicine and later as Director of Community Health in the School of Public Health and Community Medicine.  In 1984, he became chief of staff at the Veterans Administration Hospital (VAH) in Tacoma, WA.  Two years later, he relocated to a VAH in Washington, DC.  He was a veteran, having served as a laboratory technician on an Army hospital ship from 1946-1948.

Dr. Peterson graduated from Stanford University in 1950 and received his medical degree in 1954 from the University of Washington, Seattle.  He completed his internship in Philadelphia and residency at Barnes, an Affiliated Hospitals in St. Louis, MO.  In 1960, he completed a Ph.D. in biochemistry at the Rockefeller Institute in NYC during which time he worked in the cardiology outpatient clinic at Bellevue Hospital.  He spent a year as a trainee in gastroenterology at Cornell University College before traveling to London to complete a fellowship in gastroenterology at Central Middlesex Hospital.

Dr. Peterson authored papers in gastroenterology, public health and the effects of radiation during the nuclear age.  He was a member of Physicians on Social Responsibility serving on the executive committee of the Washington state chapter from 1980-1983.  He served on the editorial boards of several medical journals and on numerous committees of various medical organizations.  He was a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha honorary society.

The Washington Physicians on Social Responsibility (WPSR) presents an annual award in Dr. Paterson’s honor at their meetings.  In addition, the Malcolm L. Peterson Honor Lecture is given during the Society of General Internal Medicine (SGIM) annual conference.

Acknowledgments: This biography was prepared by Reginald Carter and submitted to the Society in August 2020. Information for this biography was extracted from online biographical information including an obituary that appeared in the Evening Sun, Baltimore MD on 30 Nov 1987, p.41; accessed on August 10, 2020 at  The  photograph is courtesy of the Becker Medical Library, Washington University School of Medicine.

When using information from this biography, please provide the proper citation as described within the PA History Society Terms of Use.