Jim Somers, PhD, PA, is known for his academic and professional leadership. He served as an accreditation evaluator for the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) from 1994 to 2012 and chaired the ARC-PA from 2000 to 2001. It was during this time that the commissioners of the ARC-PA voted to become a freestanding accrediting agency for PA educational programs. In addition to his service to the ARC-PA, Somers has served on many committees of the Association of Physician Assistant Programs (APAP), now the PA Education Association (PAEA) and the American Academy of Physician Assistants (now, American Academy of Physician Associates). Somers is a former member of the PAEA’s Graduate Education Commission and former chair of the APAP’s Research and Review Committee and Faculty and Staff Development Committee. He is also a former member of the AAPA’s Technical Expert Panel for the AAPA Core Competency Project. Regionally, Somers has served on the Board of Directors and as president of the Kansas Academy of Physician Assistants (1976-1976) and on various committees of the Nebraska Academy of Physician Assistants (1978-1983). In addition, he has served as a member of the Nebraska Behavioral Workforce Improvement Project (2004-2012) and the State of Nebraska Rural Health Advisory Commission, Behavioral Health Subcommittee (2002-2012) and the HIV/AIDS Technical Advisory Committee, Nebraska AIDS Program, State of Nebraska (1989-1994).
Somers is a native of Leavenworth, Kansas. He received his BS from the University of Kansas (1963) and obtained his BHS/PA certificate from Wichita State University (1975/76). He continued his education later at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE, receiving a MA in Adult and Continuing Education (1981) and a PhD in the Interdepartmental Area of Community and Human Resources (1991). In 1975, Somers became a clinical preceptor in emergency medicine for the Wichita State University, Physician Assistant Program, Wichita, KS. In 1977, he joined the University of Nebraska Medical Centers (UNMC) Division of PA Education, Omaha, NE, as an instructor and clinical coordinator. He then spent a year (1983-1984) as the coordinator of the Department of Family Medicine’s Long-Term Care Service for the Elderly and as the Associate Director of the Physician Associate Program at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine, Oklahoma City, OK. He then returned to UNMC (1984) as an instructor in the Department of Preventive and Stress Medicine and later worked as a PA in the Department of Radiology. Somers also served as the academic coordinator in the Division of Physician Assistant Education. In 1991, he became the Program Director of the Division of Physician Assistant Education at UNMC, a position he held unto his retirement in 2012.
Somers academic and research interests include clinical studies in radiologic oncology, cardiology, geriatrics, medical ethics, curriculum development, and evaluation. He has published both clinical and academic related articles in peer reviewed journals and has presented papers and conducted workshops at various national professional meetings, especially on accreditation. Major accomplishments include:
- The development of a program offering PA graduates the opportunity to obtain a master’s degree in physician assistant studies. The Distant Learning Option (DLO) allows graduate PAs holding a bachelor’s degree to obtain their Master of Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS) degree through a learning track designed especially for the practicing PA.
- The design and implementation of the Project to Encourage Planning and Presentation of Research (PEPPOR). An ongoing APAP/PAEA project to promote involvement in research and other scholarly activity for faculty members of PA Programs.
- The development and implementation of the curriculum for the Master of Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS) degree for the University of Nebraska Physician Assistant Program, 1994.
- The development and implementation of a Physician Assistant Mentor Program designed to introduce junior physician assistant students to selected clinical practices as well as the clinical role of the physician assistant in various health care settings.
- The development of a preventive medicine curriculum for medical and physician assistant students in the Department of Preventive and Stress Medicine, University of Nebraska Medical Center, 1985.
- The development of a graduate program leading to a master’s degree in geriatric medicine for physician assistants, University of Oklahoma Physician Associate Program.
Somers is the recipient of the Outstanding Teachers Award (1979) from the School of Allied Health Professions and the Leadership and Caring Award (1995) from the Office of Affirmative Action, University of Nebraska Medical Center. He received a Certificate of Appreciation for “Significant Contributions to the Association of Physician Assistant Programs” (1996) and was recognized for his contributions to, and leadership of, the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant as a member and chairperson (2001).
Since retirement, Somers has enjoyed traveling and taking courses at the University of Nebraska’s Senior Passport Learning Program.
Acknowledgments: This biography was prepared by Reginald Carter, PhD, PA, with the assistance of Dr. Somers and submitted to the Society in January 2023. The photographs are courtesy of Dr. Somers and the PAHx Society, Johns Creek, GA.