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Thomas J. Lemley, PA-C, DFAAPA

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Major (retired) Thomas J. (Tom) Lemley, MPAS, PA-C, was born in Salem, Ohio, the son of Richard Wayne and Emma Allard Lemley. After graduation from East Palestine High School, East Palestine, Ohio, Tom entered the United States Air Force (USAF).  Once qualified, he was accepted into the USAF Physician Assistant Program at Sheppard Air Force Base (AFB), Texas, and graduated in July 1976.  Upon graduation Lemley was stationed at the Internal Medicine Clinic USAF Hospital, Langly AFB, Virginia. During his tour of duty at Langley he earned his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Nebraska College of Medicine in June1977. Lemley additionally received a Master of Medical Science from St. Francis College Physician Assistant Department, Loretto, PA, in September 1997 and a Master of Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS), University of Nebraska Medical Center, May 1998.

In July 1981, Lemley was assigned as a Master Instructor at the USAF PA Program at Sheppard AFB, a position he served in until July 1985.  His career in the USAF helped blaze a path for Uniformed Services PAs across the board.  He was appointed Military Consultant to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, November 1988- December 1990, Military Consultant to 3 Air Force Surgeons General and their command staffs at the Pentagon from February,1983 until December 1990, and USAF Chief Physician Assistant and Associate Chief, Biomedical Sciences Corps, September 1985 through September 1990.  Major Lemley was a role model and career leader during the push for commissioning of PAs in all branches of the Uniformed Services.

After spending 23 years in the USAF, Lemley retired from active duty and took a position as a Physician Assistant and Clinical Instructor, Division of Neuroradiology, Presbyterian University Hospital, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA.  He served in that position from October 1990 through March 1992.  He served as Physician Assistant/instructor March 1992 through July 1994.  In July 1994, Lemley moved to the Department of Surgery, Division of Neurosurgery, at Penn State University, Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, as a PA and instructor working as part of the “Cyber Knife” team, then a leading innovation in cancer treatment.

Lemley was a member of the American Academy of PAs (AAPA) from 1977 until his passing on November 22, 2008.  During that time, he was continually active in the AAPA holding several positions.  He entered the House of Delegates (HOD) in 1982 as a delegate from the Society of Air Force Physician Assistants (SAFPA) and served on multiple committees through 1989.  Elected to the Board of Directors of the AAPA in 1989, Lemley served on several Board committees, including the Constituent Relations Committee, Ways and Means Committee, Planning Committee, and External Relations Committee.  In 1995 Lemley was elected Secretary of the HOD, Second Vice Speaker 1996-1998, First Vice Speaker 1998-2000, and Speaker of the HOD and Vice President of the AAPA from 2000-2002.

Lemley’s other activities included: Life Membership in the Society of U.S. Army PAs (SAPA) and a member of the Society of Air Force PAs (SAFPA).

In the Pennsylvania Society of PAs (PSPA), he served as the Representative to the Coalition for Hepatitis and as Chairman of the Diversity Council.

He was the Charter President of the Association of Neurosurgical Physician Assistants in 1993 and served as the Past President from June 1994 through June 1995.

Lemley’s many awards included:

  • Civilian Physician Assistant of the Year, Veterans Caucus of the American Academy of Physician Assistants, May 2000.
  • Pennsylvania Society of Physician Assistants, Physician Assistant of the Year Award, September 1998.
  • Francis University, Physician Assistant Master Degree Program, Student of the Year, May 1998.
  • USAF Meritorious Service Award, 1st Oak Leaf Cluster, 1990.
  • Jerrold L Wheaton Award, PA of the Year, Society of Air Force Physician Assistants, 1982.

As a tribute to Lemley’s dedication to diversity and the elimination of healthcare disparities, the PSPA created the Thomas J. Lemley Award for Health Disparities in 2008.  This award is given annually to one pre-PA student, two current PA students and select PSPA fellows.

Thomas James Lemley, PA-C, DFAAPA, was a standard bearer for Uniformed PAs, a role model and leader for all PAs, and a loving husband to Barbara, father to his son Joshua and daughter Sara.  He was and remains a stellar role model for the profession and a dear friend to all whom had the honor of knowing him.

Major Thomas James “Tom” Lemley is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington Virginia.

Acknowledgments: This biography was prepared by Richard C. Vause, Jr. and submitted to the Society in May 2024. Information for the biography was taken in part from Tom Lemley’s obituary. Photographs are from the PA History Society’s Photograph Collection.

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