A native son of Nebraska, Roger Wells was born in Saint Paul, NE, where he was raised on a farm. His father loved being a farmer – got up early, worked late, and rarely took vacations. Though his father’s occupation kept him busy, he always had time for sports and to support Wells in all of his activities. His father also instilled in Wells and his brothers a sense of service by having them assist neighbors in their times of need. If a neighbor couldn’t do certain duties due to a medical emergency, Wells, his father, and his brothers would help them by tending the crops, repairing equipment, and assisting in the harvest.
Upon entering high school, Wells became active in sports (football, basketball, track and field, and baseball) and was a starter for each team from freshman to senior year. He was also active in many organizations, such as Future Farmers of America and Boy Scouts, and generally assumed leadership roles within them, including being a class officer every year. From 8th grade through high school, he played guitar in a band he had started with his twin brother and two classmates. After high school, he attended Kearney State College (now the University of Nebraska at Kearney) and then went on to Eastern Illinois University where he received his Master’s degree with an emphasis in exercise physiology. After graduation, he returned to Kearney State College to become the head athletic trainer for all sports and taught in the Physical Education Department.
A number of events influenced Wells’ decision to become a physician assistant (PA). When his young nephew dislocated a shoulder, Wells accompanied him to the emergency room. A PA was the health provider who attended to the shoulder and set it. The next event was when Wells happened upon a serious motor vehicle accident a short distance from his home. He ended up in the back of the ambulance going to the hospital to assist the accident victim. Finally, his college experience at Kearney State College as an athletic trainer exposed him daily to a variety of injuries and trauma.
The results of these experiences were a desire to become more involved in direct patient care, to do more than preparing athletes for sports; he wanted to prepare patients for life. Ultimately, Wells matriculated at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and graduated in 1987 with a Bachelor of Science Physician Assistant Degree with primary care and surgery certifications. He also received a Certificate of Academic Excellence from the program.
During his PA school experience, Wells was elected class president, elected to the medical center student senate, and elected as the class representative to the Nebraska Academy of PAs (NAPA). His leadership continued after PA school and he remained a representative to NAPA, eventually becoming a delegate to the American Academy of PAs (AAPA) House of Delegates (HOD) (1990-1995) and an alternate delegate (1996-2008). He served as president of NAPA in 1993, 1997 and 1998. He was elected to the AAPA Board of Directors in 1997, and ultimately served as Secretary (1999-2003).
Wells has a passion for rural health. Over the years he has developed a level of knowledge and expertise that has made him a valuable resource in the rural health community. This led to him being invited to serve on the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy’s National Commission on Rural Health and Human Services (2011-2014), the National Rural Health Association’s Clinical Constituent Committee and Board of Directors (2014-present), and the National Association of Rural Health Clinics Policy Committee (2020-present), among others.
Currently, Wells is practicing as a primary care PA in Lexington, NE, at the Lexington Regional Health Center. He spends two half days a week working in a Rural Health Clinic in a community of approximately 600 residents in Bertrand, NE. He also assists in a spine clinic and spine surgery and is a rotating hospitalist on weekends at the Lexington Rural Health Center Critical Access Hospital. Wells represents the PA profession on the Nebraska Governor’s Rural Health Commission (2003-present) and is the co-chair of the University of Nebraska Medical Center Role Health Committee (2019-present). He is a member of the National Association of Rural Health Clinics Policy Committee, the Quality Committee for United Health Care, and Nebraska Total Care Medicaid insurance companies in Nebraska.
Wells’ awards and recognitions include: the University of Nebraska Medical Center Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2013, the Nebraska Rural Health Association – Rural Health Achievement of Excellence in 2013 and the National Rural Health Association Presidents Award in 2018.
Acknowledgments: This biography was prepared by Richard Vause with the assistance of Roger Wells. It was submitted to the Society in February 2023. Photographs are courtesy of Mr. Wells.