Wendell Wharton, Jr. was the only son born to the late Wendell Wharton, Sr. and the late former Emma Vernell Randall in Columbus, Georgia. His family relocated to Los Angeles when he was young.
Mr. Wharton was very active in sports. During junior high school he lettered in football, basketball, volleyball, baseball, and track and participated in several school service organizations, including the Canteen Cadets, a food service group. He also was an Honor Roll student. During high school, Mr. Wharton earned a varsity letter in Track & Field. He participated in a number of clubs and organizations including the Math Club, the Chess Club, and the Key Club (an international community service organization). He graduated with honors in 1966 with a college-prep Mathematics and Science double major.
After high school Mr. Wharton matriculated at U.C.L.A. as a pre-med major where he also lettered in Track & Field, and he joined Phi Beta Sigma fraternity. His college education was interrupted by a three year, eight month, and twenty day period of service in the U.S. Air Force during the Viet Nam war era. He served as an Intelligence Specialist in the Security Service while stationed in Karamursel, Turkey, and in San Antonio, Texas. Following an honorable discharge from the service, he returned to U.C.L.A. and completed his college education in 1975, earning a B.A. degree in Psychobiology (Psychology & Biology) with a minor in Biochemistry.
Upon graduation from college, Mr. Wharton attended medical school at Howard University College of Medicine. To pay for his tuition, he worked part-time as an Audio Visual technician and as a high school Biology teacher. He withdrew from medical school during his second year and worked for one as a Laboratory Assistant in a Histology laboratory before entering the Physician Assistant Program at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles.
While he was a student in the Drew PA Program, Wharton was elected as National Student Secretary of the Student Academy of the American Academy of Physician Assistants (SAAAPA) in 1978. He also served on the Board of Directors of the California Academy of Physician Assistant (CAPA) and on the Board of Directors of the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA). After graduation he served on the CAPA Board of Directors as a Member-at-Large and later as an officer, serving from 1990 to 1993 as Vice President, President Elect, President, and Past President. He served as a Delegate to the House of Delegates of the AAPA, for twenty years. He also served as a House of Delegates officer, as Secretary (twice), Second Vice-Speaker, and First Vice-Speaker (twice) from 1993 to 1998. He was the first African American to be elected as an AAPA House officer.
As a member of AAPA, Mr. Wharton developed the idea of ethnic based Special Interest Groups or Caucuses, which would provide a better foundation and representation for the Minority Affairs Committee. He was involved in the implementation of each ethnic group and served for two years as the first President of the African Heritage Caucus, which began as the African American Special Interest Group. He was also one of the founding members of the Society for the Preservation of Physician Assistant History (PAHx) and served briefly as the Newsletter Editor.
Mr. Wharton began his career as a Physician Assistant (PA) in 1978 working in the inner city of south-central Los Angeles. He has worked numerous full-time and overlapping part-time clinical PA positions and in various medical specialties including Family Medicine, Obstetrics, Industrial Medicine, Orthopedics, Pain Management, Urgent Care, Pediatrics, Medical Weight Control, and Occupational Medicine. The majority of his clinical practice was spent in southern California in the Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and Riverside counties. With more than thirty-five years of clinical practice experience as a PA, Mr. Wharton is still practicing medicine.
In 1980, Mr. Wharton accepted a full-time teaching position with Drew University of Medicine and Science. He taught Obstetrics and Gynecology to the Primary Care Physician Assistant students in the College of Allied Health and was promoted to Director of Training for the PA program. In 1984, he left Drew and he returned to private practice and returned to the Drew PA program in 1987 as Program Director. As an Assistant Professor, he also taught courses each semester. He received the Outstanding Instructor Award in 1989, 1991, and in 1993. Mr. Wharton served as the Director of the program until 1993. During that time he wrote and was awarded funding for twelve state and federal grants. He also wrote a self-instructional book on Obstetrics for PA students.
Mr. Wharton was a Contributing Author to the High Blood Pressure Education, Diagnosis and Treatment publication of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institute of Health (NIH) in 1980. He has made numerous presentations as a speaker at various local, state, and national continuing medical education, CME, seminars and conferences.
In 1990, Wendell developed a Board Review Course to help PAs prepare to take their national board examination. Initially he taught the course only in Los Angeles, but by 1993 he was also teaching the course in New York and in Washington, DC, and then in 1995, a Chicago site was added. In 2004, the course was changed from the initial “face-to-face” format to a “virtual classroom” which was offered online. Mr. Wharton continued to teach this online course until 2012.
Mr. Wharton was an avid bowler and an accomplished skier and he won numerous awards, metals, and trophies for bowling and skiing. He was a good league bowler, with a “mean curve ball”, winning three trophies for “High Game” with his best bowling score of 282. He skied in slalom, giant slalom, and downhill competitions at fifteen different ski resorts throughout the western United States. He also skied in Canada at Whistler-Blackcomb, and in Europe, specifically in Cervinia, Italy, in both Mont Blanc and Chamonix, France, and in Zermatt, Switzerland where he skied on the Matterhorn.
Wendell Wharton accepted Christ at the age of nine, and was baptized on October 27, 1957, by the late Rev. Dr. John L. Branham at the historic Saint Paul Baptist Church. While at St Paul, Mr. Wharton served on the Youth Usher Board and later served on the adult Usher Board. He sang with the Male Chorus and the Mass Choir briefly. He was ordained as a Deacon in 1993 and served in several positions on the Trustee Board, including as Chairman from 1998 to 2007.
Rev. Wharton answered the call to the ministry in April of 1999, and after a period of separation and dedication, he was licensed to preach the gospel at St Paul Missionary Baptist Church on December 27, 1999. In 2002 he was assigned to develop and implement a Saturday Evening Outreach Ministry and he was assigned to be the Youth Minister for the Youth and Young Adult Department. During this time he developed a series of Bible based word search puzzles in order to make learning fun for the young minds that he was assigned to develop. This work was subsequently published and sold in local bookstores and online. In 2007, joined Praises of Zion Missionary Baptist Church where he was ordained and continues to serve as Assistant Pastor.
Rev. Wharton is married to the former Cynthia Ann Nalls. He has one daughter, two step-daughters, and one grand- daughter.
Acknowledgments: This biography was written by Rev. Wendell Wharton and was submitted to the Society in February, 2016. The photograph is courtesy of Rev. Wharton.