PA History Society Celebrates 50th Anniversary with Garden Dedication Ceremony

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the physician assistant (PA) profession, the PA History Society (PAHx) honored U.S. Veterans and active duty PAs, with the April 8, 2017 unveiling of a veterans garden at the Eugene A. Stead, Jr. Center for PAs in Durham, North Carolina. Please click here to see photos from the event.

This garden is the only one in the United States to honor strictly military and uniformed services PAs. More than 80 dignitaries from throughout the PA profession’s history attended the ceremony. The PA History Society conducted a year-long fundraiser which was highly supported by the PA community for the Garden renovation.

Created to be a place for reflection, the garden features a wall of remembrance with bronze plaques representing each branch of the uniformed services. The centerpiece of the garden is a life-size bronze statue of a combat medic bandaging the wounds of a fallen soldier. The sculpture is titled “Life Savers Then … Caregivers Now” and serves as a reminder of the origins of the PA profession.

The statue is a replica of one housed on the campus of the University of Utah. Don Pedersen raised fund to create the replica and then donated it to the PA History Society in 2007.

The ceremony’s featured speakers were:

Truett Smith, MPAS, PA-C, DFAAPA, speaking on behalf of the North Carolina Academy of Physician Assistants.

Reginald Carter, PhD, PA, Co-founder and Historian Emeritus of PAHx (who also read remarks by Don Petersen, PhD, PA).

John McElligott, PA, MD, FACP, for whom the Garden is named.

Julie Sherk, RLA, ASLA, the Garden’s architect.

Michael R. Milner, DHSc, PA-C, RADM, USPHS (Retired) who gave a tribute to the pioneering Physician Assistants.

Karen Mulitalo, MPAS, PA-C, President of PAHx.

Joseph Kelly, Chief Operations Officer for the North Carolina Dept. of Military and Veterans Affairs.

Representatives from the four organizations (NCCPA: Dawn Morton-Rias, EdD, PA-C; ARC-PA: Patti Ragan, PhD, MPH, PA-C; PAEA: William Kohlhepp, DHSc, PA-C; AAPA: Jeff Katz, PA-C, DFAAPA.)

In celebration of the PA History Society’s 15th anniversary, remarks were given my Dr. Dawn Morton-Rias; Ruth Ballweg, MPA, PA-C Emeritus, former President and current Historian of the PAHx; and current PAHx President, Karen Mulitalo. Remarks were read by Ruth Ballweg on behalf of PAHx Co-founder, J. Jeffrey Heinrich, EdD, PA.

The last surviving member of the first PA graduating class at Duke University, Ken Ferrell, was in attendance for the April 8 dedication, along with other officials from the PAHx, the North Carolina Academy of PAs and distinguished PAs from around the country.

“The PA profession is rooted in military service, and we are proud to have this opportunity to honor that patriotism and sacrifice,” says Dawn Morton-Rias, Ed.D, PA-C, president and CEO of the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA), the entity responsible for certifying all PAs before they begin to practice. “We recognize the service of those PAs who provided outstanding service to our country in times of peace and conflict over the past five decades.”

While retired, Ferrell remains active in supporting the PA profession, especially when it comes to promoting the profession’s career opportunities for veterans.  “I am humbled and delighted to see how the profession has progressed over the years,” said Ferrell.  “With all the uncertainty in healthcare, I would hope that an occasion such as the 50th anniversary would encourage PA programs to find ways to accept more military veterans.  The PA Veterans Garden is a lasting testament to those who have and continue to serve our country.  It is also a place to remember those that are no longer with us like my classmates, Victor Germino and Dick Scheele.”