Remembering Our Veterans

The first three PAs were former Navy Hospital Corpsmen who graduated from the Duke PA program. The PA profession was created to utilize and expand upon the former medic and corpsmen training of veterans returning to the civilian sector, especially for those returning from the Vietnam War.

The success of the profession owes much to these early pioneers and the uniformed services approval of it, which lead to the creation of their own individual PA training schools (now condensed into one school known as the Interservice PA Program).

We hope you enjoy looking over the biographies and listening to the stories below of just a few of the current and veteran PAs in the military and uniformed services that we have preserved in our collections.

John Detro – Recipient of the 2018 Military Service PA of the Year and served as the Surgeon General’s PA Consultant.

Amelia Duran-Stanton – IPAP graduate and currently the United States Army Health Clinic Ansbach Commander in Bavaria, Germany.

Melanie Ellis – The current director of the Interservice PA Program. [Photo Right: Melanie Ellis with patient]

Epifanio Elizondo – Was a U.S. Assistant Surgeon General in the Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service. He oversaw four regional programs related to Women’s Health, Minority Health, Family Planning and HIV/AIDS.

Kenneth Ferrell – One of the first three PAs in the US and a former Navy Hospital Corpsman.

William Feyh – Advocated for the commissioning of Navy PAs as officers and was one of the first Navy PAs to be made director of a clinic.

Victor Germino – One of the first three PAs in the US and a former Navy Hospital Corpsman.

Kelly Guerra – While deployed in Djibouti, Africa, volunteered to teach Spanish to U.S. Servicemembers to increase diversity and advocate Hispanic culture.

David Gwinn – A Vietnam War veteran and a staunch supporter and advocate for the AAPA Veterans Caucus and the Society of Air Force PAs.

Kenneth Harbert – Former member of the Coast Guard and founder of the AAPA Veterans Caucus.

Robin Hunter-Buskey – Currently serving in the Public Health Service. Was deployed to Liberia to work in the US Public Health’s Monrovia Medical Unit/Ebola Treatment Unit in 2015. [Photo: Robin Hunter-Buskey in Liberia during the 2015 Ebola outbreak.]

Amy Jackson – Commander at Keller Army Community Hospital at the United States Military Academy, West Point, New York; the first Army PA to hold this position.

Bernard Loeffke – Became a PA after a full career in the  Army and the foreign service. Retired as a Major General.

Saibatu Mansaray – Was the first female PA to serve in the White House Medical Unit.

Adhana McCarthy – Founder of San Antonio Community Gardens which worked to support over 30 community gardens around the city and founding member of Girl Trek Gardeners, a national health promotion organization where she was nominated for Organizer of the Year.

Michael Milner –  Retired as a Rear Admiral in the Public Health Service and was responsible for public health programs in the six states of the New England Region.

Ben Olmedo – Became a PA after leaving the Army and then entered the Public Health Service where he works in the Indian Health Service.

Luis Rocco – First PA to be awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor. Attended the first class of the Army PA Program.

Joseph Tate – Vietnam War Veteran that served as an Army Medic. After PA school, helped to bring legislation to California that would recognize PAs who had attended programs out-of-state.

Vincent Tenorio – Was a graduate from the first class of the Army PA Program. After leaving the Army, he moved to Hawaii and helped the state pass PA enabling legislation and the formation of the Hawaiian Academy of PAs.

Steven Turnipseed – A former Army PA, was a graduate from the first class of the MEDEX program and the first African American of the program. Was instrumental in the formation of the AAPA Minority Affairs Committee.

Mohamad Umar – Came to the US as a refugee from the Khmer Rouge, joined the Army and graduated the IPAP program when he grew up. Currently the director of the integrated US Army/Air Force-Baylor University EMPA fellowship program at Brooke Army Medical Center. [Photo: Mohamad Umar in plane.]

Richard Vause – Member of the US Public Health Service, principal author of the Comprehensive Approach (now part of Title VII of the Public Health Act), and first commanding officer of the Surgeon General’s Honor Cadre (a position he held until he retired).

Roger Whittaker – Was a surgical technician in the Navy. Was involved in the Shasta County vs Whittaker case that opened the way for PA enabling legislation in California.

Denni Woodmansee – A former member of the Air Force, he became an early leader for the PAs in the Bureau of Veteran Affairs. He became Director of PAs in the VA in 2011. Upon retirement from the VA, he became program director of the first PA program in Ireland.

Thomas Zampieri – A PA in the Army National Guard, was an activist for PA educational opportunities and scholarships for veterans and worked extensively with the Veterans Affairs Physician Assistant Association (VAPAA).

To browse through our complete Biography Collection, please click here.

Oral Histories:

The PA History Society started a project in 2020 to interview PAs who began their health practitioner careers as either military medics or corpsmen. To view the collection of interviews, please click here.

To browse through the rest of our video oral history collection, please click here.

PA Veterans Garden:

The PA History Society is proud to have created the first and only veterans garden dedicated to only PAs who have served or who are currently serving in the US uniformed services. The John McElligott PA Veterans Garden is located at the Stead Center in Durham, North Carolina. The Society has also discovered additional space for new engraved brick pavers to honor your service or that of another. To learn more about the Garden or to order a brick paver, please click here.