Women’s History Month

Joyce Nichols was the first female PA. She graduated from the Duke PA program in 1970. She had applied to the program three times prior to her acceptance. She was originally denied because she was not a military corpsman, she had children, and she was a woman. During this time in US history, the majority of college students were men, and it was believed that because of the aforementioned factors she would not be dedicated to her studies. She proved her naysayers wrong and went on to have a successful career as a PA and as an advocate for rural health care, health care to underserved populations, and for minorities to get involved in the medical field. Click here to listen to Joyce Nichols’ Oral History

The PA profession has had countless strong ladies that have helped made the profession great. We cannot list every amazing woman whose story is captured in our collections as the list is so long! This year we decided to focus on those who are newer to our collections. Please visit our biography, oral history and photograph webpages to learn more about additional outstanding women who have contributed to the PA profession!


Lisa Mustone Alexander – An academician, clinician and community activist who has played an active role in the global expansion of the PA concept. [See Right Photograph]

Stephanie Bowlin -First PA to become a dean and Past Chair of the ARC-PA.

Burdeen Camp – Former Speaker for the House of Delegates and founding member of the Connecticut PA Foundation.

Libby Coyte – First and only PA to serve as a member of the Iowa Board of Medical Examiners and past AAPA President.

Michelle DiBaise –  A PA leader who has been a delegate to the AAPA House of Delegates for three different constituent organizations, been president of four PA organizations, has served on numerous boards and been a member and chair of various committees.

Shani Fleming – An PA educator and national diversity and inclusion leader who strives to teach the importance and benefits of inclusion, diversity, equity and social justice in PA education.

Kelly Guerra – As an Army PA, she provided medical training to African Forces deploying to Somalia, executed humanitarian medical events, and volunteered to teach Spanish to U.S. Servicemembers to advocate Hispanic culture. [See Photograph Right]

Theresa Horvath – Has always had an interest in urban healthcare and developed an adolescent anti-violence program for which she received a grant to implement. This project won her the PAragon Award for Inner City PA of the Year in 1996.

Lillie Hudson – Serves her profession and the community of Los Angeles, CA as a PA, an educator, and a researcher. She hopes to advance medical educational equity and disrupt the systems that perpetuate injustices in health care delivery.

Susan Kepes – Vital to the success of the DownEast Association of PAs and was a member of the AAPA House of Delegates for over 30 years.

Grace Landel – Distinguished educator and former Chair of the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant.

Tricia Marriott – A PA educator, former president and legislative chair of the Connecticut Academy of PAs, and the historian of the PA History Society.

Adhana McCarthy – An Army PA who is a long-time advocate for integrative and lifestyle medicine practices in the Department of the Defense.

Debra Munsell – An advocate for rural healthcare and the inaugural director of the Mississippi State – Meridian PA program, the first public higher learning institute in the state to offer a PA program degree.

Marilyn Olsen – PA educator who contributed to the field of nephrology.

Freddi Segal-Gidan – A driving force in promoting the study of gerontology and geriatrics as an integral part of the education of PAs and other health professionals.

Michel Statler – The first PA educator to work as a staff member at the PAEA and former president of the organization.

Kate Carter Stephens – The first woman elected to serve as president of the Student Academy of the American Academy of Physician Assistants. [See Right Photograph]

Julie Theriault – A recognized leader within the PA profession and former president of the AAPA and of the California Academy of PAs.

Katherine Thompson – Advocate for victims of interpersonal violence (IPV) and educates healthcare providers on how to handle patients who are victims of IPV.

Stephane VanderMeulen – A former president of the PAEA during a “coming-of-age era for the Association”.

Oral Histories:

Raquelle Akavan – Founder of the PA Moms Group and PAs for Women Empowerment Caucus.

Katherine GeeBah Footracer – Immediate Past Chair of the NCCPA. In this interview she shares her experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic and offers thoughts on how the pandemic changed healthcare and how PAs are viewed. [See Photograph on Right]

Susan LeLacheur – PA who worked in HIV/AIDS healthcare in the 1980s and 1990s, she talks about her moving from clinical work to HIV/AIDS research and her passion for health equity

Karen Newell – Retired PA educator, she shares her experiences as a PA during the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s.

Katherine Thompson – Advocate for victims of interpersonal violence (IPV) and educates healthcare providers on how to handle patients who are victims of IPV.


Sadly, last year we lost some amazing women who had impacted the PA profession. Please see below to learn about them and their contributions.

Ruth Ballweg – One of the first PAs to practice in the state of Washington, she was a program director of the MEDEX Northwest PA program and an advocate for the international adaption of the PA concept.

Ann Bliss – Though a nurse rather than a PA, Bliss was an early advocate of the PA profession and a PA educator. She was a co-author of one of the first books about the PA profession, The Physician’s Assistant Today and Tomorrow: Issues Confronting New Health Practitioners.

Judith Willis – She was the first woman to become president of the AAPA. She was a proponent of research in the profession and was the Director of Research at the AAPA for a number of years.