Oral History Interview: McCullough

nterviewee: George McCullough
Interviewer: Reginald Carter
Place and Date: AAPA 36th Annual Physician Assistant Conference, San Antonio, TX — May 24, 2008.

Summary: George McCullough, a US Air Force corpsman and pharmacist technician, graduated as a member of the second class of PAs from the joint Sheppard Air Force Base/University of Nebraska PA program in 1972. In 1974, he became the first enlisted (active duty) person to be elected to the AAPA Board of Directors. He was the first PA assigned to the Surgeon General’s office to develop PA and NP performance regulations for the uniformed services. As a Washington insider, he was an active advocate for the commissioning of PAs in the US Air Force. When commissioning was approved, McCullough was serving as a PA on the White House medical staff; the first PA to be assigned to this post; and was the first US Air Force PA to be commissioned. The ceremony was held in 1978 at the White House during the Carter Administration.

Note: Transcripts are edited for clarity, punctuation and grammar or to fill in gaps of missing information. So the transcript may deviate from the actual audio recording.

McCullough recounts his appointment to White House Staff:

RC: Did the commissioning {Air Force PAs} happen before the White House assignment or right after the White House assignment?

GM: Right after I went to the White House. We got commissioning approved and I went to the White House in November, but they did not start commissioning to January. I was the first one commissioned.

RC: This actually took place in the White House?

GM: In the President’s Office.

RC: So the commissioning and White House all took place within less than a year?

GM: Yes. I went for an interview. The White House decided to add a PA to the staff. They wanted three PAs to come over from the Army, Navy and Air Force; at that time everyone in the White House was from the Navy. I went over for the interview and out of nine I was selected. When I got the word, I was on a consultant trip to the Air Force Academy. The phone rang in the commander’s office and they wanted to talk to chief McCullough, the White House calling, and they told me I had been selected for the position.

RC: How did the PA position come about in the White House? Who advocated for it?

GM: I’m not really sure. I think it was Admiral {William M.} Lukash, was part of it: I’m not sure where the pressure came from; they had not tried out the PA profession and they wanted to give it a try.

RC: Were the physicians assigned to the White House wanting PAs?

GM: Well at the time I joined the Carter Administration, there was only one doctor, Admiral Lukash; he was the physician to the president. I was a backup for him and we had three nurses and two corpsmen.

RC: Was your clinic in the White House?

GM: We had two offices in the White House complex. The physician to the president office was located on the ground floor of the White House; it has a small treatment room office and a secretary’s office. And the EOB {Executive Office Building} which is within the White House grounds had two other offices, but at that time we only had one office and we did both administrative and treatment there and then we added another administrative office and had separate administration and treatment facilities in the same building.