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2011 to 2020

Into the Future

The Affordable Care Act doubles the projected need for PAs. PAs are seen as essential components of new health care delivery structures such as “accountable care organizations” and “medical homes.” Forbes and Money magazines rate the physician assistant Master’s degree as the most desirable advanced degree in terms of employment opportunity, income potential, and job satisfaction.

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NCCPA develops the concept of a “Certificate of Added Qualifications” to meet the need of PAs for a credential in a specialty. The Physician Assistant History Society affiliates with the NCCPA, and moves their office and archive to Johns Creek, GA. PAEA celebrates its 40th anniversary at their annual meeting in Seattle in November 2012. Most significantly, the NCCPA issues its 100,000th certificate. The number of accredited programs exceeds 225 with as many as 48 more currently seeking provisional status. The PA profession celebrates its 50th anniversary and looks forward to the future. The global expansion of the PA concept continues in Europe, Asia and Australia.


The National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) develops Certificate of Added Qualifications (CAQ) programs that allow PAs to earn formal recognition of their specialty expertise – in cardiovascular and thoracic surgery, emergency medicine, nephrology, orthopaedic surgery and psychiatry. The first CAQ examination is held nationally on September 12, 2011. Click here to read the press release.

The Society for the Preservation of Physician Assistant History (PA History Society) becomes a support organization to the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). The Society transfers its archive, library and museum collection from the Duke University Medical Center (DUMC) and the Eugene A. Stead, Jr. Center for Physician Assistants, located in Durham, NC, to the Society’s new headquarters at Johns Creek, GA, adjacent to the NCCPA and ARC-PA national offices. The archival function of the PA History Center is assumed by the Society.

Montefiore Medical Center celebrates the 40th anniversary of its surgical physician assistant residency program, the first of its kind in the United States. Since 1971, Montefiore has trained more than 375 surgical PAs.

The position of Chief PA for the Veterans Administration is approved, and Denni Woodmansee, PA-C, is chosen to fill this role.

The American Academy of Physician Assistants relocates its headquarters in Alexandria, VA, vacating the building that the organization constructed and owned since 1987.

U.S. Rep. Karen Bass from California is sworn into the 112th Congress, becoming the first PA to hold a seat in the United States House of Representatives.

The physician assistant master’s degree, for the third consecutive year, is rated by both Forbes and Money magazines as the most desirable advanced degree in terms of employment opportunity, income potential, and job satisfaction.

The 40th AAPA Annual Conference is held outside of the United States in Toronto – in recognition of the growth of the PA profession in Canada.

NCCPA reaches a major milestone and certifies its 100,000th PA since its inception in 1975.

The Physician Assistant Education Association celebrates the 40th anniversary of its founding at the Annual Meeting in Seattle. Twenty-two of the past presidents of the Association are honored for their contribution. Read more about this event in the History Society’s Newsletter.

Care from the Heart is published by BTW Publishing. It is the memoir of Thelma Ingles, the pioneering nurse educator who worked with Eugene A. Stead, Jr., in the 1950s at Duke University to create a program to train nurses in an expanded clinical role. While the program did not survive accreditation by the NLN, it served as the prototype for the physician assistant training program, developed by Stead in the next decade.

For the first time, Physician Assistants broke into the rank of the 10 most sought-after providers according to the Medicus Firm, a physician placement company. Medicus based its rankings on the hiring activities in more than 200 hospitals and group practices nationwide.

The PA History Society produces its first book about the history of the PA profession, The Physician Assistant: An Illustrated History


PAs began transitioning to a new 10-year certification maintenance process, including new requirements for self-assessment and performance improvement (PI) CME — additions intended to expand the breadth of PA competencies encompassed by the certification maintenance process.

One of the largest healthcare systems to use PAs, the Veterans Health Administration (VA), updates its Utilization Guidelines for PAs. The updated guidelines enhance the use of PAs while continuing to embrace a patient-centered and team-based approach to practicing medicine. The directive establishes a new guideline that allows PAs, within defined limits, to exercise autonomous medical decision-making.

A report from the National Governors Association (NGA) highlights the important–and rapidly growing–role of physician assistants (PAs) in the U.S. healthcare workforce. The 15-page report, titled “The Role of Physician Assistants in Health Care Delivery,” encourage Governors to take full advantage of the PA workforce in their states and to review the laws and regulations affecting the profession and consider actions to increase their state’s future supply of PAs.

The United States responds to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa by sending 10,000 federal employees and government-sponsored workers, including 20 physician assistants from the Commissioned Corps of the US Public Health Service (USPHS). The PAs are assigned to a special medical unit in Monrovia, Liberia to care for healthcare providers and responders who contract the Ebola virus while treating infected patients. Even so, fourteen Liberian PAs die treating Ebola patients over a two year span.

Dawn Morton-Rias, Ed.D., PA-C joined the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) as President/CEO, becoming the first PA to be serve as the Commission’s chief staff officer. Of the four largest national PA organizations, two have PAs in their chief staff roles (NCCPA and ARC-PA), both located in Johns Creek, GA.

Following preliminary discussions which began in August 2014, the PA History Society signs a contract with the National Library of Medicine (NLM) to develop a traveling exhibit consisting of six banners that highlight the professions flexibility, diversity, collaborative framework and community service, both nationally and internationally. Funded by a grant from NCCPA, the exhibit is to travel between NLM constituent libraries and affiliated organizations for five years beginning in 2017 when the PA Profession celebrates its 50th anniversary.


The Physician Assistant History Society makes available to its Associates an Educational Toolkit on the History and Legacy of the Physician Assistant Profession to teach students their professional history. The toolkit contains five illustrated self-learning modules and an instructor’s manual. Later on in the year, the Society also releases a Historian Toolkit to help organizations preserve and make available their own institutional history.

The Physician Assistant (PA) profession is a true healthcare innovation, according to an article published in the most recent edition (volume 24, issue 1) of the prestigious Annals of Health Law, The Health Policy and Law Review of Loyola University Chicago. The article is titled
“Access Innovation in a Time of Rapid Change: Physician Assistant Scope of Practice,” analyzes the evolution of the profession over its first half century, and looks at the various legal factors that contributed to the increasingly vital role PAs play in the delivery of healthcare.

AAPA’s Advocacy Commission recently approved an update to AAPA’s Model State Legislation for PAs (Model Law). The revisions were drafted by a diverse seven-member workgroup of PA volunteers over the course of several months. Generally, the updates modernize the language used to describe the profession and PA practice. Revisions include replacing the term “supervision” with “collaboration.”

Ruth Ballweg is the first recipient of the PAEA Lifetime Achievement Award.

Maj. Saibatu Mansaray-Knight, U.S. Army, SP, PA-C, becomes the first medical officer to be selected as the Army military aide to the vice president of the United States. Until her appointment, the position was usually held by a line officer, such as infantry officer or pilot. The military aide’s role is to ensure that the vice president is ready at a moment’s notice to assume the presidency. She is the first female PA to be assigned to the White House Medical Unit (WHMU). This brings the total of PAs serving in the WHMU to 15, more than at any other time in the PA profession’s history.

US News & World Report Highlights Demand for PAs “As America’s population ages, PAs will increasingly be needed to treat the kinds of chronic ailments that come with an older population, like diabetes and heart disease.” U.S. News & World Report reports on the care PAs provide, and how PAs are graduating to a healthy job market.

An article titled “Paging PAs as Affordable Care Act Fuels Demand” notes an unprecedented demand for physician assistants as insurance payment and the Affordable Care Act encourage a team-based approach to managing the care of patient populations. Forbes states that PAs are the fifth-highest placed medical provider of 2014, according to The Medicus Firm, a national physician recruiter. (Physicians had previously been the only medical provider making the firm’s top 10 list.)

David Keahey, PA-C, MSPH, a clinical associate professor at the University of Utah’s Physician Assistant Program (UPAP), becomes only the second PA selected as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Fellow, and the first since William Stanhope, AAPA’s first president, was chosen in 1978. Beginning in September, he spends a year in Washington, D.C., being oriented and working in a congressional office on Capitol Hill on health policy issues.

The Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA) relocates its offices in Alexandra, VA into the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) headquarters building in downtown Washington, D.C. The move provides increased opportunities for collaboration and opens a new chapter for PAEA members to share educational resources and experiences with other medical educators.

The Duke University Physician Assistant Program celebrates its 50th Anniversary commemorating the enrollment of four former military corpsmen in a 2-year academic program created by Dr. Eugene A. Stead, Jr. to train physician assistants.

The US Army allows female PAs to be assigned to combat units.


Cartoonist, Jim Scancarelli, brings Chipper Wallet, PA-C back to the comic strip Gasoline Alley(c) to inform the public of the 50th anniversary of the PA profession in 2017. Chipper is a former Navy Hospital Corpsman who became a Physician Assistant in the comic in 1973.

The National Library of Medicine, in partnership with the PA History Society, is launched in October. “Physician Assistants: Collaboration and Care” is a traveling banner exhibition with an online adaptation. More information on the exhibition can be found by clicking here.

United States Virgin Islands Academy of Physician Assistants (VIAPA) is created to advocate for physician assistants across the Islands of St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. John.


On January 1, 2017, President Barack Obama honors Dr. Richard A. Smith for his many contributions in areas of PA education, racial desegregation and global health. UW MEDEX Founder Dr. Richard A. Smith Honored by President Obama

Dr. Richard A. Smith passes away on March 10th at his home in Honolulu, Hawaii at age 84. In Memorium: Richard A. Smith, MD

The PA History Society holds a rededication ceremony for the only PA veterans garden in the US in April 2017. Click here for an article on the rededication ceremony

The PA History Society publishes a comic book featuring a collection of Gasoline Alley(c) comic strips featuring Chipper Wallet, PA-C. Chipper Wallet even “speaks” on behalf of former corpsmen and medics who helped pioneer the PA profession at the PA veterans garden rededication ceremony in one storyline within the comic. 

AAPA HOD adopts “Optimal Team Practice” policy.

The Grow Our Own Directive: Physician Assistant Employment and Education Act of 2017 (G.O.O.D.) is passed by Congress. This Directive allows for educational assistance to qualifying former members of the Armed Forces for education and training as physician assistants of the Department of Veteran Affairs.


On January 12, 2018, JAAPA-JPAE Special 50th Anniversary eBook is published online. The PA Profession: 50 Years and Counting is a joint article collection of anniversary articles that appeared in both publications during the PA profession’s 50th anniversary (2017). You can access this special edition here.

Congress passed into law a provision that allows PAs to manage and provide hospice care to Medicare patients. The new law also allows PAs to supervise cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation programs under the Medicare program. To read more, Click Here

The PA History Society’s popular book, The Physician Assistant: An Illustrated History is offered as an eBook for Kindle devices and apps through

The first US Army Handbook for Physician Assistants is published.

Prentiss L. Harrison, PA, the nation’s first African-American physician assistant and a 1968 graduate of the Duke Physician Assistant Program, passed away Dec. 11, 2018, at the age of 75. Harrison was a pioneering PA dedicated to providing health care to medically underserved communities.


PAs can now obtain licensure to practice in Puerto Rico, making PAs able to practice in all 50 states and all US territories. AAPA News Release. Even though PA Licensure has passed, scope of practice is limited and often those who have not graduated from an accredited PA program erroneously use the title PA to be able to practice medicine on the island. Work is still ongoing in Puerto Rico to ensure that PAs who graduated from accredited programs and who are NCCPA certified can practice to their fullest extent and to safeguard from others improperly using PA (médico asociado) title. To learn more about the current state of PA practice in Puerto Rico, please watch this video.

After 27 years, Timi Agar Barwick retires as CEO of the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA) and is awarded a PA honorary degree from Duke University for her service and contributions to the PA Profession.

The Indian Health Service (IHS), an operating division within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, updated its Indian Health Service Manual to state that “PAs exercise autonomous medical decision-making and take full responsibility for the patient care they provide.” The new IHS policy is in line with Optimal Team Practice (OTP), which occurs when PAs, physicians, and other healthcare professionals work together to provide quality care without burdensome administrative constraints.

Reginald Carter, PhD, PA, Co-Founder and Historian Emeritus of the PA History Society, is awarded the PAEA Lifetime Achievement Award. To watch his acceptance speech Click Here

NCCPA, AAPA, the Council of State Governments, and the Federation of State Medical Boards begin work on the PA Compact. The PA Compact would be an “interstate occupational licensure compact” which would allow PAs with a practice privilege in one Compact state to practice in another Compact state.

Mary Jo Bondy, DHEd, MHS, PA-C, becomes the first PA to serve as CEO of PAEA on Feb. 3, 2020.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual AAPA conference scheduled to be held May 16-20 in Nashville, TN is canceled.

Numerous states either suspend or waive certain practice requirements so PAs can mobilize to aid in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
End of the Decade

Number of PA programs accredited: 267

Number of PAs initially certified: 148,500

End of the Decade