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Important Milestones and Events

This Timeline contains important milestones and events in the development of the physician assistant (PA) profession. It provides the reader with an introduction to the people, events and activities that have shaped the growth of the profession from concept to reality. With the exception of the precedent years that date back to 1650, the Timeline presents a decade by decade progression in the use of non-physicians to provide health care in the United States and other countries. Embedded in the Timeline are links to other relevant sites, illustrations and references to enrich the reader’s depth of knowledge about our professional history and how it is intertwined with that of other health professions.
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1650 TO 1956

Providing medical care to remote populations where none existed, and meeting military and public health needs, have been concerns of nations for centuries.

1957 to 1970

As specialization in medical practice grew following World War II, a growing shortage in primary care health manpower has become clear.

1971 to 1980

The structure of a profession rests upon four pillars: by the middle of the decade of the 1970s all four of these entities are in place, and functioning.

1981 to 1990

The decade of the 1980s represents nationwide dissemination of an established profession. There is growing recognition of PA contributions to the medical workforce.

1991 to 2000

During the decade of the 1990s, there is sharp growth in the number of accredited programs from 45 to 114. Most of the new programs appear in smaller colleges affiliated with community hospitals.

2001 to 2010

As the new programs developed in the last decade grow and expand, record numbers of PAs take the certifying examination.

2011 to 2020

The Affordable Care Act doubles the projected need for PAs. PAs are seen as essential components of new health care delivery structures.

2021 to Present

Adapting, Flexibility and Transformation within the Profession: Since the turn of the 21st century, the PA profession has scaled up and diffused throughout almost every sector of the American Health Care System.