History of the PA Profession

PA profession was created to improve and expand healthcare. In the mid-1960s, physicians and educators recognized there was a shortage of primary care physicians. To remedy this, Eugene A. Stead Jr., MD, of the Duke University Medical Center put together the first class of PAs in 1965. He selected Navy corpsmen who had received considerable medical training during their military service.

Dr. Stead based the curriculum of the PA program on his knowledge of the fast-track training of doctors during World War II. The first PA class graduated from the Duke University PA program on Oct. 6, 1967.

The PA concept was lauded early on and gained acceptance and backing federally as early as the 1970s as a creative solution to physician shortages. The medical community helped support the profession and spurred setting accreditation standards, establishing a national certification and standardized examination, and developing continuing medical education requirements.

Find out how the PA profession got its start, and how early PAs paved the way for the profession's growth and leadership in today's healthcare system. This video was a collaborative effort between the American Academy of Physician Assistants and the Physician Assistant History Society. It was shown at a General Session at IMPACT 2013, AAPA's 41st Annual Physician Assistant Conference in Washington, D.C.


History of AAPA

The American Academy of Physician Assistants (formerly known as the American Association of Physician Assistants) was established and incorporated in the state of North Carolina in 1968. Initial membership was made up of the first students and graduates of the Duke University PA program, among which were former military corpsmen.

In 1973, 300 members strong, a joint national headquarters for AAPA and the Association of Physician Assistant Programs (now the Physician Assistant Education Association) was established in Washington, D.C. The headquarters moved to Arlington, VA., in the late 1970s and to Old Town Alexandria, VA., in 1988. The Academy moved to its current location in the Carlyle area of Alexandria in 2011.