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History of the PA Profession

History of the Physician Assistant Profession


In the mid-1960s, physicians and educators recognized that there was a shortage and uneven distribution of primary care physicians. To expand the delivery of quality medical care, Dr. Eugene A. Stead Jr. of the Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina organized the first class of physician assistants (PA) in 1965. He selected Navy corpsmen who received considerable medical training during their military service and during the war but had no comparable civilian job opportunities. Dr. Stead based the curriculum of the PA program in part 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 October 6, 1967. Today, just a little over 45 years later there are more than 90,000 nationally certified PAs. Of whom 896 are practicing in South Carolina.


According to the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA), there are 173 accredited PA programs. In addition to the contiguous United States, PAs are authorized to practice and prescribe in all U.S. territories except Puerto Rico.


The PA national professional society, AAPA (American Academy of Physician Assistants), has approximately 45,000 members (half of all PAs). The South Carolina Academy of Physician Assistants (SCAPA) was formed in 1977 when we received our charter from AAPA.


Today, SCAPA has 330 members and is growing every day.


For more information on the PA profession, including a timeline of events, please visit the Physician Assistant History Center at: Timeline of the PA Profession  


Some information on this page was provided by the American Academy of Physician Assistants.

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