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The History of PAs

The Progress Physician Assistants Have Made in Modern History

The History of Physician Assistants: A Timeline

At the birth of their profession, PAs were called upon to provide coverage through a physician shortage. Their talent, quality of care, and diverse experience are used in similar efforts today, though they've made incredible progress in their 50 years of practicing medicine. 

As their scope of practice continues to grow, the future is bright for PAs — but the history of this highly skilled group of providers got them where they are now. Learn where the profession began and where it might go next in this visual timeline.

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1965

1965

THE FIRST PA CLASS IS ESTABLISHED


In response to a growing physician shortage, Eugene A. Stead Jr., M.D., establishes the first class of PAs at Duke University. Source

1967

1967

THE FIRST PAs GRADUATE


The first class of PAs graduates from Stead Jr.’s Duke University program. Source

1968

1968

THE AAPA IS FOUNDED


The American Association of Physician Assistants is founded in North Carolina. It is later named the American Academy of PAs (AAPA). Source

1971

1971

THE AMA RECOGNIZES PAs


The PA profession gains official recognition by the American Medical Association (AMA). Source

1980

1980

PAs BEGIN PRESCRIBING MEDICATIONS


PAs are granted prescriptive authority in 10 states. Source

1987

1987

THE FIRST PA DAY IS CELEBRATED


On the 20th anniversary of the graduation of Duke University’s first class of PAs, the first annual PA Day is held on October 6. Source

1997

1997

PAs BECOME COVERED PROVIDERS


The Balanced Budget Act establishes PAs as covered providers in all settings at a uniform rate of payment. Source

2002

2002

PA ORGANIZATIONS MEET


All the national PA organizations (AAPA, APAP, ARC-PA, and NCCPA) get together for the first time. Source

2007

2007

PAs CAN NOW PRESCRIBE IN 50 STATES


PA scope of practice expands to allow prescriptive authority in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam. Source

2014

2014

PAs RESPOND TO THE EBOLA OUTBREAK


Twenty PAs from the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) are sent to West Africa to help those affected by the Ebola outbreak. Source

2015

2015

THE ANNIVERSARY OF STEAD JR.'S CLASS IS CELEBRATED


Stead Jr.’s original two-year Duke University program began 50 years ago. Source

2017

2017

FOR PAS, THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT


Today, there are more than 115,500 certified PAs practicing in the U.S., providing care that is regarded equally to physician care. As their scope of practice grows, the future is bright for PAs: Currently, PAs are authorized to prescribe medications in schedules II through V in 44 states and D.C., their cosignature requirements are determined at the practice level in 30 states, they’re allowed adaptable supervision requirements in 29 states, and their scope of practice is determined on-site in 37 states. Source

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