National Physician Assistant Week takes place each year Oct. 6–12 to celebrate the physician assistant profession and its contributions to the nation’s health. This year is particularly special, as it marks the beginning of the profession’s 50th anniversary! Oct. 6 is also the birthday of the profession’s founder, Eugene A. Stead, Jr., MD. For more on the profession’s history, visit the PA History Society.
Physician assistants practice medicine and prescribe medication on health care teams with physicians and other health care providers. America’s more than 108,500 certified PAs are a powerful force for better health for millions of patients across the country. Consistently recognized as one of the best professions in America, PAs also represent one of the fastest-growing jobs in the nation. Because of PAs, the health care system is stronger. Because of PAs, more patients get access to high-quality, cost-effective care.
We’re very proud of DMU’s PA program, its faculty and students, all of whom are deeply committed to their patients. Below, Joel Rand, M.P.A.S., PA-C, who is the PA program director, department chair and assistant professor, reflects on the profession and his own career.
I remember riding in the car with my father at a young age and driving by an elderly woman who had gone off the road due to an icy patch. His physical health was such that pulling over to give her the push she needed to get back on her way was not an option. I actually was brought to tears because we were unable to help. A few years later, as a high school student, I realized the combination of my desire to serve others, in conjunction with my abilities in math and science, was leading me down the path of practicing medicine. Researching the PA profession quickly led me to a decision that will forever be one of the best I have ever made.
Practicing as a PA I was able to use skills that required cognitive focus, adept communication skills and manual dexterity to serve a wide variety of patients. Over the last 15 years I have treated people in a wide variety of settings, inpatient and outpatient psychiatry, family medicine clinics, homeless shelters and the operating room. The flexibility provided by the PA profession has made it a perfect match for my interests and lifestyle. As the primary care provider shortage continues, and the number of patients needing care increases, the growth of this profession has exceeded that of nearly any other profession, medical or otherwise.
It has been exciting watching the occupation adapt to changes in the medical system. Students in the DMU PA program are being taught things that would never have been imagined when I was in school. Their enthusiasm and academic excellence will perpetuate the foundational tenets laid out for the profession when the first PA class was congregated in 1965. The year ahead marks the 50th birthday of this profession, and the next 50 years should be no less extraordinary.