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An Open Letter to All PAs: The Time Has Come for a Professional Name Change

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Physician Associate: A Change Whose Time Has Come

We, the undersigned physician assistant leaders assert that the time to change the name of our profession has arrived. While we can debate much about a name change, we have all agreed to the below statements and thoughts. We also fully agree that the name change advocated below will advance the profession. We call on the leaders of the profession and all PAs to announce and start to implement this change as soon as possible. We are leaders who believe it is increasingly unwise to wait longer to make this long-needed change. Collectively, the below-signed PAs have given much of their lives to the profession and are dedicated to its advancement.


Why We Need a Change


Our profession’s original name was physician associate. Physicians demanded that “associate” be changed on the grounds that it did not properly describe the desired scope of PA practice. Forty years later we have outgrown the "assistant" title. It no longer accurately represents the profession. It is inaccurate and confuses consumers. The title is misleading and carries negative connotations which we can and should avoid. As we move into a new model of healthcare delivery it is of the utmost importance that our profession’s name accurately describes our role.


Why a Change Is Justified


-- The PA role is truly one of partnership; of association and collegiality. We work as associates and have for many years. Our profession’s birth-name in 1965 was physician associate.


-- “Physicians assistant” is a generic term. It can mean anything: a person in the office that bills patients, a records assistant, the person that sets up and cleans the exam room, all the way to a certified, licensed PA. The profession must move from this generic name to one that aptly and more accurately describes our function


-- In our society, "assistant" denotes a technical job, not a profession.


-- PAs are held to the same legal and medical standards as physicians.


-- The title is confusing and misleading to our patients and the public in general. Since the name practically guarantees that “physician assistants” will be confused with “medical assistants”, patients are at risk of thinking they are receiving substandard care or expect that after the “assistant” a physician will also be seeing them. Most times this does not happen, nor does the physician or the PA expect it to happen. It is time to have the name mirror the reality that exists.


-- The internationalization of PAs is important to the profession. Having to explain that the common meaning of the name “assistant” under-represents our true practice is a barrier, in international forums, to full understanding.


-- The above problems also may keep prospective applicants and others away from becoming PAs as they would not want to go through extensive schooling only to become someone's assistant.


-- Almost all professions at the level of training of a PA (pharmacy, PT, OT, NP) are or soon will be at the doctorate level. Our education and practice is professional, as should be our title.


-- “Assistant” obscures the PA’s true role in the practice. Physicians who might otherwise consider a PA do not hire one as they feel they need someone more than just another "assistant".


-- All professions should be able to name their profession. “Physician Assistant” both demeans and misrepresents our profession. It is time to claim the name that is both appropriate and our birthright and discard the one that was forced upon us.


The Process


-- The profession, ideally through the AAPA Board or HOD, should immediately adopt a policy that states that "Hereafter the profession will work to be retitled "Physician Associate," as it more accurately reflects the profession in the 21st century".


-- If the Board or House is reluctant to do this on their own, then the entire profession should be polled using the AAPA's full database.


-- This renaming can be done over a number of years, with the ability reserved to use either title in the interim if necessary, depending on state legislation, etc.


-- The PA profession should advise organized medicine that this change is not an effort for independent practice but is a move to more accurately describe the scope and status of the profession and place it at a level where it belongs. It should also be explained that the name physician associate had been chosen for us by organized medicine to represent the PA profession 45 years ago. PAs should stress that after 45 years of delivering quality medical care across the entire spectrum of practice, we are choosing a more appropriate name and that we would expect nothing less than the full support of organized medicine, which will also benefit from the change.


-- PA programs should include the name physician associate whenever possible--along with the title physician assistant if need be.


-- “Physician Associate” allows us continued use of the initials "PA", which are well-known to the public.


-- “Associate” does not imply that PAs are equal to physicians. Associate professors are not full professors. Associate deans are not full deans. There are precedents for this.


-- The profession should consider funding State-level efforts to effect this change.


-- The argument that a change will open laws at the State level is a hollow one. This action can be introduced as a "cosmetic" name change amendment which will have no impact on PA practice law. If opposed, the profession can educate the legislature as to the source of the opposition that we are asking for no increased privileges, and the current title is confusing consumers and others


-- This name change should be done BEFORE the profession embarks upon any large public relations campaign. We can effectively brand the profession through the use of the new name, avoiding any confusion of our status when compared with medical, podiatry, chiropractic and other assistants.


Therefore, we the undersigned PAs declare that because of the above reasons and more, the PA profession should adopt the name "Physician Associate" and begin an educational campaign to other medical professionals and the public regarding Physician Associates.


1. Robert M. Blumm, MA, PA-C, DFAAPA, Immediate past president APSPA, Past president AASPA, Immediate past president ACC, Past president NYSSPA, Past AAPA Liaison To ACS, ACC Liaison to ACS, Past Chair Surgical Congress AAPA, Editorial Board Advance for PAs, Clinician 1, Advanced Practice Jobs, past editorial board member Physician Assistant, Clinician News, Author, National Conference Speaker, Consultant, Paragon Award Winner Physician /PA Team, John Kirklin M.D. Award for Excellence in Surgery


2.Robin Morgenstern, PA past AAPA Secretary, past president Illinois Academy of PAs, past Director of the PA Program of Cook County Hospital, Chicago, Past Midwest Advertising manager Clinician Reviews Journal.


3. Maryann Ramos, MPH, PA-C, Founding President NJSSPA, Secretary of the AAPA House of Delegates, Delegate or Alternate for many years; Current Member, Nominating Committee; Current Legislative Chair for Physician Assistants for Latino Health - Puerto Rico; Past President American Academy of Physician Assistants in Occupational Medicine; Established Liaison between occupational physicians and PAs and Affiliate PA Membership in ACOEM; Awarded the Meritorious Civilian Performance Medal, US Army Medical Corps, 2008; Past Federal Civilian PA of the Year 2002(AAPA Veteran's Caucus); Past PA of the Year (AAPA President's Award 1980)


4. Blaine Carmichael, MPAS, PA-C, DFAAPA, Co-Founder Association, Past president, Vice President and current Delegate at Large of Family Practice Physician Assistants, Founder Bexar County PA Society, Founder, Que Paso - What's Happening PAs of San Antonio, Moderator of PRIMARY PA forum, Board Member, American College of Clinicians, Founding member of PA History, Texas PA of the year, 1990, has published widely and speaks at many national, state and local PA conferences


5. Dave Mittman, PA. Past AAPA Director, Past President NY State Society of PAs, Co-Founder and creator Clinician Reviews Journal and Clinician 1. Co-Founder ACC. First PA in the USAF Reserves. Lifetime PA Achievement Award/President's Award NJSSPA and NYSSPA. Co-Author of first international article regarding PA practice in America published in the BMJ. AAPA National Public Education Award Winner-1983


6. Stephen Henry, PA-C, RNP, Co-Founder California Academy of PAs. Two times President of CAPA. Founding member of Veterans Caucus, Founding Member Occupational Medicine Caucus AAPA. Founding Member ACC. Years in HOD, Numerous committee Chairmanships.


7. Thomas Roselle, PA-C, DFAAPA Past NYSSPA Consultant, PA Entrepreneur, Clinic Owner. Current Secretary, PAs in Otolaryngology Specialty Group.


8. David M. Jones, PA-C, MPAS, DFAAPA, Member, Past Governmental Affairs Council, AAPA Legislative Co-Chair for at least 10 years, Oregon Society of PAs (Chair for the 2009 session), Past President of OSPA (twice), AAPA Co-Rural PA of the year 1988; second term as a member of the PA Committee, Oregon Medical Board


9. Roy Cary, PA-C, DFAAPA Co-founder and past president of The American Academy of Physician Assistants in Legal Medicine. Co-founder in Cary & Associates, LLC and holds a position as Senior Partner. Mr. Cary is also a member of the Physician Assistant Advisory Committee of the Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners. Retired Air Force Major.


10. James R Piotrowski, PA-C, MS , DFAAPA , Co-founder Association of Neurosurgical Physician Assistants , Past president of ANSPA , Past Vice President and board member of FAPA , Co-founder of the FAPA-PAC , Past member Florida BOM PA Committee, Past Trustee of the AAPA PAC and Chairman of the AAPA-PAC , Past PA member of the council of AANS and CNS, Past editor of the ANSPA 's Journal.


11. Lisa D' Andrea Lenell, PA-C, MPAS. Internal Medicine PA, Adjunct Faculty Midwestern University, National Radio Host ReachMD XM160


12. Michael Halasy, MS, PA-C Health Policy Analyst/Researcher. Author of well known PA Blog


13. Gary Falcetano, PA-C, Bariatric Medicine, Stockton NJ, Managing Director – Collaborative Clinical Communications, LLC. Captain (Ret.) US Army Reserve, Past Group Publisher Clinician Reviews / Emergency Medicine / Urgent Care, journals.


14. Charles O'Leary, PA-C, Hominy Family Health Center [FQHC], 35-year practice same site; LTC [Retired] US Army/OKARNG [2 tours Afghanistan, awarded BSM/CMB]; past-OAPA Vice-President, Past OAPA Newsletter Editor, 1992 Oklahoma Rural PA of Year, OU-Tulsa Medical College PA Preceptor, Past Hominy School Board President, Past Commander American Legion Post 142


15. Gerry Keenan PA-C, MMS, Emergency Medicine, AAPA Professional Practices Council, Charter member SEMPA. Charter member AFPPA. Charter member ACC. Bar Harbor, Maine


16. Martin Morales, PA MHA. Director Physician Assistant Services, Long Island Jewish Medical Center / North Shore LIJ Health System.


17. Stephen E. Lyons MS, PA-C, W .Cheyenne Clinic Coordinator, Take Care


18. Robert Nelson, PA-C. Executive Director, Island Eye Surgicenter, LI, NY. Administrator a various surgicenters in NY metropolitan area, Author, Speaker, Director at Large-Outpatient Ophthalmic Surgery Society, Member Corporate Development Planning Committee OOSS, Consultant, Surgical PA 30 years.


19. Eric Holden, PA-C, MPA, EMT-P, DFAAPA. 23 years of practice in emergency medicine. Member of state, federal, and international disaster medical teams. Medical provider at level 1 and 2 trauma ctrs, HMO's, community E.D.'s, rural/under served E.D.'s, and solo provider at high acuity inner city facility. Author of multiple articles in peer reviewed medical journals.


20. Rebecca Rosenberger, MMSc, PA-C, Current President AAPA-AAI


21. j. Michael Jones, MPAS-C, Chair PA Section American Headache Society, Director Cascade Neurologic-Headache Clinic..


22. Pamela Burwell, MS, PA-C. Distinguished Fellow, AAPA . Founder and Director, Peacework Medical Projects. AAPA Humanitarian of the Year

Arizona PA of the Year


23. Eleanor H. Abel, RPAC, MS, CRC Upstate Medical University, Syracuse. Director At Large, NYSSPA. Liaison and membership chair for NYRCA. Medical provider with 22 years of experience in Hematology/Oncology and previously employed in Surgery and also Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Specialize in pain management, advocacy for people with disabilities, Past coordinator and current assistant coordinator for the NYSSPA Public Education Committee


24. Ronald H. Grubman, PA-C Founder, Conmed Inc., 1984. President and CEO for 23 years. Conmed acquired and currently a public company on the NYSE.


25. Ken Harbert, Ph.D., CHES, PA-C, DFAAPA Dean, School of Physician Assistant Studies. South College, Knoxville, TN


26. Eric Schuman, MPAS, PA-C. Adult & Pediatric Neurology Kaiser Permanente Portland, Oregon. Adjunct Assistant Professor, Oregon Health & Science University Physician Assistant Program


27. Charles A. Moxin, MPAS, PA-C, DFAAPA, Past President Association of Family Practice Physician Assistants, Past AAPA HOD delegate for Family Practice, Past Editorial Board member for Arthritis Practitioner, Author, National Conference Speaker, Pharmaceutical Advisory Board member


28. Kenneth E. Korber, PA PhD©: Director of Strategic Development - CE Outcomes LLC, Curriculum Architect - First PA Postgraduate Fellowship in Cardiovascular Care, Clinical Associate University of Illinois College of Medicine, Past Member Board of Directors: Association of PAs in Cardiology, Member - Association of Postgraduate PA Programs, Founder - AAPA Medical Writers Special Interest Group; former Faculty - AAPA Chapter Lecture Series.


29. Kenneth DeBarth, RPA-C, Past President NYSSPA, Past NYSSPA Newsletter Editor, Past Secretary/Treasurer South Dakota Academy of PAs, founding editor SDAPA newsletter, past chair AAPA Professional Practices and Relations Committee, former owner Heuvelton Medical Group, NY.


30. Ryan O'Gowan, PA-C, FAPACVS. Acting Manager, NP/PA Critical Care Workgroup. Program Director Physician Assistant Residency In Critical Care

Umass Memorial Healthcare


31. Frank Rodino, PA, MHS, Past Public Education Chair AAPA, Past NYSSPA President. Currently President and CEO Churchill Communications: A Medical/Scientific Communications Company


32. Cindy Burghardt, MS, PA-C, Nephrology PA for Renal Associates, San Antonio, Texas.


33. John Sallis, MBA, MMS, PA-C PA consultant -Negotiation management


34. James Doody, PA-C Director of Pediatrics and Primary Care 1st Health Centers, Assistant Clinical Professor University of Colorado Health Science Center, former Director of Pediatrics Lake Grove School, Editorial Board Member Physician Assistant Magazine, Provider liason Medical Home Initiative for State of Colorado.


35. Karen Fields, MSPAS, PA-C Founder of Medical Mentoring (medicalmentors. net); Cofounder PAWorld.net


36. Richard Mayer, PA. Vice President Provider and Network Development. Lenox Hill Hospital, NY NY


37. Sharon Bahrych, PA-C, MPH, listed in Marquis’s Who’s Who of American Women, published author of 60 lay and medical journal articles, state and national CME presenter,co-founder of APAO, clinical trials researcher with a NIH rated grant, currently working on a PhD.


38. George Berry, MPAS, PA-C, DFAAPA. Pediatric Trauma Coordinator Regional Pediatric Trauma Center, Schneider Children's Hospital

North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System


39. Lisa F. Campo, MPAS, PA, DFAAPA Past President NYSSPA. Former Chief Delegate/ delegate AAPA HOD; former Committee member Wagner College PA Program Advisory and Admission Committees; President LCFC-LLC Consulting; Advanced Clinical Physician Associate the Mount Sinai Medical Center; practicing PA 30 years.


40. Kristina Marsack, PA-C, President, Association Plastic Surgery PAs, past-Treasurer, APSPA


41. John W. Bullock, PA-C, DFAAPA. Past Chief Consultant to the US Air Force Surgeon General for Physician Assistants, Founding member and past Vice President of PAs in Orthopaedic Surgery. AAPA Federal Services PA of the Year.


42. William Gentry, MPAS, PA-C Senior Physician Assistant-Neurology Audie L. Murphy Veterans Medical Center


43. Harmony Johnson PA-C, MMS President, PAs for Global Health


44. Chris Hanifin, PA-C. NJSSPA Immediate Past President


45. Francis Crosby, Jr, PA-C, MPAS. Founding member, United Kingdom Association for Physician Assistants (UKAPA); Member of Pilot Program for PA utilization in UK; Advisor to University of Wolverhampton (UK) PA Training program; AAPA; Delegate or alternate for many years, Publications award winner, 1987; Fellow Member, Society of Air Force Physician Assistants; Past VP of SAFPA; Past Chair of Nomination Committee; Past Chair of Membership Committee; Past BOD member; Associate Member, Royal College of Physicians Edinburgh; Retired from USAF as Lt Col; Former Commander, Medical Operations Squadron.


46. David L. Patten, PA-C, COL, SP, TXARNG. Deputy Commander for Texas Medical Command


47. Michael France, CCRC, MPAS, PA-C, Director of Clinical Research, Alamo Medical Research, MAJ USAF Retired


48. Robert L. Hollingsworth, DHSc, MS, PA-C. Owner, Sole Provider Red Springs Family Medicine Clinic, N.C. Preceptor for the Physician Assistant Programs at Methodist College in Fayetteville, N.C, Duke University in Durham N.C. and East Carolina University, in Greenville, N.C. Active preceptor for several Nurse Practitioner Programs within the state. Former Instructor: Methodist College Physician Assistant Program


49. James C. Allen, IV, MPAS, PA-C, DFAAPA; Director, Physician Assistant Clinical Training Programs, University of Texas Medical Branch-Galveston/Correctional Managed Care; Former Secretary Bexar County PA Society 2003-2005; Dual Certified Aerospace Physiologist; US air Force Aerospace Physiologist of the Year 2003; Past President Towner-Shafer Society, US Air Force 1993-1994; Retired US Air Force Major


50. Michelle Ederer, MA, RPA-C Past President, New York State Society of PAs.

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Yes, the PA-S may join the Facebook group. However, please make sure that you spread the word amongst your fellow classmates as this is a VERY important issue and will affect their career. The above mentioned list is for PAs, but I had created the Facebook group as a launchpad for this movement for the PA-C and PA-S who are interested. We CAN make a change.


Yes we can! I will post this thread on our FB group class of 2012 and help spread this movement.

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Guest ROC2010
Yes, the PA-S may join the Facebook group. However, please make sure that you spread the word amongst your fellow classmates as this is a VERY important issue and will affect their career. The above mentioned list is for PAs, but I had created the Facebook group as a launchpad for this movement for the PA-C and PA-S who are interested. We CAN make a change.


It would be nice if you can post the open letter in the Facebook group. It is a very well written letter.



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Yes, the PA-S may join the Facebook group. However, please make sure that you spread the word amongst your fellow classmates as this is a VERY important issue and will affect their career. The above mentioned list is for PAs, but I had created the Facebook group as a launchpad for this movement for the PA-C and PA-S who are interested. We CAN make a change.

thanks for posting this. sent it out to my SMU colleagues already...!

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jmj11, i sent out nice letters to 2 of the signers of that letter that are from ny. i told them thank you for representing our state and being involved, so on and so forth. it never hurts to praise those that are doing right by you! they responded with much enthusiam and thanks. this can be very awesome!

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The last big push I recall was about 10-12 years ago when I was a student. As far as I can remember, there was no convincing letter like the one crafted above. Damn good letter IMO. Also we are now a decade stronger and how many more PAs have been trained in that time? Quite a bit. We now have at least some recognition and growing respect within the medical community. Even my husband (a HS teacher) says our name is terrible and doesn't reflect what we do.

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