AHRQ Views

Blog posts from AHRQ leaders

Robert McNellis, M.P.H., P.A., AHRQ Senior Advisor for Primary CareIt was Look Magazine in 1966 that first brought national attention to a new health profession in the United States—the physician assistant (PA). The following year, in October 1967, three ex-Navy Corpsmen graduated from Duke University as the first PAs in the Nation.

Wilbur Cohn, then Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, noted the following year that the Nation’s health care system was evolving in ways that would require an adaptable, highly skilled workforce with the capacity to grow.

"Health services in the United States are expensive and complex," Cohn said. "They have grown rapidly in recent years, but the demand for health services has grown even more rapidly. The result is that providers of health services face demands that exceed the capacity of traditional ideas, methods and institutions."

He was right, of course. The demands for high-quality, evidence-based health care expanded enormously in the following 50 years. And the Nation’s PAs kept pace along the way—now trained at more than 200 accredited PA programs and representing more than 100,000 professionals in the health care work force.

In a sense, PAs and AHRQ have grown up together. The National Center for Health Services Research—AHRQ’s precursor—was created less than a year after the first PAs graduated from Duke. Today, as they begin their next 50 years together, AHRQ offers PAs numerous opportunities for excelling on the cutting edge of health care delivery:

As we celebrate National PA Week, I would like to congratulate my fellow PAs for 50 years of providing high-quality care. And count on AHRQ for continued support. Now is the time for the profession to look to the future and commit to being leaders in quality and safety. AHRQ can help you explore beyond "traditional ideas, methods and institutions" to build a better health care system that truly provides better care, better health, and lower costs.

Page last reviewed October 2016
Page originally created October 2016
Internet Citation: AHRQ Acknowledges 50 Years of Accomplishments by the Nation’s Physician Assistants. Content last reviewed October 2016. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. https://www.ahrq.gov/news/blog/ahrqviews/50-years-physicians-assistants.html
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