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Physician Associate: A Change Whose Time Has Come

A group of 50 prominent PAs have signed this open letter urging a name change.

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I agree with the name change. I think now, more than ever, it truly describes who and what we are and do. It's not about pulling away from the great MD/PA team for more indepance but for the community we serve: their views of us "being an assistant", their trust and their understanding of our capabilities in the same MD/PA team. I think there's been no better time for a name upgrade.

Xavier Varela,  Physician Assistant ,  Santa Clara Valley Medicial CenterJanuary 30, 2015
San Jose, CA

The title "associate" was taken away from PA's years ago, but I think we have rightfully earned that title many years later. People still ask what a PA is, and the job title just doesn't fit the job description. Please start making the change now!

Archana Babu,  PA-SJanuary 24, 2015
Staten Island, NY

I very much agree that name change should be a priority and urgent matter to be adressed by all organizations representing the "Physician Assistant" profession. I fully support the statements made above and would like to see the change coming soon. The name thought should preferably be "Medical Practitioner" instead of Physician Associate, because obviously we practice medicine. No body should be afraid to correct a patient or a Physician when they refer to you as an "assistant". WE ARE NOT ASSISTANTS!!

Rene Valiente,  PAJanuary 24, 2015
Miami, FL

I have been teaching and practicing medicine and many of the people I have encountered have no idea or heard of a Physician Assistant. Some assume is interchangeable term for Medical Assistant. The provider will tell the patient that the "assistant" will take care of them and the patients refer them as the doctor's assistant or doctor's nurse. Mr. Michael from CA has explained well what the title should be. Initially, I thought that Physician Associate was the adequate term, but the way it was explained by Mr. Michael it is not the most correct term we can adopt. The misunderstanding must end.We are Medical Practitioners.


Xavier ZavalaJanuary 24, 2015
Bronx, NY

I agree strongly with Michael. Medical Practitioner is far less confusing and more appropriate when correlated with the nurse practitioner title.

Sarah, PA-S January 24, 2015

Agreed that the name title confuses a lot of the people and physician associate would better represent our role in the future healthcare arena.

Tyre Conrey,  PA-C,  StraubJanuary 24, 2015
Honolulu, HI

It's about time that PA's get the respect they deserve. PA's are on par with Dr's, and shouldn't be referred to as their "assistant". I really hope this name change goes through!

Jeff Frank January 24, 2015
Holly Springs, NC

I am not a practicing mid-level so this is not personal to me. However, I will say that a change is needed. The physician assistant title does make it sound like someone here just assisting the doc. My mother for one does not like seeing a PA because she believes they are not able prescribe medications or provide other services a doctor can.

Charles January 24, 2015

I think there should be a name change. i agree with Medical Practitioner. nurses are practitioners and that makes them fall ahead of PAs. An employer or even consumers will will choose a practitioner over an assistant or an associate. Medical Doctor(MD)& Medical Practitioner, this will differentiate PAs from other professions and also show that PAs practice Medicine.

Gabriel TeyeMay 31, 2014

Physician Assistant should be renamed to "Medical Practitioner (MP)", NOT Physician Associate. Physician Associate is grammatically incorrect, because it should be Associate Physician, but we are not physicians. It also does not to make sense to name a clinical doctorate in the future as "Doctor of Physician Assistant" or even "Doctor of Physician Associate." Instead, Doctor of Medical Practice (DMP) would be ideal that could focus on a specialty such as Emergency Medicine. PAs practice medicine...shouldn't "medicine" be in the title somewhere? Finally, the titles would make sense: there are MDs/DOs at the top level and there should be DMPs/DNPs at the mid-level.

Michael June 21, 2013

How do we, as a professional group, accomplish this? The term "assistant" has negative connotations and we are easily confused with entry-level medical assistants. We need to push for this.

KimPAC ,  Physician AssistantJune 05, 2012
Temecula, CA

I am currently applying to Physician Assistant programs. I have found myself constantly explaining to my parents what my role in health care will be. They are afraid after my years of training and education I will be nothing more then a medical assistant. Also there has been talk that in the near future the Physician Assistant role will become obsolete due to NP's. Because they carry the title Practitioner it is most likely to hire a Practitioner over an Assistant. I believe the name change will benefitial.

Mildred May 20, 2011
Fort Lauderdale, FL

Another tempest in a teapot! I've held positions where my title was Physician Associate and others which I was termed a Physician Assistant. How I practiced and cared for my patients had nothing to do with my title. Those who continue to perseverate about their title have taken their eyes off of the ball. I provide quality care to those who come into my practice , which is all that really matters in the profession.

Clark December 20, 2010

In our healthcare setting, we have a professional organization that comprises the NP's, PA's, CRNA's and CNS'. When organizing, we realized that the one thing we have in common is an advanced practice degree. We are call the APP's, Advanced Practice Providers. I would like to see this title take off and spread across the country to unite all of us that fit this category. Each of us, regardless of our degree, have had to explain ourselves numerous times. Patients are confused by all the different titles and don't understand the differences. Many of us work side by side doing the same jobs. It is time to put our differences aside and become one. We really would have more power together to set policy, etc. then as separate entities.
Sincerely, Laurie Straw FNP-C

Laurie Straw,  FNP-C,  SanfordDecember 02, 2010
Bemidji, MN

The name change is a very good idea because it more defines who we are within the realm of medical practice. It also gives a better idea of the type of training we have. PAs who are not in support of a name change need to realize that we have to secure our place in medical practice. when the new healthcare bill was released, it stated that PAs can be supervised by NPs. That was a complete insult considering that WE are actually trained to practice medicine. That one incident alone should have made the AAPA wake up and realize how the "assistant" are truly perceived by the public.
People talk about changing laws and regualtions in 60 jurisdictions and how it is going to be hard. How can we let that stop us from pursuing a name change? The same way PAs lobbied for prescriptive authority and had legislation changed in the entire US and its territories, is the same way we will have a recognized name change. NPs are letting having to change laws over many jurisdictions stop them from lobbying for independent practice in the entire U.S. Know this and know it well, that error in the health care act is just the beginning of being viewed as less than an NP. I focus on NPs because they are our direct competition for jobs. Make no mistake the word "practitioner" in their title is truly giving them an edge also practitioner being coupled with nurse gives them a credibility that we need if we are going to be able to compete with them. Our physiican colleagues may prefer to hire NPs when they recieved their new doctoral degrees because they are now carryiing the title doctor and will be PERCIEVED as having an increase in clinical knowledge and experience which they won't, but it is all about perception. We as a profession need to wake up before we find ourselves filling the RN role. Also to make the physicians that oppose the "physician associate" title feel better. Associate is a synonym of concomitant. Concomitant means existing with something else but in a lesser way. So now you will realize that by being "associates" we are not trying to be equal with you but are still less than you so your egos do not have to be bruised. However we can always leave physiican out of the title become clinical practice specialists, begin a move toward the doctoral degree and become independent practitioners of medicine and give physicians more competition.

Nachet ,  PA-CNovember 24, 2010

Agree 100%. We are not assistants. We are healthcare providers who are supervised by physicians. We don't call resp therapists,assistants. or other non provider healthcare workers , assistants....And they are more along the level of assistants...PA's practice medicine and are associates to physicians in the care of patients. End of story. It's simply the wrong title.

Peter Liper,  PA-CNovember 24, 2010

Agree with all others-- the assistant title is not accurrate nor representative. Our national association, AAPA, should help in advancing this goal especially if it is the wishes of the majority of its constituents

Guy  Mazzone ,  PA C ,  Robinwood Orthopaedic Spec CtrNovember 17, 2010
Hagerstown , MD

Personally I think it should be Physician - Midlevel.

Jonathan Brown,  PA-C,  VMCAugust 12, 2010
The Woodlands , TX

I have been a PA since 1981 and graduated from a Physician Associate Program. Let's get this going BEFORE I retire. I recall 20 years ago when I actively pursued global changing of title, Congress indicated it would 'hinder' the progression of the Profession. We need to CHANGE THE 'ASSISTANT' title, far too many individuals even in healthcare deem the term 'assistant' as an inferior healthcare provider. In addition to changing the title, PA Programs must abolish the Associate degree programs, that is what has hampered PA's from advancement in Healthcare!!!
Cris B PA-C

cris b,  Vice President,  Medical CenterJuly 30, 2010
westchester county, NY

I concur that we should change the title

Erica Bottai,  PA-SJune 14, 2010
Bremerton, DC

While I highly value the work of my PA's and NP's (as do my patients) the use of the word associate is inappropriate. Many physicians in private practice are considered associates until they buy into their partnership practice. Associates in a law firm are similarly newer attorneys who do the same level of work as the partner attorneys. While PA's do several of the tasks of a physician they are not licensed to do all of them nor without supervision. They are not "nearly equal" as Meriam Webster woudl define an associate, instead PA's are highly skilled and valued assistants. This is unlike associates in a law firm. A medical resident or fellow would be more aptly described as a physician associate.

Louis Keiler,  MDMay 12, 2010

This is a fantastic idea, that is long overdue. After reading the article and comments I have asked several Doctors (MDs and DOs as well as some med students) their thoughts and not one of them was opposed to the idea of the "associate" terminology. I personally feel that the change is necessary, not to be more like Doctors, but to distinguish us from med techs/med assistants. I love that I will work with/under a Doctor and have no desire to usurp them in money, recognition, name or duties. I personally turned down Med School because I didn't want the life style of a doctor. I also have a strong desire to be in primary care which I feel physician associate training is preparing me for in the near future. Let us not give up, hold strong fellow "associates" and let's work together with our supervising Docs and the AMA to get this accomplished (I say this knowing that it will be much better to work with than fight against, cause I feel strongly that if we approach this correctly we can demonstrate to the AMA and doctors are true intentions of not usurption of their status but to seperate us from med assistants and other lower level medical help)

Crystal ,  PA-SMay 07, 2010

This is long overdue. I have been a PA-C for about two months now. I have really struggled ever since I started my clinical rotations to come up with a clear, concise, accurate 1 - 2 sentence explanation of who and what a PA is without putting myself on the same level with an M.D. and while also making sure that the patient understands that we are not medical assistants. Sure, anyone can explain who and what we are, but I challenge anyone to do it accurately in one or two short sentences. The connotations surrounding associate help explain who we are to the public without having to reinvent the wheel every time we do it. Professions use the term associate; assistant usually refers to technicians or minimally educated support staff. Associates are colleagues. Assistants hand things to the guy who knows what he is doing. When I was 18 in the Navy and after 12 weeks of school I became a Hospital Corpsman and did many of the things that I do as a PA and my patients called me “Doc”. It didn’t make me a doctor, or make me think I was on par doctors, but on several occasions I heard Marines say they wanted to see the “Doc” rather than the physician assistant. Then I, as the Corpsman, would have to explain what a PA is. How is that for getting convoluted? I’m from a blue collar background and hate titles and status, but words have meaning and we need to use the ones that describe us most accurately – not for the sake of status, but for simple accuracy and to reduce confusion.

Greg CainMay 04, 2010

Dr. Tran:

The mere fact you practice in Zeeland Michigan says a lot about your abilities and skills. I don't think many PA's would work for you either. Your attitude is exactly the reason why the medical system fueled by arrogant doctors who know less than they think they do has spiraled into the abyss we are now faced with. Protecting your "turf" rather than trying to find the best means possible to service our patients within the arena of skyrocketing healthcare costs where the prosthetic industry, pharm industry, doctors and hospitals have abused the cost regimen to the point that now big government is involved....hope you like what you asked for....The AMA needs to start working WITH others instead of acting likely the judge, jury and executioner......have fun serving your patients in "Zeeland"....

Dave Profeta,  PA-SMay 01, 2010

I would love the name change. Tired of patients not understanding or hearing clearly that a Physician Assistant is not a Medical Assistant.
People still don't get it and its frustrating!!

Elizabeth Longo,  Physician AssistantApril 29, 2010
Calabasas, CA

There are so many good reasons listed in the petition to support the name change. I do not see anything in the objectives that we are seeking equal representation as physicians, or even any indication that we are trying to narrow the gap between the two parties. There are no goals to move to independence. The only groups that we are seeking differentiation from, are the groups with lesser training. This proposal is a change in name only. I do not see any agendas here. I see a feeling of threat from the detractors, when I don't see any real need.

Dr. Tran - please do not look for my resume anytime soon.

Scott Mehlos,  Physician Assistant,  MOGLApril 27, 2010
Milwaukee, WI

Dr Tran,

I think the fact that you live in the middle of nowhereville, midwest (ie Zeeland, MI) means you are out of the loop and so set in your ways that no physician assistant or associate would want to work with someone as outdated, out of the loop, and cynical as you. Happy practicing!

Jay April 27, 2010

Here's a good one for ya'all. Had a older female patient w/ ongoing back pain and fever with on set 10 days prior to seeing me. 7 days prior, she had a complete cardiac workup (labs/cxr/ekg/PE angiogram) which all turned out negative, so she was sent home w/ antibiotics, pain meds, and advice to follow up.

So she comes to see me.. a physician assistant/associate cause her pain is back, her fever never left, and she is concerned. Without CT/MRI capabilities, I promptly transferred her to the same ER she'd been 7 days prior for fever/backpain of unknown etiology. She thanked me for being so thorough on my history and PE on the way out the door. Turns out she gets hospitalized for spinal osteomyelitis and possible epidural abscess. Now why did the mighty ED physicians continue a workup on day 3 instead of sending her out the door on pain meds/abs without a valid diagnosis? All I did was palpate her spine, found the area of pain, and questioned why she had a fever after a abs course.... and of course, verified with my awesome supervising physician that loves training us new PAs... He said sending her sounded like the right move.

Jay April 27, 2010

Our professional title should represent what we do, Associate fits the profile.
It is long time over due for the name change.

hanna shi,  MS, PA-C,  Kaiser Permanente Medical GroupApril 27, 2010
Santa Clara, CA

Dr. Tran,

That's quite alright if you do not want to hire any PAs called "Associates". That is your choice, and I can respect that. I am sure that if a name change happens, those that go by Physician Associate will not have a issue with gaining employment elsewhere.

There are many physicians that are fine with us changing our name. Just an anecdote, but nearly every physician I have spoken to about the proposed name change is either for it, or at least alright with such an action. Very few disagreed.


JT Smith,  PA-CApril 27, 2010
Portland, OR

I truly value the role of PA's, and don't really care what they are called. This does seem like a step toward claiming that physicians and PA's are the same, and on the same level, which is not true. Physicians have much more training across all fields, and are thus able to care for the full patient more than a PA. Physicians can handle the complications that can ensure, where as PA's are not trained in some complications. There is a reason why PA's do work under, while independently, but still under a physician's oversight. This step toward claiming that physicians and PA's are equal is irresponsible as it confuses the patient, and potentially contributes to poor care.
A second point is that the new rush of NP's and PA's is great, as they are all very qualified members of a healthcare team. I do believe that there should be some regulation as to channeling the fields' growth toward primary care, as this is really where their need is. THe same for physicians, but the growth in NP/PA's is fueled by the need for more primary care, not more plastic surgery PA's.

Jumz Koolber,  medical studentApril 26, 2010
Buffalo, NY

There are quite a few posts by people claiming to be MDs that just don't understand how the PA profession works. PAs don't work off the MD's license. PA's are named in lawsuits if they were the ones to commit the malpractice, not their supervising physician. This is why they carry medical malpractice insurance just as the physician does.

PA's perform the same duties as physicians in most fields other than surgery. The term "Assistant" implies that we bring the doctor his coffee and schedule his appointments, not meaningfully help the patient load of the practice. Also, the point has been made already, but I will reiterate it: "Assistant" is misleading. Patients do not want to be seen by someone's assistant. Sending the assistant implies that the physician does not care enough about you to come him or herself. It implies that the assistant is told by his/her supervising physician what tests to run, how to interpret them, and what treatments to order. This does not reflect the fact that PAs are practicing medicine and seeing patients autonomously all over the United States with outcomes comparable to those of physicians. This is why "Physician Associate" is a more appropriate name than "assistant."

Also, this comment is completely false:
"'associate professor' does not imply predecessor to professor; associate professors are in fact recognized as full-time faculty members (aka professors); if one is going to make reference to university hierarchy, it is in fact 'Assistant Professor' that is used to title a professor who has yet to become full-time faculty."

Assistant professors are considered full-time faculty, but are not tenured. Associate professors are tenured professors that have not achieved the "academic rank" of full professor. Assistant professors have a limited amount of time to become tenured before they are dismissed from their institutions. Associate professors practice as de facto professors for an unspecified length of time--many of whom never achieve the title of "Tenured Professor." Assistant professor is a temporary title. Physician assistant is not. PAs are not in training to become physicians. Therefore, "associate professor" is a perfectly legitimate analogy.

Ryan E.April 26, 2010

Ask your supervising physicians if they're okay with your new name "Associates" and you'll know the answer. I will NOT hire any PAs called "Associates"
Wind T, MD

Wind Tran, MDApril 25, 2010
Zeeland, MI

I am not sure why titles even matter. I am a physician and because I am a young female I am constantly referred to as "nurse" by my patients, even though I have an M.D. degree. It does not matter, as long as I can provide the care needed to my patients. Not sure why we are even wasting time on this issue.

Also, there are several erroneous references in this article. Too many to list individually, but two to name - physicians and PAs are NOT in fact held to the same standard, if something happens to the patient the physician gets sued, not the PA; also, "associate professor" does not imply predecessor to professor; associate professors are in fact recognized as full-time faculty members (aka professors); if one is going to make reference to university hierarchy, it is in fact "Assistant Professor" that is used to title a professor who has yet to become full-time faculty.

We have PAs in our practice (great ones) and they are an integral part of the health care system. But please, drop the chip...

Ellen Mogha,  Doctor of MedicineApril 25, 2010

As a PA Student I'm very excited about the possibility of this change. Associate much better represents our scope of practice and I wasn't even aware that this was a part of the title originally. With changing times our titles must also reflect our increasing responsibilities.

Neda ,  PA Student April 22, 2010
Sacramento, CA

I think this change is long overdue. We need to be advancing like the NP's. The NP's are going, in my opinion, to alienate a significant number of physicians and PA's with their dNP routine but they are advancing the profession which we are clearly not in either financial value to our practitioners or to our public image. An NP on a clinical recently told me that the NP's believe and want to be considered superior in both treatment abilities and pay than a PA. She made no bones about the fact that the NP group in this area does not like the PA profession. This change is a need and maybe only partially the needed change that should take place. I think we should be considered a doctoral program like the dNP......I think its crazy they want to upstage us but reality is reality and we better start waking up. The time is now or we are going to be left in the dust when the golden opportunity is lost

David  Profeta,  PA-SApril 21, 2010

As a PA student and future colleague, I support this movement wholeheartedly. I have a feeling that this petition, with this much support, will change this profession.

I have contacted every single one of my classmates, and they are all aware of what is being done to bring the name change to pass. I want you, our PA leaders and mentors, to know that we stand behind you, and we support you all the way!

Stacey ,  PA StudentApril 21, 2010

I am a Physician Associate. I graduated from the Yale PHYSICIAN ASSOCIATE program, and I believe everyone else should have the same title.

eric ,  Physician AssociateApril 20, 2010

Just one point of clarification: The letter states that associate deans and associate professors are not full deans or full professors and there are precedents governing this. However, they are professors and deans. As a matter of fact, PAs are not physicians, and thus physician associate is an inaccurate classification.

Mark April 20, 2010

As a PA for over 30 years, I've seen this issue come around several times. It was a good idea before and remains a good idea. Hopefully, this will soon come to fruition. Apathy by too many of our own remains the biggest stumbling block.

Philip Kucas,  PA-C,MPAS,DFAAPA,  Veterans Health SystemApril 20, 2010

I am all for this concept. I do believe the time is now and the need for a change in our name will inform the patient who we are and how we can help. I have been practicing almost 10yrs and as soon as I identify myself the patient gets a puzzled look on their face, Its like a wall was put up and I must break it down before I can begin treatment. The name change will give a better understand to those patients who do not know us yet and communicate to those in the field what we can do.

Benton Kinney,  PA-CApril 19, 2010
Redding, CA

I would like to thank the PA's that signed this petition. I also have to ask myself 'why is'nt the leadership of the AAPA leading the way on issues like these???' Whats the point in having a professional organization like the AAPA if regular PA leaders have to start grass roots movement to implement any change?

Rory  MPAS PA-C,  PA-CApril 18, 2010

I agree that a name change to "Physician Associate" can only be beneficial to our profession. I have worked as a PA for over 15 years, and have often had to explain what a physician assistant was. My patients have been very accepting of this explanation and are usually complimentary about our profession once they are familiar with it. However, I believe that Associate is a far better description of what we do, and will eliminate some of the confusion, as outlined in earlier letters by our colleagues. It also serves as a reminder of the relationship we have with physicians, maintaining a dependent practice.

While I believe it's the quality of the care we deliver that will keep patients coming back, prescriptive authority regulations, insurance and reimbursement regulations will influence our relevance in the marketplace. A change in title to Physician Associate may help others understand that our profession is highly educated, skilled and competitive in the marketplace.

Debora  Todd,  PA-C,  Department of Veterans Affairs April 18, 2010
Houston, TX

See what has happened in less than two weeks at

Bob BlummApril 18, 2010

I agree with the letter and the comments. I do have patients that ask me if I am the same as a Medical Assistant. Our current title does not do justice to the vast knowledge and skills we have. I have been hearing about the debate on getting the name changed as long as I have been in practice, which is about 4 years now. I would be interested in helping with the efforts to make this change happen as quickly as possible. The time has definitely come.

Kavitha Tamerisa,  PA-C,  MD Anderson Cancer CenterApril 17, 2010
Houston, TX

I was fairly set against this idea for years. It always seemed an unnecessary expenditure in terms of time and money especially in light of all of the other battles we daily fight.

American medicine is in a period of perhaps unprecedented transformation. Other clinicians have been examining the philosophy which underlies their practice and have been successfully re-branding entire professions. The only thing "tired and old" around here will soon be us if we fail to evolve with the times. We can remain dependent practitioners and still acknowledge our increasing responsibilities and roles.

I know that my state practice statutes need a major overhaul. They were written considering PAs an experiment - an experiment many frankly hoped would fail. Hopefully our update will include "associate" terminology.

Chris  HanifinApril 16, 2010

Will this name change also apply to Pathologist's Assistants as well? For those wondering PathA's are governed by a different AAPA (American Association of Pathologists Assistants) than Physician Assistants, thats why I ask.

Neda EftekharApril 16, 2010

As mentioned, the name change is a great idea. It has been around the 40+ years I have been a PA. When I was at Duke we tried Physician Associate but the AMA came back at us and said that they would remove all support of the PA concept if we use the title Physician Associate. We even tried RPA--Registered Physician Assistant to combat the RN or NP, but this didn't last either. This is the time to make our move and stand up and be strong. Healthcare and patients needs us. Again there is going to be a shortage of physicians like there was in 1965 when we were conceived. We are strong and we are needed. Lets recognize our role!

Mike QuirkApril 16, 2010
Key West, FL

I was in agreement to a name change back then, and I'm STILL in agreement to it now. I agree with each and every statement written in this article. I can't think of any further arguments to include other than continuing with the same thoughts that everybody else has. After 14 years of practice as a PA, I am so so so tired of having to continually explain away the "assistant" portion of my title. Although I love being a PA and I'm proud to be associated with the profession, the general public just continues to be confused by the title. Keep plugging away and maybe one day everyone will come to their senses and realize that changing our title really IS the right thing to do.

Cherise Short,  PA-C,  William Beaumont HospitalApril 16, 2010
Troy, MI

Wow, it is wonderful to see the comments regarding how a name change could effect PAs on the front lines! This is a wonderful impetus for a grass roots effort for name change. However, I was disappointed in Mr. Bennett's comments; not because they were different from the others (long live the 1st amendment) but because they were delivered with such sarcasm and contempt. I found the manner and content of his comments very unprofessional. Many "tired, old" efforts pursued by Americans have changed the course of history. We just need an organized and loud voice. This petition is only the beginning; we must keep the momentum going. It is time for our change.

Dana Motika,  President-Elect,  AFPPAApril 16, 2010
Pittsburgh, PA

I have been a PA since 2001 and have always loved my job. While working in the States I have had many of my patients ask me what a PA is and then ask me if we were similar to NPs. I've even had relatives ask me when I was going to become a real doctor instead of just his assistant!!

However, since I began practicing in Africa, PA doesn't mean anything here. The closest thing is a Clinical Officer, which are considered as individual mid-level providers and still highly regarded as excellent providers of medical care.

I would gladly welcome the name change as I believe it would help to clearly show that we are associated with physicians and not just their "assistant."

Catherine Hoelzer,  MPH, PA-C,  Christian Mission AidApril 16, 2010
Dajo, Sudan

I think it is interesting that at least one of the respondents thinks this "tired old proposition" is the product of only 50 of us. We happen to be the 50 asked to sign the document. I agree that a name change is due, we all realize it will take effort and time, but, nevertheless, the time is here. Our future is to grow beyond our current "limitations." We need to wake up and realize that our sister profession is moving in that direction. This has little to do with the name change, but we need to begin this process, and the name change is at a start. I seem to remember asking our professional organization to consider this and it was rejected. I believe the bulk of the working PA profession would like to see such a change. Isn't anyone listening?

Robert  Hollingsworth,  PA-C,  Red Springs Family Medicine ClinicApril 15, 2010
Red Springs, NC

Bravo, to all that signed this petition.

For the past 34 years I have had my Duke University Medical Center Certification from "The Pysician's Associate Program" on my wall. I would be proud to have the title restored.

Jack Lasoski, MPAS, PA-C,  Director of Health ServicesApril 15, 2010
Paducah, KY

I'm not sure...but I think my old '79 Emory diploma said "Physician Associate" on it. I'll have to's out in the garage somewhere. While I admire the "ganas" of PAs pressing for this change, I find patients to be fairly ambivalent on the issue.
Patients seem to have a pretty good grasp of what a PA is and does. They know that they typically receive better care from PAs and have better medical outcomes. They "get it".
As a "non-prominent" PA, I would suggest that feelings of inadequecy and subservience in a PA are probably a little more complicated than the "Assistant vs. Associate" issue. Changing the title is fine. But unless PAs can continue their legacy of clinical excellence, it will be "much ado about nothing".
Good Luck.

*Please notice that I avoided the "rose by any other name" reference.

Jim  Pederson,  PA-CApril 15, 2010
Laramie, WY

Ok. Go ahead and change the name. I'm not sure who the target audience is for this tired old proposition, but a group of 50 people should be able to shoulder the responsibility for moving forward with the legislative and regulatory changes in some 60 jurisdicitions to make the change happen. So, instead of writing a letter to the general populace, just go ahead and start making the changes. The AAPA is not needed to make this happen. The use of "Physician Assistant" in all venues was not created by the AAPA. It was created by small groups of individual PAs in creating enabling legislation. You can do the same thing if you choose. So stop with the whining letters and just go change the name. Really, you'll feel better for it.

Gregor Bennett,  PA-CApril 15, 2010
Rockford, MI

Imagine my surprise and great joy upon reading first thing this morning upon opening computer the 50 PA-signed letter in support of a professional name change after my composing just yesterday an email response which ended with the salient points related to a change of name from assistant to associate. My reply was strong and driven by the subject of an article describing the drive by nurses for expanding authority. For point of this entry I am including my comments re: name change only. Read what I wrote below:

. . . Finally, I return to my original sense that much goes into a name. Just as the nursing profession envisions the elevation of its nurses to Dr Nurses and belief that Dr Nurses will make for a more equal playing field with MDs, you can be certain that Dr Nurses will view themselves as a level above PAs because of their 'advanced' nursing training. Other than nurses themselves PAs probably best understand advanced level nurse training due to our need to defend training differences and assumptions made by others concerning equivalence in training (not), along with the strong belief of our profession that medical care is best provided in alignment with physicians (interdependence), not in place of physicians (independence).

And so I end this writing with renewed interest in the PA profession needing to promote heightened support and respect of the physician community with whom we align ourselves. A professional name is a label, a definition, a means of recognition, and so I defend the stance that the name brand that more appropriately names and describes our fit within the medical community is 'physician associate', as in the name used in the early years to call physician assistants of a higher level of education and achievement. PAs have carved out a healthy niche for themselves and many times over have proven themselves as thinking, caring, knowledgeable members of the medical community.

Dr Nurses and Advanced Nurse Practitioners are staking out their claim and at this time can do so independently. The article you forwarded demonstrates their direction quite clearly in case any remain naive to what is happening. We are physician 'assistants'. Forty years later confusion persists in the lay sector about how or even if a physician assistant is different from a 'doctor's assistant or a medical assistant. To all, medical and public sector alike, the assistant part of the title belies the breadth of roles, skills, education, leadership, and relationships we share with physician colleagues. After 32 years of practice I maintain that the connotation of the physician assistant title is self-defeating, the title does more to unnecessarily confuse relationships with patients, insurance providers, other professionals and our standing amongst them than it does to conjure a picture of the able, knowledgeable, responsibile, high level profession we have proven it to be. I do believe we stand to lose by clinging to the physician assistant name. PA: physician assistant or physician associate? I am proud and confident as a physician assistant but feel strongly as a member of the profession that the physician associate title states with more certainty our close and reputable alignment with physicians and is less questionable in the minds of others. As a profession we need to prepare ourselves in every way possible for our future standing.

Pamela R. Patton, PA, MSP
Clinical Director
Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Programs
Department of Surgery
University of Florida College of Medicine

Pamela Patton,  PA, MSP Clinical Director,  University of FloridaApril 15, 2010
Gainesville, FL

Sincerely, I believe to transition our name to Associate is one legacy that will assure the future of our profession. No matter how we parse the term assistant, it is subservient and misconstrued as less than a medical provider.

I also agree with Bob's comment. Advance for PAs is timely, honest and comprehensive when reporting on our profession.

Charlene MorrisApril 13, 2010
Stonewall, NC

I greatly appreciate that my favorite journal cares enough about PAs that they are willing to "print all the news that's fit to print." I first published an article in Advance on this issue ten years ago. Many others have made comment over this time period. Advance has been faithful to its reader audience to print the new as it happened. Glad to see that you have not changed and that Advance for PAs remains very special in all of our hearts. thank you Mr. Editor in Chief.
Bob Blumm

Bob BlummApril 12, 2010


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