Every year, we celebrate National Physician Assistant Week Oct. 6 through Oct. 12, and recognize the important contributions that PAs make to improve the health of Texans.

This year, PA Week is especially exciting, as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the profession — and 50 years of providing the best possible care to our patients.

PAs are nationally certified and state-licensed medical professionals who practice on health care teams with physicians and other providers. They practice and prescribe medication in all the states, the District of Columbia, U.S. territories and the military. There are currently more than 115,000 PAs in the country and 6,650 PAs in Texas.

The PA profession is growing every year, which allows us to provide care for more patients, especially in underserved areas with little access to health care. We’ve accomplished a lot over the last five decades, and we’re ready for five more.

Here at the University of Texas Medical Branch, we believe in our PAs and are proud of the hard work they do every day, and during PA Week, we are proud to recognize the PAs and celebrate all they do for the health of the patients they serve. UTMB has the largest PA program in Texas and we’re proud that nearly 2,000 people have graduated from our program since 1971.

Part of our mission is to get the word out about PAs in Texas and all over the country by informing general public about who PAs are and why they’re an essential part of our health care team. PAs practice in every medical and surgical specialty. They also conduct physical exams, perform medical procedures, first assist in surgery, counsel patients on preventive health care, coordinate patient care, make rounds in nursing homes and hospitals, and conduct clinical research.

PAs are also educated through graduate-level programs that average 27 months and require the same prerequisite courses as medical schools. All PA students complete at least 2,000 hours of clinical rotations, which cover every major specialty, from family medicine to general surgery to emergency medicine.

“Our institution wouldn’t be the same without the hard work of our PAs,” said Dr. Rex McCallum, vice president and chief physician executive at UTMB. “PA Week is a great opportunity to recognize them, and to say thank you.”

To learn more about PA Week and the PA profession, visit PAweek.com.

Barbara Slusher, a certified physician assistant, is an assistant professor at UTMB’s School of Health Professions.

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(2) comments

Steve Fouga

I've been uniformly impressed with the treatment I've received from physicians' assistants. My spirits rise a little when I realize I'm to be treated by a PA rather than a doctor. I know I will get their full attention and, so far at least, I've noticed no difference in expertise between PAs and doctors in the specialties of routine dermatology and ophthalmology, and minor emergency medicine.

Mark Aaron

My experience has been similar. A lot less ego to deal with when you go to a PA.

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