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VA Physician Assistant Services (PAS) Office

Historical Outlook - Physician Assistant

History of Physician Assistants

The PA profession came into existence in the mid-1960s due to the shortage and uneven geographic distribution of primary care physicians in the United States. Dr. Eugene A. Stead of the Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina assembled the first class of PAs in 1965, composed of former U.S. Navy hospital corpsmen and U.S. Army combat medics, who had received considerable medical training during their military service and gained valuable experience during the Vietnam War. He based the curriculum of the PA program in part on his first-hand knowledge of the fast-track training of medical doctors during World War II.

The first class of physician assistants graduated from the Duke University program on October 6, 1967, all 4 were Navy Hospital Corpsman. Several of these graduates went to work at the Durham VA. The VA was the first employer of PAs and to this day is still the single largest employer of PAs in this country.

Veterans trust PAs!

PAs are an integral part of the military healthcare system and in the VA they continue that tradition.

Currently, there are approximately 2,700 employed by the VA system.  23% of PAs in the VA are veterans themselves

PAs provide high-quality, cost-effective health care in VA medical centers, outpatient clinics, and Clinical Resource Hubs across the country and U.S. territories.  They provide medical care to thousands of veterans annually.  Physician Assistants work in all areas of primary care, medicine, surgery, mental health and serve in supervisory and leadership roles at the local, VISN, and National levels.

  The VHA has a history in employing PAs, has been progressive in changing the way PAs practice in the VA, and offers many benefits for PAs who chose to work in the VA.  As the single largest employer of physician assistants (pdf) in the nation, VA can offer you a wide range of challenging opportunities across the continuum of care.  

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