WRITER: AMY LILLRD
CONTACT: DAVE PEDERSEN
2130 Medical Laboratories
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-8032; fax (319) 335-8034
Release: Oct. 19, 1999
UI PA program celebrates 25 years of graduates with
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- In the 25 years since the University
of Iowa Physician Assistant (PA) Program graduated its first 10 PAs, the profession
has seen a national growth of hundreds of thousands of graduates, and the
UI program has established a tradition of academic excellence.
A 25th anniversary reception for the universitys
PA program will be Oct. 25 and will offer an opportunity for all prior graduates
to reunite with their classmates. The reception will be held at the Collins
Plaza Hotel in Cedar Rapids from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.
The reception also offers an opportunity to look back
at the success and growth of the Iowa PA program. Established in 1972, the
first PA class graduated in 1974. More than 500 PAs have graduated from the
The first PA program was created at Duke University
in 1965 as a response to the shortage and uneven distribution of physicians
in the early 1960s. The first students were trained to serve patients under
another doctors supervision, particularly in underserved areas.
David Asprey, a graduate of the universitys
PA program and currently its director, noted an evolution of the role of PAs
over the years.
"At first, PAs were designed to have less autonomy.
Now their role has expanded to include diagnosing and treating patients. In
some areas, the PA is the only health care practitioner on site," he
PAs today assist doctors in a number of tasks, including
taking medical histories, examining patients, ordering and interpreting lab
tests, setting fractures and suturing wounds, conducting hospital rounds and
house calls, assisting in surgery, and initiating treatment plans. They are
usually the first person to see the patient and in most states, including
Iowa, they can also write prescriptions.
Nationwide there has been an explosion of PA programs
over the years. By 1971, 17 programs had been established in the country,
graduating 430 PAs a year. In the last decade the growth has been more pronounced
-- in 1992, 55 programs graduated 1,600 students per year. By 1998 the numbers
nearly doubled, with 106 national programs and 4,000 PAs graduating per year.
The Iowa program began in 1972 with 10 students and
a focus on serving rural areas. Asprey said this focus fit with national PA
"It has always been the interest of PAs to work
in areas that are underserved. This could be inner-city areas or, in Iowas
case, rural areas. The PA program at the UI wants to make sure that all citizens
of the state have high-quality health care. In areas financially unable to
serve a physician, a PA is often the answer," he said.
Since the first class graduated in 1974, the UI program
has set a distinct pattern of academic success. The rate of students passing
the PA National Certification Exam the first time they take the test averages
99 percent while the national average is around 85 percent. The figures are
merely one measure of the excellence exhibited by students and graduates,
"The Iowa program is fortunate and unique in
that the curriculum is heavily integrated with the College of Medicine. Most
of the first-year classes are taken with second-year medical students, something
most programs around the country dont do. This sets up an intense curriculum
which expects the students to perform and prepares them well. Also, we are
fortunate to attract top-notch individuals across the country as students,"
The growth in PA programs and students across the
country reflects a demand in todays health care system, Asprey said,
a demand to provide health care to more areas and to provide it in a cost-effective
"The key idea about PAs is that they are health
care providers that deliver patient services similar to a physician, at a
reduced cost," Asprey said. "In todays health care market,
quality care at reduced cost is highly valued."
As the program looks back with the upcoming reunion,
it also pushes ahead with more students and new goals. Part of this is the
Rural Medicine Initiative, instituted in 1995, that seeks to recruit students
with rural backgrounds to better serve those areas.