UTMB Physician Assistant studies students celebrate National PA Week with a flash mob event in front of the Moody Medical Library.
Physician assistants (PAs) across the nation were recognized during Physician Assistant Week held October 6 -12. PAs nationwide play a critical role in meeting America's growing health care needs and are valued members of today's medical work force.
With the passing of health care reform ushering in 32 million new patients, PAs are positioned to step up and fill the widening health provider gap. PAs are licensed providers who practice medicine with physician supervision in all general and specialty practice settings. They conduct physical examinations, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, counsel on preventive health care, assist in surgery and write prescriptions. PAs also may work in related areas like education, research and administrative services.
According to the American Academy of Physician Assistants, PAs are quickly becoming the “backbone” of the nation’s health care system as they fill gaps left by doctor shortages in places like hospitals, private practice offices, nursing homes, correctional institutions and home health. The number of PAs has doubled in the past decade and tripled in the past 15 years. In 2009, there were more than 74,000 physician assistants in the United States who served patients on nearly 260 million visits.
“The current economic recession has forced a lot of people to reconsider their careers and education, and many are discovering the PA career path as a rewarding choice,” said Debra Munsell, UTMB physician assistant and associate professor. “They make a positive difference in people’s lives, especially those in most need.”
PAs must undergo rigorous training that involves both clinical and classroom components. The average length of a PA program is 27 months, and PA students complete, on average, more than 2,000 hours of supervised clinical practice prior to graduation.  Learn more about UTMB's Physician Assistant Studies program in the School of Health Professions.