The Primary Care Physician Assistant (PA) Program at the Keck School of Medicine of USC celebrated PA Week beginning Oct. 6. This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the creation of the physician assistant profession.

PAs are nationally certified and state-licensed medical professionals who practice on health care teams with physicians and other providers. There currently are 115,000 nationally certified PAs in the country, practicing in every medical and surgical specialty. At Keck Medical Center of USC, PAs work in many specialties including neurosurgery, cardiology, urology and family medicine. As part of the health care team, PAs take patient histories, conduct physical exams, develop assessments and treatment plans. PAs also first assist in surgery, perform medical procedures, coordinate care, make rounds and conduct clinical research.

The profession began in 1967 due to a shortage of primary care providers across the country. Eugene A. Stead Jr., MD, created the profession at Duke University in North Carolina as a fast-track education model to induct United States corpsman returning from the war in Vietnam into practicing medicine with physicians.

To celebrate this special anniversary year, the PA Program kicked off PA Week with a service project. The Classes of 2019 and 2020 joined together to pack shampoo bottles, soap bars, razors, socks, toothbrushes and toothpaste into more than 100 care packages. These packages then were donated to the Union Station Homeless Services Adult Center in Pasadena.

The program also celebrated on PA Program Day, with a special luncheon on Oct. 12 for the 50th anniversary of the profession. Students, faculty and staff were given celebratory baseball tees and invited to participate in a special USC PA Trivia Hunt. Clues lead teams throughout the history of the profession and the top three teams were given prizes.

Students and faculty celebrated throughout the week participating in daily photo challenges held by the national association, the American Academy of PAs, and also by advocating in the community to promote the PA profession.

— Claire Norman

Students from the Class of 2019 and 2020 joined forces to pack kits to be donated to the Union Station Homeless Services Adult Center in Pasadena in celebration of PA Week. (Photo/Claire Norman)