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National Exhibit Celebrating the PA Profession Travels to Yale

November 21, 2019
by Abigail Roth

Today, physician assistants (PAs) are an increasingly integral part of the health care profession. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the profession is expected to grow 31% between 2018 and 2028. Surprising to some, the PA profession is only 50 years old. To mark this milestone, the Physician Assistant History Society and the National Library of Medicine have worked together on a joint project: “Physician Assistants: Collaboration and Care,” a traveling banner and online exhibition.

Yale School of Medicine (YSM) is hosting the banner exhibit from November 4 – December 20, 2019, in the entry area of the Cushing Whitney Medical Library (CWML). Richard Belitsky, MD, Harold W. Jockers Associate Professor of Medical Education, associate professor of psychiatry, and deputy dean for education stated “we are very proud of our long history of PA education at YSM, and we are honored to host this important exhibit celebrating the PA profession.”

The exhibit collaborators created the exhibit to show “how the profession developed and how it continues to evolve today.” To ensure broad exposure, in addition to the online component, the exhibit was structured to travel across the country for five years, from 2017-21, typically spending six weeks in each location. PA programs, hospitals, medical libraries, and public libraries had the opportunity to host. YSM’s Physician Associate (PA) Program signed up early on, in November 2017, and the touring schedule was filled soon after it opened. At the end of the tour, the banner exhibit will become a permanent installation at the National Library of Medicine.

One highlight of the exhibit for YSM: alumnus Lieutenant Commander Benjamin Olmedo ’11, PA-C, is featured on the panel titled, “Respond to Community Needs.” In 2013, Olmedo joined the Indian Health Service; since 2017, he has served as chief clinical consultant for PAs, responsible for representing, advocating, and supporting the profession nationally through 12 geographic areas and 170 clinical service units that provide health care to over two million American Indian and Alaska Native people. Olmedo has built strong relationships with the community and his work helped to improve patient outcomes. There is a photograph of Olmedo in the middle left of the Respond to Community Needs panel, speaking with community elders in rural Alaska. 

PA Program Director Alexandria Garino, PhD, PA-C, explains that the exhibit “speaks to the truly collaborative nature of the PA profession. Since the profession’s inception, PAs have been educated to embrace team-based patient care and work collaboratively with other members of the health care team.” For example, the exhibit highlights how nurses were instrumental in the education of the first PAs. On the second banner, titled “Part of a Team,” a photo features Kaye Andreoli, RN, teaching the first class of PA students at the Duke PA Program how to interpret EKGs. Yale fosters this collaboration, for example with all first year Physician Associate, MD, and Graduate Entry Pre-specialty in Nursing students participating in the year-long Interdisciplinary Longitudinal Clinical Experience course, working together in teams with a faculty preceptor.

Other panel topics visitors can learn about are Collaboration and Care, Diversity Makes a Difference, Collaboration with New Partners, and Care Around the World.

YSM’s Physician Associate Program is one of the oldest PA programs in the United States, having admitted its first five students in 1971, soon after the profession was established. Over 1,250 students have graduated from the program since its inception.  

Since January 2018, YSM has offered a second pathway for students to become PAs, the Physician Assistant (PA) Online Program. A class of Yale PA Online students will be on campus for a week in mid-December. PA Online Program Director James Van Rhee, M.S., PA-C, was pleased YSM was able to extend the exhibit’s stay an extra week, through December 20, so that “YSM PA Online students from around the country will be able to visit the exhibit and appreciate the history of the PA profession during their campus visit.”

While the exhibit marks 50 years of the PA profession, its visit to YSM is also a precursor to the Physician Assistant Online Program’s first graduating class in May 2020, and the Physician Associate Program’s 50th anniversary celebrations in April 2021.

All are welcome to visit the exhibit in the Cushing Whitney Medical Library, located at 333 Cedar Street, New Haven.

Submitted by Abigail Roth on November 18, 2019