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In Memoriam - Ann Bliss RN, BS, MSW, LCSW

January 04, 2023
by Rita Rienzo

We are sad to announce the passing of Ann Bliss, one of the founding faculty members of the Physician Associate Program, on December 7, 2022. Ann was instrumental in the formation and early success of the Yale program – in 1971 she coauthored a policy paper, the “White Paper on Physician’s Assistants”, along with Alfred Sadler MD and Blair Sadler JD, which set the wheels in motion for the private and public funding that was critical to the creation and continuation of the Yale program and other early PA programs.

Born in Bristol, CT in 1932, Bliss received a diploma RN from the Grace-New Haven School of Nursing in 1955 and a BS from the University of Pennsylvania in 1960. She worked as a medical writer for McNeil International Pharmaceuticals 1960-1961, received a master’s in social work from Bryn Mawr College in 1963 and served as a Professor of Mental Health Nursing while at SUNY Buffalo and at Niagara University 1963-1970. In 1970 she joined the faculty at the Yale School of Medicine, at the inception of the PA Program. Ann served on the Yale faculty from 1970 to 1996, teaching behavioral medicine and psychopathology for 25 years, fostering students’ development, and providing mentorship and support that many alumni recalled with fondness.

She also advocated for gender equality, a collaborative rather than a competitive clinical team, broad medical faculty education, intense and diverse clinical training under MD supervision, strong psychosocial skills, and stringent testing, certification and continuing education. These core goals were subsequently incorporated into national accreditation, certification and ethical standards that were developed for PAs, and which provided the medical establishment and the general public with the reassurances that were required to integrate the PA profession into the mainstream of medicine.

Ann served as managing editor of the PA Journal during its formative years in the 1970s. From 1973 to 1978, she served as a Yale-based staff member for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation where she promoted the funding of joint PA-NP training. In 1975, she coauthored The Physician’s Assistant Today and Tomorrow with the Sadlers, and in 1977 she and Eva Cohen MPH co-edited a research compendium of studies titled The New Health Professionals: Nurse Practitioners and Physician’s Assistants.

In her retirement, Ann was an active member of the Connecticut Society of Psychoanalytic Psychologists and continued a private practice of psychotherapy until her death.   She was predeceased by her husband, Rev. William Bliss, in 2002.

Credit: Physician Assistant History Society 

Submitted by Rita Rienzo on January 04, 2023