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History of the Yale Physician Associate Program

History of Yale’s PA Program

The Yale PA Program was developed in 1970 under the auspices of the Trauma Program of the Department of Surgery to address the healthcare delivery issues of the time. The Yale PA Program accepted its first class in 1971. The founders of the PA Program, Jack Cole, M.D., chair of the Department of Surgery, and Alfred Sadler, M.D., created the first PA Program in the United States with emergency medicine and surgery emphases. By the mid-1980's, the program was training students as generalist PAs, preparing them for practice in diverse areas of medicine.

In January 1973, the Yale Program graduated its first class of 5 students. Over 1,300 physician associates have completed their education at Yale. Our graduates practice across the United States in all medical and surgical specialties and in all healthcare settings.

The Physician Associate

Yale has been training physician associates for 50 years. In the early 1970s when the PA program was created, the name of the PA profession and the associated training programs varied greatly. The Yale program pioneers envisioned a collegial partnership between this new medical provider and the physician and adopted the term “physician associate.” The Yale PA Program has retained this title ever since. Our PA graduates continue to be physician partners and patient advocates. Yale physician associate graduates practice medicine under the title of PA and contribute meaningfully to the health of all people and communities.

Masters of Medical Science

The first twenty-seven classes were granted a certificate in physician associate studies. As a sign of the growing influence of PAs in American healthcare and recognition of curriculum enhancements in research, the Yale Corporation approved the awarding of a Master of Medical Science degree (MMSc) to be first conferred to the Yale PA Program's Class of 1999.


In 1971, the Council on Medical Education of the American Medical Association established the "Essentials of an Approved Educational Program for the Primary Care Physician's Assistant." Through the years, there have been several accrediting bodies responsible for accrediting Physician Assistant Programs.

On January 1, 2001, the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) became an independent review commission and created standards to which all PA programs are held. The Yale Physician Associate Program has enjoyed continuous accreditation since 1975.