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About the PA Program & Our History

The Yale School of Medicine offers two high-quality Physician Assistant (PA) education pathways: The Physician Associate Program and the Physician Assistant Online Program, both leading to a Master of Medical Science degree. The Physician Associate Program provides a general medicine education, emphasizing experiential learning, research, clinical experiences, and interprofessional education. The Physician Assistant Online Program focuses on primary care, offering a blended learning experience combining online coursework, live online small group sessions, in-person clinical experiences, and on-campus immersions. Established in 1970, the Yale PA Program has graduated over 1,300 physician associates who practice across the U.S. in various medical and surgical specialties. The Yale PA program, continuously accredited since 1975, has been at the forefront of shaping the PA profession and its contribution to American healthcare.

PA Education at Yale

The Yale School of Medicine is proud to offer two pathways to obtain a high quality PA education: The Physician Associate Program and the Physician Assistant Online Program. Students in both programs graduate with a Master of Medical Science degree and both utilize the faculty from the Yale School of Medicine. With consistent admission requirements but unique learning experiences, prospective students can apply for the program that best meets their learning and career objectives.

The Physician Associate Program

The Physician Associate Program offers a general medicine education and graduates leaders who serve their communities and advance quality healthcare:

  • The curriculum emphasizes experiential learning: full anatomy dissection program, simulation lab, standardized patients, and early clinical exposure.
  • Students develop a strong foundation in research.
  • Clinical experiences are offered within Yale-New Haven Health System and internationally.
  • Students engage in interprofessional educational experiences with Yale medical and nursing students.

The Physician Assistant Online Program

The Physician Assistant Online Program focuses on primary care and meeting the healthcare needs of local communities:

  • The online learning experience includes lectures that are studio recorded for high quality, weekly live class sessions in a virtual classroom, as well as opportunities to collaborate with peers and connect with instructors.
  • The blended learning experience combines online coursework, live online small group sessions, in-person clinical experiences, and on-campus immersions.
  • The curriculum focuses on problem-based learning.
  • The clinical mentoring experience can take place in the student’s own community.

Visit the Physician Assistant Online Program website for more information.

History of the Yale Physician Associate 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.