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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 and accepted its first class of five students 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. Since inception, over 1,200 physician associate students have completed their education at Yale.

"The Physician Associate"

At the time of the program's inception in the early 1970s, the name of the PA profession and the associated training programs varied greatly. The term PA is now widely used to denote physician assistant; however, the program pioneers wanted to convey the collegial relationship that exists between PAs and their supervising physicians and thus adopted the term "Physician Associate." Currently both physician assistants and physician associates operate under the title of PA.

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 masters 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. The program’s accreditation history can be viewed on the ARC-PA website.

The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) has granted Accreditation-Continued status to the Yale University School of Medicine Physician Associate Program sponsored by Yale University School of Medicine. Accreditation-Continued is an accreditation status granted when a currently accredited program is in compliance with the ARC-PA Standards.

Accreditation remains in effect until the program closes or withdraws from the accreditation process or until accreditation is withdrawn for failure to comply with the Standards. The approximate date for the next validation review of the program by the ARC-PA will be September 2027. The review date is contingent upon continued compliance with the Accreditation Standards and ARC-PA policy.

Please note that the ARC-PA does not accredit the Public Health curriculum associated with the PA/MPH joint degree. The MPH curriculum is accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH).