September 13, 1999

CHARTER PHYSICIAN ASSISTANT CLASS GRADUATES FROM UNT HEALTH SCIENCE CENTER

FORT WORTH, Texas — The charter class of the Physician Assistant Studies Program at the University of North Texas Health Science Center will graduate, earning the designation — PA — after their names. Commencement takes place at 1 p.m. Saturday, September 25, 1999 at the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens.

Commencement speaker for the graduating physician assistant (PA) class will be Rear Admiral Kenneth P. Moritsugu, M.D., M.P.H., Deputy Surgeon General of the United States. A career officer in the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service, Admiral Moritsugu has served as an Assistant Surgeon General beginning with Surgeon General C. Everett Koop in 1988.

Admiral Moritsugu is a leader in the PA movement through his service with the PA Veteran’s Caucus and as a trustee and treasurer of the PA Foundation of the American Academy of Physician Assistants. The American Academy of Physician Assistants named him an Honorary Lifetime Member and also gave him the President’s Award.

Admiral Moritsugu received an honorary doctor of public service degree from the UNT Health Science Center as the 1993 commencement speaker.

Many of the graduating PA students will provide health care for Texans in rural locations, with job offers coming from towns including Cleburne, Hillsboro, Athens, Lufkin and Hallettsville. According to the American Academy of Physician Assistants, over 50 percent of all physician assistants practice primary care — family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics and obstetrics and gynecology. Many communities faced with a shortage of physicians employ PAs to help meet their clinical service needs. In Texas, approximately 70 percent of the state’s rural health clinics are manned by PAs.

The Physician Assistant Studies Program began at the health science center in June 1997 as an undergraduate program. The first state-funded PA Studies master’s program in Texas will begin at Fort Worth’s health science center in the fall of 2000.

Physician assistants are health care professionals licensed to practice medicine with physician supervision. As part of their comprehensive responsibilities, PAs conduct physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, counsel on preventive health care, assist in surgery, and in most states can write prescriptions. Because of the close working relationship the PAs have with physicians, PAs are educated in the medical model designed to complement physician training.