NLM logo

Education: Physician Assistants: Collaboration and Care

The Physician Assistant Profession: Reflections on Its Past, Present, and Future


Henry B. Perry received his MD degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 1974, his Master of Public Health (MPH) degree in 1971 from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and his PhD from the Department of Social Relations at the Johns Hopkins University in 1976. For his PhD thesis, Dr. Perry carried out the first national survey of the physician assistant (PA) profession in 1974. In 1981, he published a book with Bina Breitner entitled Physicians Assistants: Their Contribution to Health Care (Human Sciences Press). Dr. Perry has authored numerous articles on PAs and other mid-level health professionals in the United States. Since the 1970s, he has worked in global health, with a focus on community-based health care providers. He is currently senior scientist in the Health Systems Program of the Department of International Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Collaborating with Dr. Perry on this project are the following contributors:

  1. Reginald Carter, PhD, PA, is the former director of the Duke University Physician Assistant Program (1978 to 1999) and the former director of the Physician Assistant History Society (2002–2008), where he is currently a historian emeritus.
  2. Roderick Hooker, PhD, MBA, PA, was a rheumatology PA with Kaiser Permanente and a health services researcher with the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Oregon.
  3. James F. Cawley, MPH, PA-C began his career on the faculty of the Johns Hopkins School of Health Services Health Associate Program and then served for many years on the faculty of the Physician Assistant Program at The George Washington University, where he is currently a professor in the Department of Prevention and Community Health, and a professor of Physician Assistant Studies. He and Dr. Hooker have co-authored four books on the PA profession, most recently Physician Assistants: Policy and Practice, 4th edition published by F.A. Davis in 2016.
  4. Eugene Schneller, PhD, is a professor in the W.P. Carey School of Business of Arizona State University. He authored one of the early books on the PA profession entitled The Physician’s Assistant: Innovation in the Medical Division of Labor, published by Lexington Books in 1978).
  5. Zeinab Bakhiet graduated from the Johns Hopkins University with a BA in Public Health Studies. She is preparing for a career as a health care provider.
Suggested Use

This learning module, developed by experts and scholars of health professions and the health workforce, includes a series of “Reflections” that will be of interest to undergraduate and graduate students who study health care-related topics. Students will discover how PAs, among other health care providers, work interdependently with physicians and other health care professionals to effectively and efficiently provide patient care.


Upon completion of this module, students will be able to:

  • Appreciate and understand the PA profession as a uniquely American social innovation of the 20th century.
  • Recognize the complex social, economic, political, and medical challenges of the 1960s and 1970s.
  • Identify the origins, professional development, and integration of PAs into health care delivery nationally and internationally.
  • Demonstrate the ability to read and analyze a variety of primary and secondary source materials including biographies, oral histories, and academic readings.
Back to top