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The Role of the Physician Assistant: Why You Should See a PA

October 6-12 is PA Week

In 1965, then-chair of the Department of Medicine at the Duke University School of Medicine Eugene A. Stead, Jr., M.D. saw a need for a new type of medical provider, especially in rural areas. He wanted to fill an existing gap between physicians and nurses, and there was already a shortage of nurses at the time. Dr. Stead was also hoping to expand the prior medical education and experience of ex-military corpsmen.

The physician assistant (PA) career was developed at Duke University with the first program launching in October 1965 as a two-year curriculum. Four corpsmen made up the first graduating PA class from Duke in 1967. These newly-appointed healthcare providers were trained to be skilled in the spectrum of the healthcare profession in their new career, which still remains a hallmark of the PA field today.  

Each October 6-12, we celebrate PA Week nationwide – the licensed medical providers who are truly extenders of our physicians. There are more than 100,000 PAs nationwide and over 100 at OrthoCarolina. Recognizing the physician assistant field gives us a chance to mark the history of what has grown to be an important profession in the medical field, to note the work our PAs do and also to share how seeing a PA can benefit you as a patient.

Here are some reasons why choosing to see a physician assistant for your healthcare needs is a smart choice:

PAs are Highly Educated
After completing their bachelor’s degree PAs go into highly-competitive PA programs for two to three years. They are educated in every subspecialty and follow a similar rotation to that of medical students. PAs follow a multidisciplinary education, meaning they are skilled in multiple fields of expertise. For a physician assistant that means learning everything from orthopedics to neurology to cardiology and beyond, and being fluent in the vast world of healthcare. When you see a PA at OrthoCarolina, they have an education in every type of medical care, even outside orthopedics.

PAs must take a general medicine board exam to become certified to practice, and must retake the boards every six to 10 years.

PAs Extend the Work of Physicians
The physician assistant role was developed by medical doctors, so it’s only natural that the career has challenging, high-level work on par with that of physicians. The PA profession mimics the model of physician education and extends the services of doctors and surgeons. PAs work hand in hand with their doctors; at OrthoCarolina many are paired in teams with a physician and work together in patient care. PAs fill a range of roles, know the protocols of their doctors and operate alongside surgeons.

PAs Allow Patients Easier Access to Care
Most patients want to get an appointment as quickly as possible, and it is typically faster and easier to see physician assistants. Because our PAs work so closely with our doctors, they perform clinical evaluations based on what their surgeon would do and fundamentally act as extenders of their physician partners. PAs generally have the luxury of more time in the office to spend during patient appointments. They diagnose and treat, assist in surgery, develop treatment plans, write prescriptions, counsel on healthcare, and help you understand your clinical tests and results.

Our PAs are a critical, indispensable part of our work, and through outreach many of them are also an integral part of the community. To read more about the role of the PA, visit the American Academy of Physician Assistants website.

Robert “Bob” Raspa PA-C is the Director of Physician Assistant Services and Value-Based Care for OrthoCarolina and oversees the OrthoCarolina PA program.  


I agree with the article. I see Matthew Howard in Boone OC and was at first astonished with his knowledge and his caring nature.He just found the reason for my hip pain that has tortured me so for a very long time and I will be eternally grateful. At least I know that I not have someone that takes my problems seriously.
- Cindy Taylor
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I saw Tony Connnot,PA this summer (2017 Pineville,NC) for Fx humerus. He was great and I highly recommend him. He was always pleasant and understanding , showing me the x-rays and healing of the fracture and answering any questions I might have with each visit.
- Dorothy Harryman
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Congratulations to all PA's. I have seen PA's in pulmonary and dermatology and both are tops! After reading all the comments about Ortho PA's I will feel at ease when the need arises. Thank you.
- Lena Carlough
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I have been a patient of Dr. Alexander for ten years after a nasty fall which started a 10 year battle with my left sacroiliac joint which eventually affected both the right and left joints. I could barely walk from the pain. I called one day for an appointment with him and was informed I could see his PA, Michelle Giordano sooner so I took the appointment with reservations.... what is a PA??? After a bit of research, I was more comfortable with my decision to see Michelle. Very first appointment won me over! Her thoroughness in reviewing my chart, her attention to detail, and her “bedside manner” as has been described of great Doctors in the past, very much describes Michelle. I’m very thankful to her in helping to control my pain which is part of my every day life. I have recently moved to Boone and was very pleased that OrthoCarolina has an office here which made it very easy to have my chart transferred here to get established with them for continued treatment. I truly miss Michelle’s smiling face and great patient care attitude she posseses as well as her knowledge in the orthopedic field.
- Beverly Jakob
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I have had care by several of the doctors and PA's at OC and all have been great. My primary issues have been related to the spine and Rich Richardson helped with my first diagnosis in 2013. I had a very successful surgery by Dr. Laxer and then follow up issues that Rich has been very helpful to monitor. The ability to see Rich quickly when I am having pain has been great. Thanks, Rich !
- Dennis McCloskey
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Cliff Kramer PA I can not say enough about the time and effort he put into helping to ease my pain. And to help me to walk in comfort, after all surgical options had been exauhsted. I have always felt he went above and beyond the call of duty. I thank him every day that I walk without pain or medication
- Jim Hayes
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Congratulations to the PA's during the week aside to recognize their great contribution to the profession. Jason has been my PA for the last two years. After fearing bilateral knee replacement at my tender age of 68, he was the health professional everyone who fears both the procedure and rehabilitation needs. He took the time to review my reports and explain the procedure as well as the rehabilitation process.. He was there post op to follow my progress and answer all my question. What was remarkable for me is that every time he saw me he encouraged me to push myself, increasing my self confidence. Thanks for the constant motivation and encouragement......congratulations on your special week, well deserved.
- Gloria Kodzwa
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Mike Long, PA, is an outstanding member of your team. He is very caring, easy to talk to, listens in a concerned manner and ensures the patient understands what is going on. It is hard to imagine this gentle fellow is a bona-fide hero as well, saving lives on the battlefield before he came to OC.
- Sharon Allen
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Great information. I've had the pleasure of being under Bob Raspa's care as well as Richard Richardson's and believe strongly in the PA's ability to address the patients problems. I can't speak highly enough about both PA's.
- Leslie Schrader
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My first visit to the Huntersville location two years ago was with Mike Skropeta. I had been dealing with a knee problem for years and it was time to take the next step. After a couple of knee injections ( didn't feel a thing ) Mike scheduled me for total knee replacement. Knowing he was going to be assisting the surgeon, completely put me at ease. He is so kind, caring and a really good listener; cannot say enough about him.
- Carol Dancy
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Kristina Donovan is an outstanding PA. On numerous surveys I have suggested Ortho Carolina clone her. She is caring, compassionate, professional and above all truly cares about her patients. Thank you Kristi for all the wonderful care you have provided for us over the past years. You are the greatest!!!
- Paul A. Goforth
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Patricia C. says:
I feel the same way as others about the care , professionalism,and compassion shown to me in the past couple of years. Kristen is an asset to the Charlotte office. Thanks
I see Lynn Gilbert in the Boone office and she's the best!
- Laura Combs
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Andrew Patterson is kind, through, and very knowledgeable. He answers all my questions before and after surgery. He’s always there for my concerns. Andrew is an asset to his profession and ME!
- Michelle Goodman
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I can't say enough about Mr. Daniel Jacobs PA. Professional always greets you with a warm smile. Jacobs and his wonderful nurse always make sure I get the care I need.
- Latrina Bain
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Tonia Holmes says:
Yes Latrina,, Dr Daniel Jacobs is the best! He greets with a smile every time and he's very knowledgeable of his work. Oh yeah let's not forget how humorous he is as well which makes me feel more comfortable about him. Big shout out to Dr McBride too! Awesome men and love them both!
Great article! Explains their role and expertise!
- Blanche C Jones
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Thank you for information regarding PAs. This helps patients make a more informed decision on medical care.
- Pamela Allen
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Hi--I have been seeing McKenzie Cox now for my knee and get it injected--and she is top PA in my book---never feel it ---just have pain r-e-l-i-e-f for 3 months---GOLD stars to her--please let her know---thanks
- Patricia Richard
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Thank you for this information. And thanks to all the PAs for the care and help they extend.
- Lenora Pate
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