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Musings: Blog of the JAAPA Editorial Board

Musings

Blog of the JAAPA editorial board.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Milestones

Brian T. Maurer, PA-C

My eldest son turned 40 this year. We celebrated his first birthday midway through the first year of my PA program. I graduated back in 1979; currently, I’m ticking off the months in my 38th year of practice.

Throughout this year, in the pages of JAAPA, we have been celebrating the 50th anniversary of the PA profession. Be they birthdays, graduation days, or anniversaries, we tend to measure our lives by milestones, those significant dates and times that help to define who we are and give meaning to our existence.

When I graduated from the Hahnemann PA program (now defunct, subsumed into Drexel some time ago), there were less than 9,000 PAs practicing in the country. This year, our ranks have swelled to more than 115,000 PAs in clinical practice—and counting. Once considered a fringe experiment designed to improve access to primary care in the United States, the PA concept has morphed into a bona fide profession recognized by the medical establishment, third-party payers, federal and state governments, and the pharmaceutical industry. PA practice has also expanded exponentially in depth and scope over the course of my professional career.

In its relatively young life, our profession has experienced significant growing pains, gains and setbacks. Largely through grassroots efforts sustained over the lean years of the 1980s, we have managed to survive and flourish.

Newly graduated PAs continue to receive excellent training. Good-paying jobs are plentiful. Yet student debt remains at an all-time high. Today’s PA students sink more than $100,000 into their education—small wonder that new grads tend to seek out more lucrative positions in the medical and surgical subspecialties, with fewer and fewer opting for careers in primary care.

As a PA who has practiced pediatric medicine for most of my career, I find myself once again in the minority. Fewer than 3% of all PAs opt for a career in pediatrics. In my current position, I actually earn less than most new graduates, but making money was never my primary professional goal. I have devoted my career to the pursuit of humane medical practice through the art of medicine, striving to focus on the patient as person, not as a disease entity or diagnosis. You could say that I’ve been grandfathered in as a bit of an odd duck, part of a profession that at one time had been viewed as somewhat of an odd duck itself.

My youngest grandchild just turned 6 months old. By virtue of his birth I have once again been grandfathered in—another milestone of sorts, imparting some semblance of meaning in this life through my role as father, grandfather, and pediatric PA.

Brian T. Maurer has practiced general pediatrics for more than 30 years. He is the author of Patients Are a Virtue and blogs at http://briantmaurer.wordpress.com. The views expressed in this blog post are those of the author and may not reflect AAPA policies.