Cannon clinic career field celebrates joint service history

Amn. Thomas Trower, 27th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Thursday marked the beginning of Physician Assistant Week, commemorating a profession that began almost 40 years ago.
On Oct. 6, 1967 the first physician assistant (PA) class graduated from Duke University. The class was comprised of Navy corpsman that served in Vietnam. The curriculum was based on fast track training of physicians for World War II in an effort to fill needed health care practitioners in remote areas.
According to the American Academy of Physician Assistants, now, 38 years after the first graduation, there are more than 55,000 PAs that provide essential medical and surgical services to people within the United States and internationally. The PA profession is also one of the fastest growing professions in the country according to the Federal Bureau of Labor and Statistics.
Currently, Cannon has two PAs in the 27th Medical Group, said Lt. Col. Roseanne Warner, 27th Medical Operations Squadron commander. “These PAs really enhance the [27th Medical Group].”
Capt. Robert Bitner and 1st Lt. M. Scott Wade fill this spot in the clinic. “I really wanted to help people and care for them,” said Lt. Wade ,who worked as a Basic Military Training instructor before becoming a PA. Capt. Bitner was a surgery technician before he entered the PA program. “The degree was a good bonus and it is a good job in the civilian world.”
PA Week offers a chance to honor and thank the PAs for all of their hard work and dedication, said Col. Warner. Just like a family practice doctor or nurse practitioner, they receive their own panel of 1,500 patients. Sometimes these patients tend to have more urgent needs. They treat all ages, illnesses, injuries and diseases and treat about 25 patients a day, said Capt. Bitner.
Recognizing the demand for PA professionals, the Air Force offers a program to persuade Airmen to enter the PA career field. The program gives all servicemembers, regardless of their current career field, the opportunity to “cross-train” into the PA profession, and the Air Force will allow them to complete their degree for the job, said Col. Warner. The program awards airmen their commission and all candidates are hand selected by a board. The next selection board is scheduled to convene at the Air Force Personnel Center March 21, 2006. Completed applications must be sent by military personnel flights and arrive no later than Jan. 27, 2006.
To see prerequisites or apply, contact the military personnel flight at 784-7256 or the education office at 784-4184.