AAPA House of Delegates Votes to Change Profession Title

On May 24, 2021, the AAPA House of Delegates (HOD) voted to change the PA profession title from “Physician Assistant” to “Physician Associate” by a majority vote of 198 to 68. Since the beginning of the profession, title change has been a recurring question. Exploration of a title change started in earnest in 2018, with the AAPA House of Delegates requesting the investigation. During the November 2020 AAPA virtual House of Delegates meeting, the 2019 WPP study results were shared, which informed much of the debate over the last few days. The survey, which included faculty and student respondents, indicated a belief that the current title does not adequately reflect the roles and responsibilities of the PA, and that it should be changed. The WPP report estimated that implementing title change for the profession would cost a minimum of $22 million over five years for AAPA. This estimate did not include costs to constituent organizations, PA programs, or the other PA professional organizations. 

PAEA has monitored the title change investigation with interest and sought input from multiple stakeholders, including our members and institutional leaders, to inform testimony presented by President Michel Statler, MLA, PA-C, on the far-reaching implications of a title change for our member programs.

During the reference committee hearing testimony, President Statler shared data from the PAEA Rapid Response Reports, which shed light on how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted PA programs and further exposed the extreme health disparities and racial injustice in our nation. While the devastating impacts of COVID-19 on vulnerable communities brought into sharp relief the need to focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion, our members were simultaneously confronted with the challenges of adapting to the new reality brought on by the pandemic, pivoting to online learning, and rapidly revising clinical education, President Statler reported. “Our programs have told us their priority should be creation of a diverse PA workforce more so than a title change,” she said.

After over 7 hours of deliberation, the final vote declared the PA profession name changed to Physician Associate.

A statement to the title change can be found on the AAPA website here. A frequently asked questions article will soon follow, and the AAPA Board of Directors will begin the discussion to implement this new AAPA policy. 

The PAEA Board of Directors will discuss the action of the House and continue the work started during information sessions with program directors to assist PA programs in understanding this decision’s implications. Past President Howard Straker commented that “this change will not happen overnight,” and house speaker Bill Reynolds cautioned the delegates following the vote that current state legislation inhibits PAs from referring to themselves as Physician Associates. PAEA will continue to update our members on this critical issue as we work through this historic change.