Celebrating 50 Years: Don Pedersen Past President Snapshot

By: Don Pedersen, PhD, PA
Professor Emeritus
University of Utah PA Program
School of Medicine

Don Pedersen, PhD, PA

In 1997-1998, my presidential year, there were about 80 accredited PA programs in the country. It was traditional that the president elect would outline an initiative to pursue while president. I remember an APAP conference in Washington, DC, the year prior to my being elected to president elect, where Dr. Denis Oliver, program director at the University of Iowa, gave an impassioned keynote address about our collective need to conduct more research on our fledgling profession of PA education. At the time, Denis was conducting the APAP Annual Report on PA programs. There were a handful of other PA educators conducting research but, at the time, APAP did not have a journal of its own to display PA faculty research results. Our collective efforts were going elsewhere for publication. I agreed with Dr. Oliver’s sentiments, so as President Elect, I undertook the development of a process to assist PA faculty in their efforts to add to the body of knowledge regarding PA education and practice. The initiative had three parts.

  • First – founding a grant program to help fund faculty research
  • Second – creating a peer-reviewed journal to publish research results
  • Third – establishing an annual award to recognize superior scholarly efforts by PA program faculty

I had been the editor of our APAP monthly newsletter – Perspective on PA Education – for a decade, taking over from Mike Huckabee who started the newsletter as chair of the APAP Membership Committee. My initiative entailed transitioning the newsletter to a national journal with the creation of an Editorial Board, a cadre of reviewers, and feature editors to focus on interest areas, and to develop a system to design, print, and distribute the new journal to APAP faculty at member programs across the country. I enlisted the help of Jerilin Nunu from our University of Utah PA program.

We spent 1997 selecting the graphics, borrowing inspiration from Academic Medicine, JAMA, and other journals, and launched Perspective on Physician Assistant Education in 1998 as our official journal. We also relied heavily on APAP staffer Steven Lane as we attempted to roll out a sustainable peer-reviewed journal. It was heartening to have PA faculty from across the country volunteer to make the journal a reality. The journal is nearing its 25th anniversary with PAEA staffer Libby Alesbury now contributing to our continued success.

The APAP Small Grants Program also started with donations and contributions from program faculty, the APAP/PAEA boards over the years, and other benefactors from across the country. The endowment is now quite sizable, allowing for multiple $10,000 annual grant awards to stimulate research and help PA program faculty increase their scholarly mission. As this process, designed to stimulate research, began to bear fruit, the APAP Research Achievement Award was created and given annually to recognize outstanding research and scholarship by PA program faculty.

We published the journal for 7 years at the University of Utah, after which time it was transitioned to the APAP national office for managing the peer review process, coordinating the feature editors, printing the journal, and distributing it to the ever-growing number of PA faculty across the country. A succession of PA educators improved and refined the publication over the years including a fitting name change to the Journal of Physician Assistant Education (JPAE). Gene Jones from UT Southwestern took over from me as editor-in-chief, then Dave Asprey from the University of Iowa, and now Trent Honda from Northeastern University is leading the effort. It has been a collective effort and a labor of love for us all.

At the AAPA national conference in Salt Lake City, while I was president of APAP, it was great to host the first of many receptions for the journal’s Editorial Board, the reviewers, feature editors, and APAP staff. The reception became a wonderful event at subsequent APAP/PAEA conferences over the years.