In Memoriam: Thomas Piemme, MD, 1932-2021

Painting by Edi Matsumoto

Tom Piemme, a physician who was an early champion of the PA profession, passed away on April 17 in Peoria, Arizona, after an extended illness. Dr. Piemme was the Association’s second president, in 1973-1974, and was honored for his service to the profession with PAEA’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017. His lifelong friend and colleague, Fred Sadler, MD, remembered him as “one of the great physician supporters of the PA profession throughout his lifetime,” adding: “I was fortunate to know Tom for 51 years, and we worked together on helping to build and advance the PA profession during that time. He will be missed.”

Dr. Piemme was the founding director of the PA program at George Washington University in the early 1970s. In this role, he quickly became involved in the administration of the profession at the national level, and in 1972 he helped establish the joint office of the then Association of Physician Assistant Programs and the American Academy of Physician Assistants. He was also a key figure in the development of the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants, serving as its first president and as the chair of its Standards Setting Committee for many years, as well as helping develop the Clinical Skills portion that was a feature of the early certifying exam. In 1975, he was one of the first two honorary PAs named by the AAPA, along with Dr. Sadler.

“Dr. Piemme’s service to the PA profession over a long period of time has been truly extraordinary,” said PAEA CEO Mary Jo Bondy. “His Lifetime Achievement Award from PAEA was well deserved. Our thoughts at this moment are with his family and his many friends and colleagues.”

Dr. Piemme grew up in Pennsylvania and attended college and medical school at the University of Pittsburgh, where he later taught for some years before moving to Washington, DC, in 1970, to become director of the Division of General Medicine at GW and begin his work launching the young PA profession. He retired from GW in 1998 and moved to Arizona, at which point he entered into a long association with the PA History Society, of which he became president in 2012. The Society has a detailed biography and a video oral history of Dr. Piemme on its website. His remarks on accepting his Lifetime Achievement Award can be found on the PAEA website here.

Dr. Piemme leaves behind two daughters, Karen and Jennifer, a son, Geoffrey, and a sister, Lois. Memories and messages may be left on a dedicated webpage for Dr. Piemme at the Sunland Memorial Park, Arizona.