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What is a Physician Assistant?

PAprofessionalPhysician Assistants are health care professionals licensed, or in the case of those employed by the federal government, credentialed  to practice medicine with physician supervision. As part of their comprehensive responsibilities, PAs conduct physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, counsel on preventive health care, assist in surgery, and write prescriptions. Within the Physician-PA relationship, physician assistants exercise autonomy in medical decision making and provide a broad range of diagnostic and therapeutic services. A PA's practice may also include education, research, and administrative services.

To become a PA in the United States, one must graduate from a PA program accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) then pass the NCCPA - PA national Certification Examination (PANCE), and then apply for state licensure from the appropriate State Medical Board. PAs that pass the national certification exam and maintain it have the "-C" designation or PA-C title.


The Emory PA Program is 28 months of combined academic and clinical coursework granting a Masters of Medical Science Degree in Physician Assistant (MMSc-PA). There is a MPH dual degree option adding an additional 12 months (MMSc-PA/MPH) The Emory PA Program provides a strong foundation in primary care with a focus on underserved populations. If you are interested in becoming an Emory PA, visit our Prospective Students Page.


For more information:

American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA)

National Commission of Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA)

"Shortage of Primary Care Providers Driving Key Medical Trends", MDNews, January 2018

Physician Assistant History Society

Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants (JAAPA)

Emory PA Program founder Dr. J. Willis Hurst

Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA)

Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB)

Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA)

Georgia Association of Physician Assistant


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