Q&A with Daniel O'Donoghue
Physician assistants plan to have annual conference in Norman
Q: I understand Oklahoma's physician assistant conference will be held Oct. 24-26 in Norman. Can you tell us about it?
A: The Oklahoma Academy of Physician Assistants has met annually for nearly four decades. Of the 1,200 practicing PAs (physician assistants) in Oklahoma, more than half of our members will come to hear talks and updates on a variety of medical topics as well as train in medical procedures and advanced lifesaving techniques.
Q: Are physician assistants a growing career field?
A: The demand for PAs is consistently higher than the number of graduates — about 80 — from the state's two PA programs. There are currently more than 30 job postings for PAs in Oklahoma with starting salaries from $74,000 to more than $100,000. The median salary for an Oklahoma PA is $95,000.
Q: How is health reform affecting the need for PAs?
A: Physicians are going to be very busy with an expansion of access to high-quality medical care. PAs provide a critical route for physicians to improve access for complex and simple medical conditions.
Q: What does it take to become a PA?
A: PA students enter training with undergraduate degrees, just like medical students. PA programs take a little more than two and a half years to complete. The greatest numbers of PAs are found in primary care specialties (family medicine, internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology and pediatrics). PAs require high levels of training, tremendous intellectual capacity and great compassion for the care of others.
Q: What are the goals for the OAPA in the coming years?
A: We are going to continue to create strategic alliances that improve and extend the quality and availability of heath care. We want to prevent preventable diseases by helping patients realize the potential of vaccinations and healthy lifestyles. Lastly, we are going to help evolve the way PAs continue to maintain high levels of knowledge and training.
PAULA BURKES, BUSINESS WRITER