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You say ‘assistant’; in Oregon they say ‘associate’


State becomes first to officially recognize PA title change

Smiling PAs with woman with stethoscope in foreground ©New Africa-stock.adobe.com

©New Africa-stock.adobe.com

Physician assistants in Oregon will soon be getting a new title: physician associate.

In April the state’s governor, Tina Kotek, signed the title change into law, effective June 6. And while the former American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) changed its name to “Physician Associates” three years ago, Oregon is the first state to officially recognize the new designation.

In a video posted on AAPA’s YouTube channel Folusho E. Ogunfiditimi, DM, PA-C, AAPA president and board chair, praised Oregon’s action. “The title associate addresses all of the misperceptions that PA’s merely assist our physician colleagues,” he said. “You and I know we do so much more than that.

“I cannot stress enough the importance of this to our profession,” he added.
“This progress suggests that we are on the right path.”

“We’ve had countless meetings with legislators to ensure they understand the vital role our profession plays in the healthcare system and the need for a title that better reflects this role,” Oregon Society of Physician Associates Alisa Gifford. PA-C, said in a news release. Thanks to the law, she said, “PAs will have a title that more accurately reflects our scope of practice and will give patients a better understanding of the important credentials and responsibilities that PAs have within the healthcare system.”

The name change comes as the health care system grapples with a growing shortage of primary care providers. Many states have responded by loosening scope of practice restrictions on nurse practitioners and PAs, allowing them to write prescriptions for medications and diagnose some illnesses. Proponents say “associate” better reflects those expanded responsibilities.

However, the American Medical Association (AMA) is on record as “strongly opposing” the change. Following a June 2021 meeting its then-immediate past president Susan R. Bailey, MD issued a statement saying, “The AMA believes changing the title of ‘physician assistants’ will only serve to further confuse patients about who is providing their care….Given the existing difficulty many patients experience in identifying who is or is not a physician, it is important to provide patients with more transparency and clarity in who is providing their care, not more confusion.”

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