Stony Brook University was among the first universities to offer a physician assistant education in New York State and, indeed, the nation. Housed in the School of Health Technology and Management (then called the School of Allied Health Professions) the first class of Stony Brook physician assistant students entered the program in 1971.
A visionary founding Dean (Edmund J. McTernan) and program director (William Deak), and faculty who embraced the values of excellence, innovation, integrity, social awareness and leadership, set the stage for a program that would develop into an outstanding educational endeavor.
The seventeen pioneers who entered a relatively unknown program (and an only slightly better known profession) in 1971 were highly motivated to improve access to quality health care (and particularly primary health care) and help to hold the line on the burgeoning cost of that care. Along with the majority of Stony Brook’s early PA students these individuals possessed a wealth of experience gained as corpsmen on the battlefields of Korea and Vietnam. The academic background of the first class ranged from some college credit to a bachelor’s degree. In 1975, the program began granting a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree and now the terminal degree upon graduation is a Master of Science (MS) degree. Today’s applicants come to our program from a variety of academic and experiential backgrounds characterized by strong preparation in the basic sciences. A bachelor’s degree is required prior to matriculation. Applicant experience in health care encompasses a wide variety of fields in direct patient care and health-related experience.
During the early years of our program, and the profession, the emphasis was largely on data-gathering, management of rudimentary patient problems, and practice in primary care. Graduates were expected to seek employment in medically underserved areas. Although the Stony Brook program still emphasizes competence in primary care as the foundation of sound clinical practice, graduates utilize the education and training that they receive at Stony Brook in over 60 specialties and subspecialties of medicine and surgery. Stony Brook graduates can be found working in all 50 states and internationally in rural, urban, and suburban settings.
Finally, training the next generation of leaders in the profession and health care is an integral part of the Stony Brook experience. As reflected elsewhere on this website many of our graduates have assumed leadership positions in their practice settings, administration, teaching, research and the Association and Academy. With the program’s increased emphasis on critical thinking we are certain that Stony Brook graduates will continue to be among the best prepared PAs serving both patients and the needs of the US and global health care systems.
We hope that you will join us in making that possible and look forward to working with you as a colleague.