Physician Assistant Organizations
The PA profession garners support not only from national medical groups such as The American Medical Association (AMA), American College of Surgeons, American Academy of Family Physicians, and the American College of Emergency Physicians, but has several professional organizations dedicated to the promotion of physician assistants on both national and local levels.
The American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA)
In 1968, the AAPA was founded to serve as the national professional society for physician assistants. Its primary objective is to advocate for the physician assistant concept. The AAPA lobbies in support of the PA legislative agenda in Washington DC while aiding state PA chapters to improve their local practice acts. This organization offers continuing medical education, including those related to the maintenance of NCCPA certification and provides leadership development for physician assistant students and PAs in practice. Students of BU PA programs become members of the Academy and are encouraged to participate in the continuing development of the PA profession.
The Massachusetts Association of Physician Assistants (MAPA)
MAPA is the Massachusetts state chapter of the AAPA, and the professional organization that represents PAs at the state level. Chartered by the AAPA in 1975, its mission is to further the PA concept by advocating for PA issues. MAPA also acts in the political realm as a proactive agent for health policy change, educates members during two annual conferences, and regularly publishes a members’ newsletter which updates members on MAPA activities. BU PA students become members of MAPA as well.
Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA)
The ARC-PA is the independent accrediting body for all physician assistant programs in the United States. Unlike other PA organizations, the ARC-PA serves to protect the public interest by advocating for high educational standards required of all accredited physician assistant educational programs. Eligibility for the NCCPA exam includes successful completion of a PA program that is accredited by the ARC-PA. The process of accreditation for PA programs is rigorous – thus insuring that those programs that successfully achieve accreditation have the capabilities to provide a meaningful educational experience and to prepare students to become competent physician assistants.
Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA)
The PAEA is the only national organization in the United States representing the 195 currently accredited physician assistant educational programs. The PAEA’s mission is to “pursue excellence in PA education, foster faculty development, advance the body of knowledge that defines quality education and patient-centered care, and to promote diversity in all aspects of physician assistant education.” (2013, PAEA) The Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA), the method by which all applicants to the BU PA Program apply, began as a project of the PAEA and now serves most PA programs nationwide.
National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA)
The NCCPA acts an independent certifying organization, with representation from many national medical organizations and the PA profession, to develop and administer the initial certification examination called Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE) and the re-certification examination known as the Physician Assistant National Recertifying Examination (PANRE). Eligibility for the PANCE is extended to graduates of accredited US PA programs. Maintenance of certification, which was originally designed to increase the legitimacy of the PA profession, occurs on both two and ten year cycles. At the time the PANRE exam was developed, no other medical professionals were required to demonstrate their competence after passing an initial licensing exam. The founders of the profession believed that in order to protect the public and to ensure PAs kept up-to-date with current practice standards, they must have a robust re-certification process.