This week, the AAPA dispatched the following communiqué to national medical organizations:
In it, the AAPA doubles down on its unilateral decision to rename "Physician Assistant" to "Physician Associate". It has the gall to claim that they kept "Physician" in order to "demonstrate" the value they place on their longstanding relationship with physicians, even going so far as to remind us that physician Dr. Eugene Stead established the first PA program. There are just two problems with this. Firstly, if the AAPA truly respected the value of their physician colleagues, perhaps they would have consulted some national medical organizations for their opinion first? Maybe a group like the American Medical Association, American Osteopathic Association, Physicians for Patient Protection, American College of Emergency Physicians, or perhaps the American Academy of Dermatology Association? You can't just decide to associate with physicians when clearly, many physicians don't want to associate with you. And as for how Dr. Stead would have perceived the renaming of physician assistants (his own moniker for the profession he founded) to physician associates, well, we'll let Dr. Stead speak for himself:
Yep, you read that right! Physician assistants were, and are, intended to be fully dependent on physicians. And therein lies the very inherent problem with calling PAs "physician associates". One could argue that many people are "physician associates". Nurse practitioners, respiratory therapists, physical and occupational therapists, and of course, other resident and attending physicians. It's a much more nebulous term that offers little in the way of defining the subservient relationship that exists between physicians and physician assistant. By contrast, there is little ambiguity with the term "assistant". Physician assistants assist physicians and operate as an extension of them, as Dr. Stead originally intended. What do physician associates do? The prevailing opinion seems to be that they wish to be "associated" with physicians and treated/respected equally as peers despite their lesser education and training, much in the same way that parasitic organisms increase their own fitness by exploiting hosts for resources necessary for survival. Such behavior compromises the integrity of physician-led healthcare teams, which have been shown to be superior and more efficient. If the AAPA truly cared about patients and respecting physicians, it would have removed "physician" from their title and chosen something else such as "midlevel provider" or "practitioner assistant". Of course, we all know they couldn't give two shits about patient safety or respecting physicians, with their relentless, state-by-state drive for full practice authority and the elimination of physician supervision requirements under the euphemism of Optimal Team Practice. Why can't the AAPA and its constituent physician assistants take pride in their own profession and stay in their own lane, without trying to steal someone else's limelight? We can thank the AAPA's inferiority complex for that.