UTMB celebrates National Physician Assistant Week
By Camille Termini Loftin and Jason Peugh
This year during Physician Assistant Week, Oct. 6-12, UTMB PA students are hosting a book drive supporting the non-profit foundation Reach Out and Read. This programprepares America’s youngest children to succeed in school by partnering with health care providers to prescribe books and encourage families to read together.
PA students are asking community members to donate new and used books appropriate for children ages six months to five years in the boxes located in the UTMB School of Health Professions building at Mechanic and 11th streets.
National Physician Assistant week celebrates the importance of PAs as valuable and important members of the health care team. Nationally certified and state-licensed to practice medicine with the supervision of physicians, PAs provide high-quality care to patients in a wide array of settings across the health care spectrum.
The UTMB PA program began in 1971 with six bachelor’s degree candidates. It now has an annual enrollment of 90 master’s degree candidates. As the generally accepted credential for the profession changed from the bachelor’s to the master’s degree, UTMB introduced its master’s program in Physician Assistant Studies in 2001. The evolving PA program offers a curriculum that recognizes the continually expanding status of the PA.
PAs conduct patient medical histories and physical examinations, they order and interpret diagnostic tests, diagnose and treat health conditions, perform procedures, and provide patient education and counseling services. PAs also prescribe medications. They practice medicine in the primary care setting, specialty clinics, the emergency department and the operating room. A PA must be capable of complex independent thought and judgment and have a genuine interest in people and medicine.
Exemplifying all those characteristics for his students over the course of decades, Richard Rahr, one of the PA program’s most beloved faculty members, recently retired from UTMB, where he served as chairman of the department since 1982. During that time, Rahr was the heart and soul of the program. He achieved national and state recognition for his giftedness as an educator. He received the National PA Educator of the Year award from the American Academy of Physician Assistants in 2000 for his outstanding teaching and leadership. In 2004, he received the Texas Society of Allied Health Professions’ Distinguished Service Award. His long tenure has left a legacy of commitment to instilling the highest levels of professionalism in every student who graduates from the program. 
The UTMB PA faculty and staff are proud of the program’s strong history. Every year exceptional PAs graduate from UTMB and enter a wide array of medical specialties. The students here have a supportive, team-oriented faculty behind them. As graduates, they fill vital roles in many different practice options within the local community and throughout the state.
During PA week every year, we share our history, our commitment to excellence and our dedication to service with the larger community. We hope you’ll join our efforts this year to bring the joy of reading to young children through our Reach Out and Read book drive.
More info:
Reach Out and Read
Holly West 409-772-9564