Physician Assistants play large role in health care

National PA Week / David Domingue (WGXA)

MACON, Ga. -- This week is National Physician Assistant Week and this year celebrates the 50th anniversary of the first graduating class of PAs from Duke University.

There are about 4,000 PAs in the state of Georgia. That number is expected to increase.

PAs are nationally certified and state-licensed medical professionals who practice on healthcare teams with physicians and other providers.

"Physician assistants are well trained," said Dr. Ken Harper with Vein Specialists of the South. "They're committed to their profession and are a big part of the team. The PAs go to undergraduate school and take many of the same courses of a pre-med student. They have just chosen to go a different rout."

They help evaluate patients before and after procedures and even help assist in them.

Heidi Atkins said PAs like her help when doctors cannot.

"We are there to try and pride the best care that we can for patients when doctors are not available or in situations in rural and urban areas that are under served and don't have as much doctors in the area," Atkins said. "And we are there to fill in the gaps."

Harper said that he plans to have a lunch to celebrate his office's PAs this week.

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