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About four decades ago in the United States, physicians and educators recognized there was a shortage and uneven distribution of primary care physicians. To expand the delivery of quality medical care, Dr.Eugene Stead of the Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina started the first Physician Assistant (PA) programme in the year 1960.He selected Navy corpsmen who received considerable medical training during their military service and during the war in Vietnam. He based the curriculum of the PA programme on his knowledge of the fast-track training of doctors during World War II. The US claims that PAs have demonstrated their clinical effectiveness both in terms of quality of care and patient acceptance. According to present information, forty-eight states in the US allow PAs to write and sign prescriptions without a physician's signature.

In today's world, especially in India, the number of diseases is on the rise due to the impact of urbanization and westernization in the society. This is evident from the fact that India is taking a lead in coronary artery disease, Diabetes Mellitus, HIV and other communicable diseases. More number of people is seeking medical help not only for treatment, but also for prevention of diseases due to increased awareness. Due to expansion of knowledge, growth of technology and expertise, medical sub-specialties are gaining important role in today's medical practice. More and more medical graduates aspire for higher education both in the country and abroad to become specialists. Due to this, there constantly lies a huge vacuum in the duties performed by junior medical officers at the preliminary level. Dr.K.M.Cherian, renowned cardiac surgeon, critically looked into the Indian Health care scenario and felt the need to create a new health care provider-the ‘Physician Assistant' to fill this vacuum. Inspired by the PAs in the US, he started the Physician Assistant training programme in 1992 in Madras Medical Mission. Henceforth, the PA programme has been accepted widely both by the medical fraternity and patients. More universities have started the programme. At present there are more that 300 PA graduates in India, employed in various hospitals across the world.

A PA is a skilled health care professional who is qualified with academic and clinical training to provide health care services under the supervision of a specialist. The training that they receive equips them to provide diagnostic, therapeutic and preventive healthcare services.
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