Physician Assistant

What is a Physician Assistant?


Physician Assistants (PAs) are health care professionals, licensed to practice medicine with a physician supervisor. As part of their comprehensive responsibilities, PAs conduct physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, counsel on preventative health care, assist in surgery, and write prescriptions. Within the physician-PA relationship, physician assistants exercise autonomy in medical decision making and provide a broad range of diagnostic and therapeutic services. A PA's responsibility within a medical setting may also include education, research, and administrative services.

Upon graduation, physician assistants take a national certification examination developed by the National Commission on Certification of PAs in conjunction with the National Board of Medical Examiners. To maintain their national certification, PAs must log 100 hours of continuing medical education every two years and sit for a recertification every six years. Graduation from an accredited physician assistant program and passage of the national certifying exam are required for state licensure.

Physician Assistants in dermatology diagnose a wide variety of skin, hair, and nail conditions that are treated medically and/or surgically. Building on their primary-care training and experience, PAs are trained in dermatology in a variety of ways. Most dermatology PAs are trained by their supervising dermatologist; together, they will decide the PA’s practice style and supervisory agreement that not only corresponds with the dermatologist’s standards, but also conforms to the state’s statutes for PAs. Most PAs work independently within a dermatology office seeing a wide range of medical, surgical, and cosmetic patients but always under the collaborating dermatologist’s supervision. PAs get additional training through their required CME hours, attendance at AAD, SDPA, and other dermatology based conferences such as tumor boards and dermatology grand rounds. Majority of physician assistants hold a Master of Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS) with a concentration in a specific specialty.