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Minority Affairs Committee: The 1980s

Posted over 5 years ago by Camille Dyer

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R E S P E C T:That Is What it Means to Me (Aretha Franklin)

John J. Davis, PA-C, DFAAPA


Respectis what PAs, especially minority PAs, across the country were experiencing in the ‘80s An ever-growing number of physicians, nurses, educators, the media and the public were becoming aware of Physician Assistants (PAs), their training, responsibilities and dedication.  As awareness and knowledge of PAs grew, respect for the profession grew.

Respectfor the Minority Affairs Committee (MAC) members came about because we had become more of a family than a committee.  The committee had a welcoming feel because all racial and ethnic groups were accepted and expected to be productive committee members. We were able to increase the number of minority PAs on committees and boards throughout AAPA.  MAC effectively lobbied for funds and other AAPA support to enable member travel to meetings and other projects as we set forth a progressive agenda to increase services to underserved communities.

Underserved communities included Vietnam War era veterans, who returned home with mental health and addiction issues.  Minority PAs were there to serve them.   There were growing numbers of trauma cases in emergency rooms as a result of gang violence in low income areas.  PAs were there to meet the needs of those patients.  There was a dramatic increase in low income people, especially in young Black Men, who were being sent to prison for decades during the “WAR on Drugs” and “Three Strikes You Are Out” government policies.  We were well aware.  Studies had already indicated that African American PAs would be more likely to serve in low income communities, prisons and other areas of need in less affluent areas of the country.   PAs were willing to offer services in those prisons.  Because PAs were willing to serve the underserved, PAs were respected.

By 1980, MAC had had six years of planning, progress and successes. We knew that the actions of each MAC member doing his/her best to move the profession and the MAC forward was our best strategy. The MAC was small enough that the vast majority of African American PAs across the country knew and recognized us.

The American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) and the profession were growing, and the MAC wanted to grow with it. Involvement, dedication, innovation and leadership were the keys to accomplishing the goals and objectives of both AAPA and MAC. The MAC knew that we had to have a seat at the table to assist the PA profession and people of color in all of our efforts to move through the entire decade of the ‘80s and beyond.

Some of the MAC members who helped to bring Respectand push the endeavors of the AAPA, PA profession and the MAC in the ‘80s included:


  • Earl Echard, Carl Toney and Robert Howell – were MAC Chairs
  • Felicia Benzo and Brenda Jasper – led Project Access, the community outreach program conducted at the AAPA Annual Conference by the AAPA and APAP MAC
  • Linwood Wells, Tei Fellows, Denise Crawford – served as MAC student sub-committee members
  • Alan Pinckney – was the first African American PA elected as President of an AAPA constituent chapter (Washington, D C)
  • Janice Tramel – was the first African American PA to chair a state regulatory/licensing agency, the California PA Board
  • Ruth Webb – was the first PA to be appointed Section Council Chair in the American Public Health Association
  • John J. Davis – was director-at-large of the AAPA Board of Directors
  • Altheal Ware and Deborah Wafer – were active participants in the HIV/Aids prevention, education, pharmaceuticals and treatment in the US and internationally
  • Jerry Pettiford -- was the first APAP MAC Chair and liaison to the AAPA’s MAC.


These MAC members are just a small sample of the MAC membership and the accomplishments made during the ‘80s.  Please emailthe Society your ‘80s MAC participation.


Throughout the decade of the ‘80s, the PA profession and the MAC gained respect and accomplished much.  Despite obstacles that had to be tackled and overcome, those achievements motivated actions that were foundations for the succeeding decades of growth and productivity

Should you have any contributions you would like to share in regards to contributions from the 1980s please either email Camille Dyer  or John Davis.