Physician assistant program hosts assistant deputy minister

By Laura Thompson, December 16, 2008

    Faculty and students of the physician assistant program listen to Jeff Goodyear and Dr. Joshua Tepper, officials with the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. Photo courtesy of the FHS.
The family doctor who spearheaded the introduction of physician assistants (PAs) to the Ontario health-care system returned to his alma mater yesterday to address the first class of McMaster University students to train for this new role.

Dr. Joshua Tepper, a McMaster alumnus and an assistant deputy minister of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, met for an informal discussion with faculty and students from McMaster's physician assistant program. The group was also joined by Jeff Goodyear, director of the Ministry's Health Human Resources Policy Branch.

McMaster University launched Ontario's first civilian physician assistant education program in September with a class of 21 students for a two-year program.

"It takes tremendous courage to go first," Tepper told the students. "All of you, when you decided to do this, said 'I want to be a pioneer.' "

The Ministry has introduced the PA role in Ontario to help reduce wait times and improve overall quality of care. PAs will work under the direct supervision of a doctor in a variety of settings, and as part of interprofessional health-care teams.

The profession has been part of the health-care system in the U.S. since the 1960s. In Canada, PAs are employed by the Canadian Forces and also work in Manitoba.

"It's been fantastic that McMaster has been able to get out of the woods so quickly with this," Goodyear said. "I think it's really a testament to the kind of school that you are."

The Ministry is currently coordinating several PA demonstration projects across Ontario with international medical graduates. McMaster's PA class, which graduates in 2010, will be the first civilian group in the province to specifically train in the discipline.

"I want to see you working in environments where you're respected and supported to the full degree of the skills you've been trained with," said Tepper. He earned his MD from McMaster in 1998.