When Ricardo Morales, PA , first thought about becoming a physician assistant, the University of Florida physician assistant program was the only program in the state, and it was graduating 30 physician assistants a year.
Today, the physician assistant profession is growing by leaps and bounds. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts it will be the second-fastest-growing health profession in the next decade, with a projected growth of 39 percent. With an aging population on the rise, it’s no wonder.
“We’ve got 10,000 baby boomers retiring every day. Someone has to care for these folks,” said Morales, a 1984 graduate of the College of Medicine’s physician assistant program and president-elect of Florida Academy of Physician Assistants. “As physician assistants, we will be very involved in terms of assuring the delivery of affordable, quality health care for all Floridians.”
As the health care industry continues to evolve, so does the way physicians and physician assistants care for this growing population. Thomas Beers, MD ’84, a gastroenterologist at Digestive Disease Associates in Gainesville, has employed physician assistants in his practice for more than 10 years.
“As medicine has gotten to be more fast-paced, there are more time constraints on medical practices of all kinds. Physician assistants have been one solution to the problem,” said Beers.
A more dynamic, team-oriented approach is something both Morales and Beers expect more of in the future. They agree it will substantially improve patient care.
“It (team approach) will put more eyes on the patient and get more people thinking about the patient and their problem,” said Beers.
“The most important thing we do — and we can never lose sight of it — is patient care,” said Morales.