Physician assistants (PAs) have partnered with emergency physicians almost since the birth of emergency medicine as a specialty.
Terry Carlisle, PA-C, who has worked for more than 30 years as an emergency medicine physician assistant (EM PA), recently sat down with Chadd K. Kraus, DO, DrPH, a physician in the department of emergency medicine at Geisinger Health System in Danville, Pennsylvania, to discuss his thoughts on the evolution of PAs in emergency medicine. Carlisle is an original member of the Society of Emergency Medicine Physician Assistants (SEMPA), and in 2014, he was recognized as a diplomat of SEMPA for his contributions to emergency medicine. He retired from his career in the emergency department in August. Here are some highlights from their conversation.
CK: What is your background, and how did you become an EM PA?
TC: I started out as an EMT, became a paramedic, and then went to physician assistant school. After I graduated as a PA from Alderson Broaddus University in 1985, I began training in one of the first post-graduate EM training programs specifically designed for PAs at LA County/University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles. I completed that program in 1987. While at LA County/USC, I worked with Dr. Gail Anderson, a founding father of emergency medicine, who was the chair of the department of emergency medicine at USC. It was always interesting to hear him talk about emergency medicine and the value he thought PAs could offer to the specialty and to the delivery of emergency care. After my training at LA County/USC, I began my EM PA career, working for five years in the Washington, D.C.–metro area and then for the past 26 years at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
CK: Tell me about your experience and role with SEMPA.
TC: While at LA County in 1986, I wrote a letter to ACEP asking about PA membership. I was told that ACEP was only for physicians so I wasn’t eligible to become member. Around the same time, Arnold Zigman, RN, PA-C, who was the program director of the EM PA residency at LA County, had the idea of creating a professional society for PAs in emergency medicine. In 1990, a group of us met in Los Angeles, and SEMPA was born. It was exciting to be at that first meeting and to be one of the founding members of SEMPA. Over the years, I have been on the Board of Directors of SEMPA and served as Vice President. SEMPA continues to be an excellent professional group for networking, education, and advocacy for EM PAs. Although EM PAs are not eligible for ACEP membership, the relationship between ACEP and SEMPA has always been, and I hope will continue to be, a cooperative, collegial, and productive one.