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Dr. Richard Smith, a visionary global health leader, founded the MEDEX Northwest Physician Assistant Program at the UW School of Medicine in 1968. With his colleagues, Smith saw an opportunity to train a group of highly skilled corpsmen and medics returning from Vietnam to work in civilian medicine at a time of unprecedented physician shortages.

In the 50 years since its first class graduated in 1969, MEDEX Northwest has grown into the largest civilian physician assistant program in the country. With four campus sites, it has trained about 2,600 healthcare professionals, who practice primarily in the WWAMI region (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho).

“As the second oldest program in the country, MEDEX Northwest has been a national leader in developing the physician assistant workforce,” said Dr. Paul Ramsey, CEO, UW Medicine. “It has also made a substantial contribution in advancing UW Medicine’s mission to improve the health of all people by training providers who practice primary care in medically underserved and rural areas as physician assistants.”

To mark its 50th anniversary, MEDEX held a celebration on October 5 at the Tacoma Museum of Glass. With 270 people in attendance, including alumni, former and current faculty, staff and supporters, the event celebrated the program’s role in paving the way for the physician assistant profession and looked forward to a bright future that includes expansion in Spokane and a new campus in Kona, Hawaii.

Read more at MEDEX at 50.


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