My background is in starting not-for-profit health plans. I started and ran THE FIRST HMO IN NEW HAMPSHIRE BACK in 1971, and that’s where I had my first exposure to physician assistants. A real problem is that we just don’t have enough people doing primary care out there. And part of the problem is that WE DON’T PAY THEM ENOUGH. If Medicare and Medicaid decided they were going to take the same pie and divide it separately, giving less money to specialists and more to primary care doctors, it would attract more people into the field. While health reform did some to reward primary care people better, it wasn’t a major shift. You’ve got to double the amount of money they’re going to make if you’re really going to attract people’s attention.
We see the physician assistant program as a supplement to what primary care doctors do. So if we can help primary care doctors, pediatricians, internists, organize A TEAM OF PEOPLE TO TAKE CARE OF THEIR PATIENTS, they could see many more patients. We think that by teaching medical students while they’re right in medical school how to work with an assistant and how they can work better together than working alone, we can create a model where many more patients can be seen by the doctors we’re producing.