Celebrating 50 years of excellence

School of Physician Assistant Studies observes milestone anniversary

By: Emily Mavrakis
University of Florida School of Physician Assistant Studies 50th anniversary promotional logo.

Early acclaim in rural health care

Black and white historical photo of two male physician assistants in a doctor's office. Two early members of UF's physician assistant program. File photo

Exponential growth and school status

“UF has been a trailblazer in moving the profession to the forefront, answering the growing demand for PAs as health care reform and spending became top national issues."
Wayne Bottom, MPH, PA-C
UF PA program director, 1982-2009

Building on a strong foundation

group of five people holding a sign that reads #Gator-P-A-50 Faculty and staff from the UF School of PA Studies celebrate during a 50th anniversary alumni reception in October 2022. Photo by Jesse S. Jones

Timeline: The UF School of PA Studies from 1972-2023

  1. 1972

    Florida’s first PA program begins at Santa Fe College and the UF College of Medicine, under the guidance of founding director Richard Henry, MD, with an associate degree awarded through Santa Fe.

  2. 1977

    Building off its early successes — including running a world-renowned rural health care program in nearby Trenton — Gainesville’s PA program progresses steadily and is fully incorporated into UF, offering a bachelor’s degree.

  3. 1982

    The program’s longest-serving director, Wayne Bottom, MPH,
    PA-C, joins the faculty, leading the program for 27 years through a period of exponential growth and progress.

  4. 1980s

    Funding from the Florida Legislature enables class sizes to double to about 60 students, and the 1329 Building, situated between Southwest Archer Road and Southwest 16th Avenue, serves as the PA program’s home base.

  5. 1993

    After moving between colleges, the PA program returns permanently to its current home at the College of Medicine.

  6. 1996

    The PA program is upgraded to the master’s degree level.

  7. 2009

    The PA program receives school status, giving it the equivalent rights and privileges of a department within the College of Medicine.

  8. 2011

    Upon Bottom’s retirement, Ralph Rice, PA ’91, DHSc, PA-C, joins as associate dean and director, serving in the role until his retirement in 2017. Under his direction, the PA school implements a pass/fail curriculum for first-year students. Rice holds quarterly director’s meetings with first-year students to foster open communication and encourage professional development and mentoring opportunities for faculty.

  9. 2015

    Through the generosity of one of its graduates, Randy Mahoney, MPAS ’01, PA-C, the School of PA Studies relocates to the newly constructed George T. Harrell, MD, Medical Education Building, where UF PA and medical students share a home for the first time.

  10. 2018

    Nina Multak, PhD, MPAS, joins the School of PA Studies as the associate dean and Randolph B. Mahoney director, the first woman appointed to the role.

  11. 2021

    The American Academy of Physician Assistants votes to change the name of the PA profession to physician associates to better reflect the scope of work. Adoption of the new name will take several years to change at the state level and become incorporated into the names of learning institutions.

  12. 2022

    The UF School of PA Studies celebrates its 50th anniversary.

  13. 2023

    The PA school continues to develop its curriculum to better integrate medical education technology, adding simulation and patient encounter experiences to give students a glimpse of the real-world scenarios they may encounter as PAs.