About

History of the ARC-PA

The PA Profession

The physician assistant profession originated in the mid-1960s with leadership from Duke University, the University of Colorado, and the University of Washington. The early 1970s brought a rapid growth in the number of physician assistant educational programs, which were supported initially with $6.1 million appropriated under the authority of the Health Manpower Act of 1972. This funding also supported some of the initial organization and administration of a national accreditation system for physician assistant programs, specifically those designed to prepare assistants to primary care practitioners.

Accreditation Committee/Commission History Timeline

Date Action
May 28, 1971 The development of the Essentials of an Accredited Educational Program for the Assistant to the Primary Care Physician was undertaken by the American Medical Association (AMA) Subcommittee of the Council on Medical Education’s Advisory Committee on Education for Allied Health Professions and Services. The Subcommittee included representatives from the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), American College of Physicians (ACP), American Society of Internal Medicine (ASIM), American Medical Association (AMA), and Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). The Essentials prepared by the Subcommittee were approved by those organizations except for the AAMC, which declined to approve or endorse the Essentials.
November 30, 1971 The AMA House of Delegates, with the endorsements noted and on recommendation of the Council on Medical Education, adopted the Essentials, clearing the way for the approval of educational programs that met or exceeded these requirements.
December 18, 1971 Organizational meeting of the then-titled Joint Review Committee for Educational Programs for the Assistant to Primary Care Physician (JRC-PA).
February 7, 1972 The first formal meeting of the JRC-PA was convened. Dr. Malcolm L. Peterson, representative of the American College of Physicians, was elected the first chairman of the JRC-PA.
June 1972 The JRC-PA made its first accreditation recommendations to the AMA.
1973 The American College of Surgeons (ACS) adopted Essentials for an Educational Program for the Surgeon’s Assistant. Originally the ACS Committee on Allied Health Personnel reviewed applicant programs’ compliance with the Essentials. In April, the JRC-PA added three graduate PAs as members-at-large for one-year terms.
March 1974 The sponsors of the JRC-PA and the AMA recognized the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) as the fifth sponsor of the JRC-PA.
September 1975 The ACS became a sponsor of the JRC-PA.
1976 The review committees for primary care PAs and for Surgeon’s Assistants were merged into the Joint Review Committee on Educational Programs for Physician Assistants.
December 1976 The AMA House of Delegates voted to delegate its responsibility for adoption of proposed educational standards (also known as “Essentials”) to the AMA Council on Medical Education and authorized the transfer of responsibility for accreditation from the AMA Council on Medical Education to its Committee on Allied Education and Accreditation (CAHEA). This new committee was a modification of the Council’s former advisory Committee on Allied Health Education. These changes were instituted to achieve complete compliance with the US Office of Education criteria for national accrediting agencies. CAHEA was designed to represent communities of interest for which accreditation actions were taken. CAHEA was composed of representatives of allied health professions, medicine, the Council on Medical Education, and the public.
1978 The JRC-PA sponsors recognized the Association of Physician Assistant Program (APAP) as the seventh sponsor of the JRC-PA.
December 1981 The ASIM withdrew its sponsorship of the JRC-PA.
September 1982 The sponsoring organizations reduced their representation from three to two members each, except for the American Academy of Physician Assistants, which continued to have three representatives.
1988 The JRC-PA was renamed the Accreditation Review Committee on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA).
March 1991 The AMA requested that administrative responsibility for the ARC-PA be undertaken by another sponsoring organization.
September 1991 The AAPA accepted administrative responsibility for the ARC-PA. The corporate offices of the ARC-PA were established in Marshfield, Wisconsin.
1994 CAHEA was dissolved and accreditation activities were transferred to a new, independent agency, the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). The AMA became the seventh sponsoring organization of the ARC-PA.
March 1995 The ARC-PA approved the addition of a third representative from APAP.
September 1995 The ARC-PA was incorporated.
March 1996 A study was initiated to determine the feasibility of the ARC-PA withdrawing from the CAAHEP system and establishing itself as a freestanding accrediting agency.
1998 ASIM returned as a sponsor of the ARC-PA when the association merged with the American College of Physicians.
March 2000 The commissioners of the ARC-PA voted to become a freestanding accrediting agency for the PA profession as of January 1, 2001.
January 1, 2001 The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) began operation.
March 2001 Commission awards first program accreditation as a new agency. Commission becomes member of Association of Specialized and Professional Accreditors (ASPA)
January 26, 2004 Commission awarded recognition by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA)
October 1, 2004 Commission moved to corporate offices in Duluth, GA (Johns Creek, GA)
March 2006 Commission voted to begin accreditation of clinical postgraduate PA programs
March 2007 Commission voted to approve accreditation standards for clinical postgraduate PA programs
March 2008 Commission accredits first two clinical postgraduate PA programs
September 2010 Standards, 4th edition effective
November 2012 ARC-PA announced change in accreditation process
September 2013 Feasibility study required for provisional applicant programs
March 2014 First Self Study Report two years before validation visit reviewed
June 2014 First Provisional Monitoring Visit