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A Conversation with AAPA 2019 Eugene A. Stead Lifetime Achievement Award Winner Ted Ruback, PA

Op-Med is a collection of original articles contributed by Doximity members.

Doximity: Hi Ted, can you please tell me about your current role and work?

Ted Ruback: I am currently doing some consulting with PA programs preparing for accreditation. I practiced clinically full-time in pediatrics for 12 years and spent six years in academia. I’ve worked in PA program admissions at Emory University and founded and directed the first PA program in the state of Oregon at Oregon Health and Science University where I also lecture on the history of the PA profession. I’ve also served in leadership positions at national and state PA organizations.

Dox: What a breadth of a career you’ve had. Congratulations on earning the Eugene A. Stead Lifetime Achievement Award. Can you please tell me about the award and what it means to you?

TR: It means a great deal to me. It is AAPA’s highest honor and I feel very fortunate to receive it. It is not given out every year and is the seventh time the award has been given ever. It is named after Eugene Stead who is considered the father of the PA profession. He started the first PA program at Duke for Navy corpsmen. Receiving the award was quite an overwhelming experience. There were 7,200 PAs registered at the conference and many were at the award ceremony. They put together a nice video of me and I thought it was all very well done. I appreciated the amount of effort that went into it and it is certainly the highlight of my career.

Dox: Wow, that sounds so special. Besides winning the award, what were your highlights from this year's AAPA conference?

TR: It was excellent. I was impressed by how well-organized the whole event was. Although I do not practice clinically now, I attended sessions for educators and for pediatrics to make sure I am teaching my students what is up to date. I also enjoyed the Emory alumni reception since I served on their faculty, as well as meeting former classmates and colleagues from the Child Health Associate PA program at UC Denver.

Dox: What do you think are the most pressing issues right now for PAs?

TR: I have spent 15 years representing Oregon in AAPA's House of Delegates. The two most pressing issues right now are OTP and a potential name change for the profession. I’m personally not in favor of a name change. In the past and in other countries, we were called Physician Associates but doctors didn’t like that because they didn’t think of PAs as their associates. But we’ve spent 50 years trying to build that up. A name change would cost a lot of money and cause legislative issues. I’m open to listen and willing to learn, but I don’t think it’s a wise thing for the profession to do. I know we are not “assistants” we are “collaborators.” I can get on a plane and sit next to someone and tell them I’m a PA and they’ll know what I do. 10 to 20 years ago that was not the case.  

As for OTP, it is much more relevant to have a PA’s practice described at the practice level. There are many aspects of OTP that I am in favor of. Each state will deal with this as best as they can to increase autonomy. Also, working on our public image is long overdue; we need a plan for public relations and educating the public. It has been left to each individual PA on their home turf to advocate for themselves.

Dox: Why should PAs get involved with AAPA?

TR: I have been a member of AAPA for over 40 years and started as a student. I tell every student I teach to join. They represent the profession on a federal level and provide grants to PAs. As an educator that is absolutely essential, programs depend on that money to produce quality PAs. Every PA in the country is served by the AAPA. If you are politically minded, interested in leadership and contributing to your profession, at a minimum be a member and pay your dues to AAPA. Belonging to your state’s organization and AAPA is essential.

This interview was conducted by Angelica Recierdo, Op-Med Editor.

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