Oklahoma Recognizes 50th Anniversary Of 1st Physician Assistant Class In The State

Thursday, October 6th 2022, 6:27 pm


Thursday, Oct. 6, was Physician Assistant Day, a day to recognize and appreciate the work physician assistants do all across the country. 

“PAs are important because they extend the care of the doctor to the patient,” said retired physician assistant Bridgett Keast.  

Physician assistants typically do everything from helping in surgeries to conducting physical exams. Some even prescribe medication.  

“The older people say, 'I like to see the PA because they talk to me. They’re not in a hurry. They take time with me,'” said retired physician assistant Earl Dunkleberger.  

Dunkleberger was a member of the first graduating class of physician assistants in the state in 1972.  

“There were seven of us in my class. There’s only two of us still alive, and my license is No. 5,” said Dunkleberger.  

That was 50 years ago. The class referred to themselves as the 'Magnificent Seven.'  

 A Vietnam Navy veteran, Dunkleberger said the military didn’t compare to how tough it was to become a physician assistant. 

“When you have to take courses with the first- and second-year med students, you really had to hump up,” said Dunkleberger.  

The University of Oklahoma has the first physician assistant program west of the Mississippi.  

“They have become a very vital part of our health care system, not only in Oklahoma but throughout the nation,” said Dr. Steven Crawford, with OU Health.  

Dr. Crawford oversees OU’s physician assistant program and estimates he’s trained more than 1,000 physician assistants from Oklahoma. 

Recently retired physician assistant Bridgett Keast said she became really attached to her patients. 

“I miss my people. I love doing the medicine, but what was most important was the people,” said Keast.  

It is that passion for people that makes October 6 a good day to say thank you to your physician assistants.

“I would have never chosen any other profession; I love being a PA,” said Dunkleberger. 


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