I am pleased to recognize October 6 through 12 as National Physician Assistants Week and to acknowledge the important role PAs play in our nation's health care system. Held annually, National PA Week is an opportunity to increase awareness of the PA profession and the valuable contributions PAs make daily to improve the lives of the patients they serve.
This week we recall the first class of PA students who graduated from Duke University Medical Center in 1967. Composed of Navy corpsmen, these students brought to their studies the considerable medical training they received during their military service. I am pleased that the PA profession remains committed to veterans, and that PA programs continue to offer a pathway for veterans to obtain a PA education.
The profession now boasts more than 84,000 certified PAs across the country, a 100 percent increase during the last 10 years. In the next five years, the PA workforce is expected to grow to more than 100,000, underscoring the important role that PAs can play in helping to offset shortages of primary care. HHS continues to invest in the PA workforce through various programs, many spearheaded by the Health Resources and Services Administration. The Affordable Care Act builds on these efforts through enhanced funding to community health centers and the National Health Service Corps, as well as through payment increases to primary care PAs.
Through their emphasis on primary care and prevention, care coordination, and a team-based, collaborative approach, PAs can help us achieve the four foundational health principles of Healthy People 2020: helping people to live longer through preventing disease, eliminating health disparities, creating environments that promote good health and promoting healthy behaviors through all life stages.
Please join me during Physician Assistants Week in thanking the dedicated PAs who work to improve the health of this nation and provide care to millions of Americans.