The University of Oklahoma Physician Associate Program was established in 1970 through the pioneering efforts of A. William Horsley, M.D. and William D. Stanhope, P.A. Dr. Horsley, an internist with the Veteran's Administration Medical Center, hired Mr. Stanhope (Duke University, Class of 1969) to develop the PA Program in the newly created Department of Family Practice, Community Medicine & Dentistry at the OU Health Sciences Center campus in Oklahoma City.
As one of the oldest PA programs in continuous operation, OU has undergone a myriad of changes including converting from granting a Bachelor of Science degree to Master of Health Sciences degree in 1998 to fluctuations in class size from a low of ten students (Class of 1986) to the present day high of fifty students per year. New classroom facilities, ample and diverse clinical rotation sites and solid integration within the OU College of Medicine also reflect the evolution of the program.
In contrast to change, the OU program has enjoyed stability by maintaining seasoned faculty, active faculty and student involvement in the profession on the state and national levels and even retaining the historical Physician Associate moniker over the Physician Assistant title.
The history of the PA profession is rich in Oklahoma influence. Examples include five Oklahoma faculty or graduates having served as President of the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA). Oklahoma PAs were the first to conduct an organized statewide continuing medical education conference; Oklahoma provided seed money to the AAPA to jump-start national PA-related offerings and some of the earliest landmark legislation and court battles related to assisting a physician involved OU Physician Associate Program faculty.