PA Spotlight – Donald Pedersen, PhD, PA

PA Spotlight – Donald Pedersen, PhD, PA

This year, in celebration of our PA professions 50th anniversary, Certified Medical Educators would like to honor 50 exceptional PAs for their professional accomplishments, passion, and dedication. It is with great excitement that we spotlight Donald Pedersen, PhD, PA.

Donald Pedersen,

Donald Pedersen,

Dr. Donald Pedersen has been associated with the Utah Physician Assistant Program since 1979 and was the Program Director from 1989 to 2010. Nationally, he is a past President of the Association of Physician Assistant Programs (APAP, now the Physician Assistant Education Association, PAEA) with 4 years of service on the Board of Directors and in 1998 he founded the Associations official journal Perspective on Physician Assistant Education (now the Journal of Physician Assistant Education).  He also created the Association’s Research Institute, which provides small grants for educational research by PA program faculty on a national level. Dr. Pedersen has served as the President of the Physician Assistant Foundation (PAF), the philanthropic arm of the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA). He completed eight years of service on the PAF Board of Trustees and was awarded Emeritus Trustee status. Through the PA Foundation, he and his wife, Kathy, established an endowed grant program in honor of Don’s father to award international humanitarian outreach grants to PAs and PA students. He is currently serving on the Board of Directors of the NCCPA Health Foundation. He and his wife Kathy, continue to take students all around the world to serve international communities and foster international educational opportunities. Most recently they were in Morocco providing emergency medical training for health care providers.


Birthplace: Manila, Philippines

PA Program graduated from: University of Utah MedEx PA Program

Favorite Sports Team: University of Utah “Utes”

Mentors who had an influence on you: Dr. Bud Miller, General Practitioner, my preceptor and first employer after PA school

Interesting fact:  ”In 2015 in Nepal, there was an avalanche which 19 people were killed in Everest, one was a PA.  So last year (2016) while we had students there for international health rotations, my son and I tracked to the base camp on Mt. Everest (approx. 18,000 feet), which was an 8 day track and placed a memorial for the fallen PA at the base camp.  Most people aren’t aware I did it with two artificial hips!”

PA Interview Questions:

What are you most proud of from you career: ”It’s been really wonderful to work were I have in academia, to continue be involved in practice, allowed me to teach and to be involved in research… but for me it’s afforded me the flexibility to do some things that maybe I wouldn’t have had the chance to do. After the tsunami struck Thailand, I went to southern Thailand to assist – I went  about 1 week after and spent 3 weeks in which I processed 3,500 bodies in a Buddhist temple. So my job was taking ribs out of the bodies for DNA analysis, because the Thai government gave each family $1,000 for each fallen family member, so the bodies can be released to families and get proper burial. That was the most impactful thing I have ever been involved in as part of my career. Likewise after the earthquake in Nepal, and working in the hospital and then the second quake happened while I was there — it was pretty intense, and I was able to work in the ER in a Buddhist temple, which was equally rewarding”

What advice would you give current PA students: “Study hard; stay focused; the endless job opportunities will make it all worth while at the end”

Where do you see our PA profession in another 50 years: “My hopes would be we are allowed to work in inter-dependent teams with physicians and continue making a positive impact in the healthcare team. PAs make the world a better place! I would hope we continue to treat patients first and keep making the world better through our work, it’s a gift and I just hope that continues”


Certified Medical Educators salutes Donald Pedersen for being an incredible leader, teacher, and PA.

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