Winter 2013

Helping Hand

Dean Harris Berman talks about the medical school’s new physician-assistant training program

“My background is in starting not-for-profit health plans. I started and ran the first HMO in New Hampshire back in 1971, and that’s where I had my first exposure to physician assistants. A real problem is that we just don’t have enough people doing primary care out there. And part of the problem is that we don’t pay them enough. If Medicare and Medicaid decided they were going to take the same pie and divide it separately, giving less money to specialists and more to primary-care doctors, it would attract more people into the field. While health reform did some to reward primary-care people better, it wasn’t a major shift. You’ve got to double the amount they’re going to make if you’re really going to attract people’s attention.

Harris Berman

Dean Harris Berman. Photo: Kelvin Ma

“We see the physician-assistant program as a supplement to what primary-care doctors do. So if we can help primary-care doctors, pediatricians, internists organize a team of people to take care of their patients, they could see many more patients. We think that we can create a model where many more patients can be seen by the doctors we’re producing.

“There’s a huge demand for physician assistants. When we came up with this program, we went around to the various hospitals to see if they would be interested in training these people. And every one of them said they would be delighted to do it, because they hoped that after they trained them, these people would want to work there and help them solve workforce problems.”

Editor’s Note: The Boston Globe Magazine of October 28, 2012 had Dean Harris Berman speaking with Rachel Deahl about the medical school’s new physician-assistant training program, which matriculated its first class of 30 students in January. We reprint those remarks with permission here.

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