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Commentary |

Physician Assistants—One Less Doctor(ate) in the House

Bettie Coplan, MPAS, PA-C; James E. Meyer, MD
JAMA. 2011;305(24):2571-2572. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.877.
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In recent years, numerous allied health professions have adopted or are planning to adopt clinical or practice doctorates. Although some have transitioned to an entry-level doctorate (eg, pharmacy and physical therapy) and others (eg, nursing) recognize the doctorate as an advanced practice degree, the professions' goals are the same—to replace the master's degree with a profession-specific doctoral degree.1,2 Allied health care clinicians with these degrees now practice, or will soon practice, as “doctors” alongside their physician colleagues. These clinicians function as competent and effective members of the health care team and had done so before obtaining doctoral degrees. So why make the move to a doctorate? Those in favor argue that a doctorate improves professional image,1,3 promotes more autonomous practice,3,4 and serves as an appropriate response to advancing technologies and the increasing complexity of health care.1,3 Others argue that doctorates may confuse patients, that they represent “degree creep,” and that doctoral degrees are sought largely for professional status rather than for issues related to clinical competence and market demand.3,4

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The American Medical Association is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The AMA designates this journal-based CME activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM per course. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. Physicians who complete the CME course and score at least 80% correct on the quiz are eligible for AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM.
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