Who We Are
Dr. John Webster Kirklin is the founder of the first formal educational program to train surgical physician assistants. In the late 1960’s he worked to alleviate a surgeon staffing shortage by helping PAs to develop surgical skills. Dr. Kirklin and his wife, Dr. Margaret Kirklin acting as the program’s first Academic Director, started the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Surgeon Assistant training program in 1967. The focus of the program was inspired by Dr Kirklin’s position as a leader in cardiac surgery and provided an emphasis on cardiac surgical training. This enabled many Cardiovascular Physician Assistants to enter the profession.
John F. Byrnes, Jr., PA-C and J. Richard Milam, PA-C founded the Association of Physician Assistants in Cardiovascular Surgery. They served as the first President and Vice-President of the association. Established in 1981 as an educational organization, the APACVS was created to represent the professional interests of the CVPA with the primary objective of promoting the clinical and academic excellence of its members with the goal of enhancing the quality of medical care to their patients.
The APACVS has since grown to become a strong and active physician assistant specialty association dedicated to education, networking, and advocacy for the membership.
The volunteer leadership of the association works tirelessly to develop biannual educational conferences in order to continually provide opportunities for clinicians to enhance their clinical knowledge and skills. In addition to working with cardiac and thoracic surgery patients in the operative suite our members are increasingly being called on to fill a critical care intensivist role in our hospitals. In response to this need our focus has expanded to become a source for critical care education. In addition to traditional lectures our members have showed an ongoing enthusiasm for hands-on invasive skills courses with an opportunity to obtain a Certificate of Completion suitable for verification of their work to hospital credentialing committees. Our CME committee has also partnered with the Society of Critical Care Medicine to provide an opportunity for PAs to participate in the Fundamentals of Critical Care Support course at our conferences.
The association has provided an opportunity for members to network with their colleagues across the country. This has enabled PAs to find employment opportunities, become educators, and learn to use their skills in industry.
The APACVS has also provided an avenue for organizational leadership development. Without our volunteer leaders it would be impossible to continue to develop the quality programs and services that their talents enable us to provide. We have partnered with Maquet to develop a Leadership Fellow program that enables future leaders in the field to learn about the association, develop projects to further APACVS goals, and receive direct mentorship from the Past President. Many of these fellows go on to elected leadership roles in the association. Many of our members have gone on to become leaders in their surgical department, hospital systems, and in industry.
The APACVS is focused on supporting PAs who are overcoming barriers to practice. We have been called on to advise PAs working with credentialing committees in their hospitals so that they can work to the fullest extent of their training. The association continues to work on various legislative efforts to overcome barriers to PA practice. The association is proud to partner with the Society of Thoracic Surgeons, the American Association of Thoracic Surgeons, and the American Academy of Physician Assistants in order to continue to advocate for our members.
The APACVS continues the mission of supporting our members towards the goal of providing excellent care for our patients, strong support for our surgical teams, and a dependable workforce for our hospitals. We continue to adapt to the needs of our team as the healthcare environment changes over time. Our members can be proud of their service to their communities by providing flexible and cost effective care.