This has been an issue for a long time, and has been debated in PA circles ad nauseum. When our profession was first created. Dr Eugene Stead, the professions founder, wanted to name us Physician Associates. The AMA at them time, in their infinite paranoia (think of the DO profession, and pretty much the AMA reaction to anyone else in healthcare) thought that the name "associate" was misleading, and could lead people to think of PA's as physicians, or physicians in training. What a crock. The Yale program (Yes we have Ivy league programs), still to this day calls their graduates Physician Associates, and at the hospital there, they are titled as such.
There are many in our profession who think of the "assistant" title as denigrating, and demeaning. Count me among them. Patients and the public frequently misconstrue us as "medical assistants", and while I have nothing against medical assistants, that implication is insulting. Assistant implies that I have nothing to offer besides helping a physician with a specific task. It implies a lack of training.
PA's own their own practices. They serve as FLAG officers (yes, admirals, etc.) in the military, when VP Cheney was sick, he wasn't cared for by an MD initially, he was cared for by a PA. In most specialties, PA's function with a HIGH level of independence, and autonomy. In one of the ED's I work in, specifically, Waseca Medical Center, the ED is solely staffed by PA's. There are NO MD's in the ED. Overnight, we cover the floors as well. Guess what, in the fall of 2008, the ED had the HIGHEST patient satisfaction scores in the COUNTRY..not just the state, the COUNTRY. Does that sound like what an "assistant" does?
It is time to return to our roots, it is time to return to the name that Dr Stead initially intended for our profession. We have outgrown the old one.
Thought I would resurrect this, as I like this discussion, and my desire for a name change has only become MORE resolute