MEDEX Historical

For nearly 50 years MEDEX Northwest has been educating physician assistants to expand access in primary care, rural areas and medically underserved settings. In 1969, founder Richard Smith brought together a consortium of physicians who supported the idea of a new category of mid-level medical workers, which would become the physician assistant profession. The early PA profession saw lots of resistance. Medical doctors had to be convinced of the value of bringing physician assistants into their businesses. These early films were meant to address the concerns head-on. Produced by MEDEX Northwest at a crucial time in the history of the profession, the films stand as a testament to how far things have come since the 1970’s.

MEDEX Northwest

The Origins of MEDEX Northwest

Launched in 1969 at the University of Washington in Seattle, MEDEX is the second oldest PA program in the U.S., and it remains the country’s largest civilian PA program. Born out of a serious doctor shortage, it was the vision of Dr. Richard A. Smith that helped launch the physician assistant profession. On the occasion of MEDEX’ 50th anniversary, this 20-minute video details the heroic path of Dr. Smith and others to bring PAs into the U.S. medical system.

May 14, 2019 / MEDEX Historical
Dr. Richard Smith- Part 1

MEDEX Founder Dr. Richard Smith: Multiply My Hands

In his lifetime, Dr. Richard Smith has made significant contributions to US healthcare. Most notable were his efforts to desegregate thousands of US hospitals during the Lyndon Johnson administration, and the founding of the MEDEX Northwest physician assistant program at the University of Washington School of Medicine in 1969. In this 2-part story, we look back on Smith’s inspirational career and achievements.

October 31, 2016 / MEDEX Historical

Physician Assistants Today

“Physician Assistants Today” is a 10-minute film that acts as a public information primer on the early PA profession. Produced by MEDEX Northwest in 1978, the film works more like a slideshow with narration and still photographs of early MEDEX students. The MEDEX model is explained, and observant viewers will note that the two quarters of didactic training and two quarters of preceptorship required in 1978 have expanded considerably with today’s program. Created only 9 years into the creation of the fledgling PA profession, the film provides statistics, the use of PAs, guidance, and professional oversight.

May 7, 2014 / MEDEX Historical
Photo of Richard Smith

MEDEX, the Program and the Person

In 1971 MEDEX Northwest was still in its infancy, but founder Dr. Richard Smith saw the need to communicate his vision for a mid-level healthcare workforce through this film. Recently we uncovered this 16mm reel of a film and had it digitized for wide viewing. Today, the colors have faded, but the message remains the same— that many Americans have limited access to quality healthcare, whether through geography or economics. Narrated by Dr. Smith himself, this 29-minute film offers insights into the origins of what would become the Physician Assistants profession. Dr. Smith can be seen speaking directly to the camera in a summary statement at the end of the film. Running time: 29 minutes, color

April 17, 2014 / MEDEX Historical

A Physician’s Assistant; Sounds Like a Good Idea But…

Produced by MEDEX Northwest during the early 70s, this 17-minute film was designed to convince the skeptical medical profession of the value of physician assistants. By the very title, “Physician’s Assistant— Sounds Like a Good Idea, But…”, you get the idea that early acceptance was an uphill struggle. Produced by Dr. Hugh Lurie, formerly the behavioral medicine physician on faculty at MEDEX, and performed by a cast of local actors that included Seattle Rep player Clayton Corzatte, this short film stands as an historical artifact documenting the practical concerns of the fledgling PA profession.

March 31, 2014 / MEDEX Historical

Trailer: A Physician’s Assistant; Sounds Like a Good Idea But…

MEDEX Northwest uncovered some 16mm films dating back to the early 70s. We had them digitized and posted them online as historical artifacts of the early physician assistant profession. These archival short films were designed to sell the notion of physician assistants to the established medical profession. We decided to have a little fun with one of these films, and re-edited parts of it into an exploitation-style movie trailer that is sure to make you laugh. Enjoy.

March 25, 2014 / MEDEX Historical