Dr. Stephen Bohan (left) addressing students in the MGH Institute's inaugural Master of Physician Assistant Studies class.

Dr. Stephen Bohan (left) addressing students in the MGH Institute’s inaugural Master of Physician Assistant Studies class.

Alfred Sadler, MD, president of the Physician Assistant History Society, had a simple message to give to the 40 students in the inaugural class of the Master of Physician Assistant Studies at MGH Institute of Health Professions.

“The secret to caring for patients is to care for the patient.”

Sadler, who helped create the physician assistant field 50 years ago, gave the keynote talk at the PA program’s white coat ceremony in June. Held in Bornstein Auditorium at BWH, where physician assistants play a vital role in patient care services, the event formally welcomed students into the MGH Institute’s newest discipline—a  health care field that consistently is ranked as one of the most rewarding and fastest-growing careers in the country.

“Team care is a big buzz phrase today, but medical doctors and physician assistants have been working together in a collaborative way since 1965,” said Sadler, who is president of the Physician Assistant History Society.

The profession of physician assistant has come a long way, he explained, since it was created to respond to the diminishing number of general practice doctors, along with a spike in people eligible for health care through the newly-enacted Medicaid law.

Stephen Bohan, MD, MS, vice chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at BWH, told the audience of students, family and friends that the white coat is very symbolic in the health care field. “The white coat tells a patient that you are there to help them,” he said.

Bohan, who has served in an advisory capacity leading up to the launch of the MGH Institute’s PA program in May 2015, said that while the primary role of the PA is to provide outstanding patient care, at BWH they also have the opportunity to contribute by teaching, participating in research and taking on administrative responsibilities.

“What you need to bring to your program is integrity and hustle,” he said. “And after you graduate, if you want ‘just a job’ go elsewhere. But if you aspire to a career, find your passion and come work with us.”

The MGH Institute of Health Professionals is an interprofessional graduate school and is the only degree-granting affiliate of Partners HealthCare. Hospitals in the network include Brigham and Women’s, Massachusetts General, Spaulding Rehabilitation, Newton-Wellesley, and North Shore Medical Center.