What’s in a Name? ACR opposes PA Title Change

Whitney J. Palmer

The American College of Radiology announced its opposition to the title switch from physician assistant to physician associate.

In a letter released Monday, the American College of Radiology (ACR) published its opposition to a move by the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) that would change its members’ job title from physician assistant to physician associate.

On May 24, the AAPA’s House of Delegates approved the switch by a 198-to-68 vote. Discussions on how to actually enact this change are forthcoming, and the organization advised physician assistants not to adopt the title change until all legislative and regulatory changes needed to incorporate the new title have been made. It’s a process that could take several years, according to the AAPA.

While the AAPA believes the title switch will more appropriately represent the physician assistants’ professional activities, giving them a more competitive footing in healthcare, the ACR strongly disagreed.

“The physician assistant title accurately reflects the training of these professionals and their role in any physician-led team,” the College wrote in a statement. “Any change would lead to confusion among patients as they make important healthcare choices.”

This opposition to the title change follows the ACR’s letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicare Services in 2020 where organization leaders expressed their concerns about the physician supervision requirements for physician assistants. Instead, in Monday’s statement, the ACR endorsed the role and training of the registered radiology assistant – a position that practices under the supervision of a radiologist and cannot independently supervise or interpret imaging exams.

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