Don and Kathy Pedersen, both PA-Cs, are longtime donors to the PA Foundation. The Pedersens made a significant and lasting contribution to the Foundation’s grant programs by establishing the Robert K. Pedersen Global Outreach Endowment through a donation from their family foundation in 2005. They created the endowment in memory of Don’s father, who worked internationally throughout his career and was always supportive of the PA profession.
The Pedersens have been PAs for more than 30 years, Don as a faculty member and director of the University of Utah PA Program and Kathy as a primary care PA with community health centers in Salt Lake City and faculty member at the University of Utah. Foundation staff reached out to the Pedersens recently to get an update on their international service work and seek their insights on the future of the PA profession.
Don and Kathy are currently dedicating their time and expertise to a program they established called Global Partners, through which they broker resources from the University of Utah Academic Health Center to meet the needs of their overseas corporate, academic and humanitarian partners through education and clinical care. The program currently operates in Indonesia, Angola, Morocco, Thailand and Nepal. Additionally, Don and Kathy give back at a local level through their service as volunteer PAs at free clinics in Salt Lake City.
When asked about a particularly memorable or impactful experience as a PA, Don reflects on relief work in Thailand after the 2004 tsunami. He recalls that he worked for three weeks in a makeshift morgue at a Buddhist temple, helping identify the deceased through DNA analysis. Don also reflects on another experience providing critical care following a natural disaster: conducting medical relief work in Nepal after the 2015 earthquake. He comments that while it was heartbreaking to see the destruction, it was also “truly rewarding to help care for those affected by the devastation.” Kathy states that her most memorable moments as a PA are those that involve “advocacy for the underserved, and creatively developing or locating resources for their health care.”
We also asked the Pedersens to give their insights on the current state of the PA profession and reflect on how they would like to see the profession grow or evolve. According to Kathy, “PAs are now entrenched in the health care system and considered a profession in high demand in the U.S.; quite different from the leap of faith required when I graduated in 1980. PAs are in every area of medicine and have made a meaningful impact with their flexibility, cost saving and efficient education model, adaptability, and social accountability. Thus, PAs or PA analogues are a quite useful health delivery model.” Don adds, “The PA profession has been successful due to how we were structured at the beginning. Our credentialing processes for PA Programs (accreditation) and for PA Graduates (certification) has assured quality in our ranks. PAs will continue to be held in high esteem and will be in high demand in the future. PAs have been the consummate team players and have the professional flexibility of career choice to remain viable and radially adaptable to meet the need of the future health care system.”
Don and Kathy both have advice for PAs just entering the profession. Don advises new PAs and PA students to always remember the roots of the profession. He also advocates for the importance of always remaining humble – “practicing medicine is a real privilege,” he says – and always honoring the PA-physician relationship. Kathy counsels: “Have courage, vitality, and optimism; work as a team; keep your love of medicine alive and nurture it with keeping up to date. Find the fascination of medicine in your patients, their healing; embrace technology. Work hard, and be kind.”
In describing what inspired them to establish the Robert K. Pedersen Global Outreach Endowment, Don states, “My father was always supportive of the PA profession and upon his passing in 2005 Kathy and I elected to honor him by establishing an endowment in his name to provide grant funding for projects involving PAs that would enrich the world. Global outreach humanitarian grants through this program have, thus far, sponsored over 30 projects in 15 countries on 5 continents.” Don believes this lasting impact is an achievement of which Robert would be very proud.
Through their continued support of the PA Foundation, Don and Kathy are helping empower PAs and PA students to give back and improve health just as they are making a difference at a local and global level. The Pedersens continue to give to the Foundation, Don says, because it is “our professional philanthropic mechanism.” He affirms, “The PA Foundation should be considered the ‘charity of first choice’ for PAs who want to make a difference in the world. Our collective impact as a community of PAs can be a force for positive change in the world – PAs together, caring for communities.”
The PA Foundation is grateful for the Pedersens’ longstanding commitment to supporting our mission. Learn more about the Robert K. Pedersen Global Outreach Endowment here.