Iowa’s two medical schools are co-sponsoring a national conference in Omaha next week that will explore the role physician assistants play in the changing world of health care, especially in rural areas. Dr. Michael Huckabee is director of the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s PA Education Division.

“You know there are barriers in rural primary care and a lot of this is the change that is required in health care reform and dealing with some of the misperceptions that come with that,” Huckabee says. “The PA is not in competition or making people leave their doctors. Unique to PAs, we, by state laws in every state in the country, must be linked to a physician’s practice.”

Huckabee says the increased need for health care is expected to be a burden to small communities that may not have the infrastructure and workforce to provide those services.

“There are just not enough doctors to go around,” Huckabee says. “Physician assistants, by their very name, are linked to physicians to extend that care.” The fast-evolving health care landscape has created a time of change and challenges for the entire medical profession, he says, though some people may be unclear about what it is PAs do.

“All PAs are trained in the model of primary care so they’re equipped to manage acute and chronic health care problems of all types within the scope of their physicians’ practice,” he says.

The conference is called “Advancing Rural Primary Care,” and it’s scheduled for next week (September 11th and 12th) at the Hilton Omaha Hotel. Huckbee says there will be a slate of national speakers.

He says, “All of them are here to address how PAs can effectively be utilized in rural communities to continue to extend the care of physicians.”

The conference is being co-hosted by the University of Iowa and Des Moines University, as well as Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska, the University of South Dakota and Wichita State University. The conference is tailored for those who hire and use PAs. It’s geared toward administrators, health care leaders, academicians, policy makers, physicians and PAs.

For more information on the conference, visit:>