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In the fall of 1989, the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) recognized the
need for and began developing, “Guidelines on the Utilization of Physician Assistants in the Emergency Department.” In seeking a source of
data and input from physician assistants working
in emergency medicine for the guidelines, ACEP contacted the Los Angeles County-University of Southern California (LAC-USC) Postgraduate Residency for Physician Assistants in Emergency Medicine.
Recognizing that there was no national organization that represented physician assistants in emergency medicine and that there was a need for one, the LAC-USC EMPA Residency Director Arnold Zigman, PA-C, initiated efforts to organize a specialty group to give a voice to all emergency medicine PAs across the country, regardless of setting, training, utilization or affiliation.
As a result of this request for collaboration on emergency medicine physician assistant practice utilization guidelines, the Society of Emergency Medicine Physician Assistants (SEMPA) was founded in March 1990 at the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) Annual Conference held in Los Angeles. Bylaws were written and the Society of Emergency Medicine Physician Assistants was incorporated in the state of California on January 30, 1992 as a mutual benefit, nonprofit corporation.
The original (1990) motivation for establishing SEMPA included the following:
The mid 1990s was a period of steady growth for SEMPA throughout the country, gaining members from all regions and encompassing emergency medicine PAs from all backgrounds and from EDs of all varieties: urban trauma centers, academic medical centers, suburban and rural hospitals. In addition, SEMPA’s student membership grew with those students becoming colleagues and leaders. Regional Directors were elected to the Board of Directors serving as representatives for their geographic constituents. The Regional Director positions were later discontinued as the number of board director-at-large positions brought the total board number up to nine (9) board members with representation of all regions of the country and types of emergency medicine practice settings.
SEMPA’s growth was not limited to its membership. The recognition of SEMPA as the representative body of the nation’s emergency medicine physician assistants was demonstrated most clearly with our expanding role in collaborating with our physician colleagues at ACEP and our recognition as a specialty organization by AAPA. Additionally, SEMPA’s growing recognition coincided well with AAPA's continued efforts to develop its external relations with organized medicine. By this time SEMPA members were invited to serve as liaisons on various ACEP committees and workgroups. As a result, in 1995, AAPA and SEMPA formally agreed to appoint the first joint liaison to ACEP.
Today, SEMPA representatives serve on multiple ACEP Committees, including: Academic Affairs; Clinical Data Registry; Disaster Preparedness and Response; Education; Emergency Medicine Practice; EMS; Federal Governmental Affairs; Medical-Legal; Public Health/Injury Prevention; State Legislative Regulatory; Rural; and the Advanced Practice Provider Ultrasound Section.
With expansion and growth came the complexities of time demands and organizational skills that could no longer be sufficiently administered solely by a group of dedicated, but busy, working EMPA volunteers. SEMPA leaders determined that in order to accomplish its long-term goals and best serve its members, the services of an association management services (AMS) company would be in order. SEMPA worked with two different AMS companies, before contracting with ACEP for association management services in 2010. This decision catapulted SEMPA into a professional, fully responsive, member-driven organization dedicated to our mission and our specialty.
As SEMPA comes to the end of its third decade of existence, the organization remains true to the original goals at its founding:
From a small group of former postgraduate residents trying to get their finger on the pulse of the nation’s PAs in emergency medicine, SEMPA is proud to have grown into a highly respected and dedicated group of emergency medicine PAs whose sole purpose is to represent those who — along with our emergency department team — provide the highest quality emergency care to patients across the nation.