Washington, D.C. – The American Academy of Physician Assistants has named Ron Nelson, PA-C, the 2013 Eugene A. Stead, Jr., Award recipient at IMPACT 2013. Nelson, who passed away in 2011 at age 58 years, was a trailblazer in the field of rural medicine.

Named for the founder of the PA movement, the Eugene A. Stead, Jr., Award of Achievement honors an individual for lifetime work that has had a broad and significant impact on the PA profession.

Nelson wanted the patients of his clinic in Grant, Mich., to enjoy equal access to affordable quality health care, and this drove him to advocate for legislation to allow PAs to practice at rural clinics without a physician on site at all times. His advocacy played a key role in the passage of that legislation.

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Besides helping to establish hundreds of rural health clinics across the United States, Nelson was a founder of the National Association of Rural Health Clinics. His work on rural health formed the basis of the federal Rural Health Clinics Act, which was enacted in 1978.

During his lifetime, Nelson’s peers elected him to two terms as president of the AAPA, and he served on a number of other AAPA committees during his career. He selflessly shared his expertise in such areas as reimbursement, PA practice, legislative issues and rural health.

His legacy lives on through the students he educated while on the faculty of Central Michigan University, Western Michigan University and other PA programs.

Presenting the award to Nelson’s wife Brenda and son Josh, current AAPA president James E. Delaney, PA-C, called his work in expanding Medicare coverage for PA services instrumental.

“Ron deserves this prominent place in our profession’s history,” Delaney said. “He was an early pioneer who demonstrated how PAs could fit into the health-care system.”