Transformative Education
for Health Professionals

Error message

Deprecated function: The each() function is deprecated. This message will be suppressed on further calls in _menu_load_objects() (Zeile 579 von /var/www/vhosts/

Liberia- where physician assistants are vital in the care of the country

Jerry Kollie, President Liberia PA Assoc, Nadia Cobb MS, PA-C

In the mid to early 1960’s Liberia developed a new profession to increase access to health care for its citizens, the physician assistant (PA). The driving forces behind this included insufficient physicians in country, lack of quality health care services and qualified health care providers in the most hard to reach or remote places, and lack of qualified health care providers to assist the doctors/ interns with job over load.

Liberia has a population of 4.3 million, with physician numbers reported between 50-150, and about 1,000 PAs.

Full project description: 

After assessments were done in remote communities, the World Health Organization and UNICEF pursued policy makers to the creation of the profession through the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in the 1960's.

The goal of the physician assistant profession in Liberia is that every village has qualified health workers, however with civil war and the Ebola epidemic the human resources for health is situation is still dire.

Physician Assistants training in Liberia started in the 1960's with the first batch of PAs 1966-1970 graduates trained for a year. The first program was at the Tubman National Institute of Medical Arts at the John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital in Monrovia. Because of the reach and importance of this profession the training was increased to three years in both theoretical and clinical activities. A second program (Baptist Missionary PA Program) has recently started with one graduated group. Cuttington University is starting a third program in Suakoko. The Mother Patern College of Health started a Bachelor Degree program for PAs since 2012 and the first batch of BSC PAs should have graduated August of this year but due to the Ebola outbreak, it is suspended. The program is expected to continue.

PAs in Liberia are allowed to do all medical activities with the exception of surgery.

The creation of the profession has had a lot impact on access to health care in Liberia. PAs in Liberia are the officer in charge (OIC) in most health facilities in the hard to reach parts of the country. PAs were the only well qualified health care provider during the Liberia civil war. Some PAs served as County Health Officers (CHOs) in most of the counties during the civil war.

PAs are the Community health department Directors (CHDDs) for almost all of the 15 political sub divisions of Liberia. PAs are the district health officers, clinical supervisors, surveillance officers, etc. for most health Counties Liberia.

The civil war and that of the Ebola out break have had a very serious impact on the profession as it relates to the number of PA who died and the lack of protection to work in the various health facilities. For example, about 20 PAs were affected during the Ebola out break and about 11 died. This has decreased the number of PAs in country and created fear in others couple with the lack of PPEs for protection to work. At least two PA students from Tubman National Institute of Medical Arts have died from Ebola, which has now indefinitely put off clinical training.

Photo credit:


This case study relates to:

Case study addresses: