James F. Cawley, PA-C, MPH, DHL (Hon.), DFAAPA, is Professor and past Chair of the Department of Prevention and Community Health in the Milken Institute School of Public Health, and Professor of Physician Assistant Studies in the School of Medicine and Health Sciences at The George Washington University, where he has been on the faculty since 1982.
Cawley earned his bachelor’s degree in political science (BA) from St. Francis College in 1970, and a second bachelor’s degree in science (BS) as a physician assistant from Touro College (New York) in 1974. He joined the faculty at The Johns Hopkins University in 1974 in the Health Associate Program of the School of Health Services and practiced as a primary care PA at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. In 1979, he earned his MPH degree (infectious disease epidemiology) from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; from 1991-1995 he was a doctoral student in the PhD program (health policy) in the Department of Health Services Administration in the GWU School of Business. Cawley has held faculty appointments in the PA Programs at Stony Brook University, Yale University School of Medicine, and holds current adjunct appointments at A.T.Still University and the College of Medicine at Florida State University.
Cawley was hired as Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Care Sciences in the School of Medicine and Health Sciences in the Physician Assistant (PA) Program in 1982 and promoted to Associate Professor (with tenure) in 1984. In 1985, he served as the interim Program Director of the Physician Assistant Program. In 1987, he worked with Dr. Richard Reigelman, MD, PhD to found the GWU MPH Program and taught courses in Epidemiology, Public Health, Community Health, Evidence-Based Medicine, and Community-Oriented Primary Care in these programs for many years. From 1987 through 2018, he was Founding Director of the GWU Physician Assistant/Master of Public Health Program, a 3-year joint health professions educational program that was the first of its kind in the US.
In 1988, he was appointed as a fellow in the Epidemiology Program Office of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention where he developed skills and knowledge in infectious disease outbreak investigation. During these years, Cawley also held numerous consultancies, committee appointments and invited paper presentations with audiences that included the Health Research and Services Administration (HRSA), the Association of Teachers of Preventive Medicine, the Association of Academic Health Centers (AAHC), the Council on Graduate Medical Education (COGME), and the American Board of Internal Medicine.
In 2006, Cawley received an appointment as a Visiting Scientist in the Department of the History of Medicine in the School of Medicine at The Johns Hopkins University where he used his sabbatical leave from GWU to complete and publish several book chapters on the history of the emergence of the PA profession in US medicine.
From 1989-1995, he served as a member of the U.S. Public Health Service National Coordinating Committee on Clinical Preventive Services. In 2003, he served as a Primary Care Health Policy Fellowship in the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In 1994, Cawley was Chair and principal writer of the Report of the Advisory Group on Physician Assistant in the Workforce for the Council on Graduate Medical Education. He has served as a consultant and grant reviewer for the Health Resources and Services Administration, the Veterans Administration, and Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation in the Department of Health and Human Services. He has also served as a consultant on the PA profession and PA education to the Veterans Health Administration and dozens of educational institutions nationally and globally.
In 2008, he served for a second time as Interim Program Director of the Physician Assistant Program and oversaw the effort for the Program to attain continuing accreditation. Cawley has worked tirelessly on behalf of the physician assistant profession for four decades and has placed PAs and PA educators in the best possible light. He has a stellar academic record as a PA Program Faculty member, PA Program Director, Department Vice Chair and also a period as interim Department Chair at the Milken Institute School of Public Health. In 2013, he was awarded an honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters form the Pennsylvania College of Osteopathic Medicine in Philadelphia in recognition of his expertise in health workforce research and policy. In 2011, Cawley was the first PA to receive the prestigious Eugene A. Stead Award of Achievement by the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA). This award of excellence focused on his pivotal role in moving the PA field forward throughout his distinguish career. He has served as a consultant to a number of PA programs in colleges and universities in the US, and to educational institutions in the Netherlands, Taiwan, Australia, and Canada.
Professor Cawley has served in a wide variety of roles in University governance in the prior GWU Medical Center, in the GWU School of Medicine and Health Sciences, the School of Public Health and Health Services, and in the Milken Institute School of Public Health. For many years, Cawley was a representative from the Health Sciences Programs division in the GWU Medical Center Faculty Assembly. In the early 1990s, he was elected to the Executive Committee of the Medical Center Faculty Senate where he served many terms, was elected as Chair, and served as the Chair of the Quadrennial Review Committee which revised and updated the By Laws of the body. Additionally, Cawley served for several terms as the Chair of the Appointment Promotion and Tenure Committee for the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, and was the first non-physician to be elected to that position in the School. When the School of Public Health and Health Services was chartered in 1997, Cawley was appointed to be the first Chair of that Schools’ Appointment Promotion and Tenure Committee and represented the School on the University Faculty Senate for 2 3-year terms. During this time, he helped to found and organize the Department of Prevention and Community Health, wrote and obtained approval for the Departmental By Laws, and served as the department Vice Chair. In 2008, he was appointed for the second time as a member and later Chair of the Schools’ Appointment Promotion and Tenure Committee. Since 2010, when the name of the School was changed to the Milken Institute School of Public Health, he served on the Deans Search Committee and on search committees for School associate deans. In 2010, he was appointed for a second time as Departmental Vice Chair and in 2013 was named Interim Chair of the Department. Cawley has since served as the primary author of the initial By Laws Committee of the School and a member of subsequent By Laws committees. He served on the Department of Prevention and Community Health Appointment Promotion and Tenure Committee since it was created (and was Chair on several occasions) as well as on the Department By Laws Committee and numerous Departmental and School search committees. From 2014-2017, he was a member of the Professional Ethics and Academic Freedom Committee (PEAF) of the GWU Faculty Senate.
Cawley has held numerous leadership positions within the organizations of the physician assistant profession, including serving twice as President of the Physician Assistant Foundation, President of the Maryland Academy of Physician Assistants, and President of the Physician Assistant Education Association. He served for five years as a Commissioner on the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants and was a former member of the Board of Governors of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. He also served as Chair of the Editorial Board of the Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants. He was also Chair of the Research Advisory Committee of the American Academy of Physician Assistants and a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of the Journal of Physician Assistant Education. In 2011, he was awarded the Patron of the PA Profession Award bestowed by the University of Utah Physician Assistant Program.
Professor Cawley has over 150 peer-reviewed scholarly publications in the biomedical and public health literature. He is also the author/co-author of 5 books on the PA profession including Physician Assistants in a Changing Health Care Environment, two editions of Physician Assistants in American Medicine, and two editions of Physician Assistants: Practice and Policy. Over his 45-year career, he has authored nearly 150 articles, book chapters, books, monographs and reports. Through his work, the PA profession has been favorably introduced to a wider audience. His articles have been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Academic Medicine, the International Journal of Healthcare, the Journal of Graduate Medical Education, the Journal of Community Medicine, the American Journal of Managed Care, Annals of Family Medicine, the Journal of Surgical Education, Clinical Geriatrics, the Journal of Inter-professional Care, the Journal of Health Services Research and Policy, Health Affairs, Annals of Internal Medicine, the Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants, British Medical Journal, the Annals of Health Law, the Journal of Public Health Policy, and Academic Emergency Medicine. Cawley has cast his net widely to a diversity of other medical groups and journals in the service of the PA profession and has distinguished himself as the contemporary voice of the physician assistant profession. He has also published extensively in the areas of preventive medicine, non-physician health providers and health workforce policy. As an editor and columnist, he has authored more than 250 columns over the past 25 years. Cawley has conducted extensive research on the contributions of the PA profession to health care delivery and has been an observer of health policy with regard to the US health workforce. In 2012, he served as a research fellow at the Robert Graham Center for Primary Care examining the effect of student debt level on the specialty selection of medical and PA students and published a report and several papers on that topic.
Teaching and Educational Innovation
Cawley has developed and taught numerous courses in the PA program and the MPH program. For 36 years, in the GWU PA program, he has developed and taught the course “The Role of the PA in US Health Care” as well a served as course director for several research-oriented PA courses, as well as courses in public health and preventive medicine, epidemiology, and the history of public health. For many years, he taught and/or co-taught the course “Biologic Concepts of Public Health” a core course in the MPH Program. Cawley founded the GWU PA/MPH Program which has proven to be a popular offering within the Department of PA Studies and the Milken Institute School of Public Health. This program was described by the US Health Resources and Services Administration as an “innovative and progressive” health professions educational offering. Professor Cawley has been nominated for the 2018 PAEA Lifetime Achievement Award. As teacher, researcher, scholar and critical policy observer of the PA and non-physician health provider movement in US medicine, he has served the University for more than three decades. He has been substantively involved with the major PA organizations both domestic and globally and his work has been aimed at an audience spanning the fields of medicine, health policy, and public health.