Joyce Ann Clayton Nichols, PA-C

Joyce Ann Clayton Nichols, PA-CFormer Senior Physician Assistant

Lincoln Community Health Center
Durham, NC

(June 28, 1940 - July 29, 2012)

Class of 1970
Induction: 2002


Joyce Nichols attended the North Carolina College at Durham (now North Carolina Central University), Durham Technical College, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Duke University Physician Assistant Program. Prior to becoming a physician assistant, Ms. Nichols served five years as a nurse on the cardiology ward of the Duke University Hospital and after graduation as a physician assistant remained affiliated with the Duke University Medical Center serving as a clinical instructor for the Department of Community and Family Medicine for fourteen years. In 1995, Ms. Nichols retired after providing twenty-three years of service to the Lincoln Community Health Center in Durham. At the time of her retirement, Joyce was managing the diabetes and hypertension clinics and providing primary care services to the homeless shelter in Durham.

Her contributions to the physician assistant profession were many. She was a charter member of the American Academy of Physician Assistants and the North Carolina Academy of Physician Assistants. Ms. Nichols was a member of each organization’s Board of Directors, serving as treasurer of the North Carolina Academy. She helped write bylaws for both organizations and along with William Stanhope ('69) organized the Minority Affairs Committee of the American Academy of Physician Assistants. As a pioneer and trailblazer of the PA profession, Ms. Nichols was the first female to graduate from the Duke PA Program and with the help of E. Harvey Estes, Jr., MD, former Chair of Community and Family Medicine, started the first Rural Health Clinic in North Carolina to demonstrate the effectiveness of PAs delivering quality health care services to medically underserved communities.

Recognizing her concerns for poor people and her advocacy skills, Mayor Webert Gulley appointed Ms. Nichols as a commissioner to the Durham Housing Authority. She served the authority for fifteen years, winning a number of legal concessions for tenants in housing developments. She was the first African-American to become president of the Durham-Orange Counties Bowling Association and the first African-American to serve as foreperson of Durham’s Grand Jury in 1971. Ms. Nichols served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Durham County Hospital Corporation and the Lincoln Community Health Center.

Ms. Nichols received many awards and certificates of appreciation including the Durham Chapter Continental Societies Award in 1989, the distinguished alumnus award from the Duke University PA Program in 1989, the Nancy Susan Reynolds Award in 1991, and the American Academy of Physician Assistants Presidents Award and National PA Humanitarian Award in 1996.