Prentiss L. Harrison, PA

Chief Operating Officer
I-10 Family Clinic, Houston, Texas
Trinity Valley Medical Clinic, Liberty, Texas

Class of 1968
Induction: 2009


Prentiss L. Harrison, a 1968 graduate of the Duke Physician Assistant Program, was the 2009 Duke Physician Assistant Alumnus of the Year.  He is a pioneer in the physician assistant profession with a record of providing health care to the medically undeserved. Mr. Harrison, a native of Texas, was the nation’s first African American physician assistant. Mr. Harrison passed away on December 11, 2018.

Mr. Harrison served in the Untied States Army where he was trained as a medical corpsman. He spent most of his enlistment in the 82nd Airborne at Fort Braggs, North Carolina. After military service, he completed the Operating Room Technician Program at the University of North Carolina and worked as an Operating Room Technician at the University of North Carolina Memorial Hospital in Chapel Hill. Later he was accepted into the second class of the Duke University Physician Assistant Program. After graduating from the PA program in 1968, he worked full-time at Duke University Hospital in neonatology and part time at Lincoln Hospital, which primarily served Durham’s African American Community. He subsequently staffed one of the first satellite rural health clinics in the country, a joint project of Duke and Lincoln Hospitals.

Mr. Harrison left Duke to work at the Princeton University Student Health Service. He was the first PA to work in New Jersey and worked there for five years before the New Jersey Medical Board of Examiners barred him from further practice in the state, as there was not yet enabling legislation for PAs.

He then worked for the United States Public Health Service, Indian Health Service, Fort Berthold Sioux Indian Reservation in New Town, North Dakota, providing primary medical care to the Sioux Indian population of Twin Buttes.

Mr. Harrison’s worked in Mountain Village, Alaska for the Lower Yukon Health Association.

After two years, Mr. Harrison returned home to Houston, Texas, accepting a position and faculty appointment at Baylor College of Medicine, Ben Taub General Hospital.  He was the first PA to receive hospital privileges at Ben Taub. He worked directly under the chief of General Medicine. 

He subsequently transferred to Baylor’s Thomas Street Clinic, the largest AIDS clinic in the city and also worked at Riverside Hospital admitting patients for substance abuse treatment and medical inpatient services.

Mr. Harrison owned and was the chief operating officer of two clinics, the I-10 Family Clinic in Houston, Texas which was established in 2003 and the Trinity Valley Medical Clinic in Liberty, Texas which opened in 2008.