Richard Scheele, PA

(August 9, 1939 - 1970)

Class of 1967
Induction: 2003


Richard Scheele spent his formative years in Chicago, and after high school, entered the Navy as a hospital corpsman. He spent four years in the Navy, mostly as a surgical technician, and after his discharge, attended college in Illinois and North Carolina.

At the time the PA Program was established in 1965, Richard was working as a pharmaceutical representative. He learned about the program from an article appearing in the Reader's Digest about new health careers. When this article appeared, the PA Program only existed on paper and in the mind of Dr. Eugene Stead and the faculty of the Department of Medicine here at Duke.

Richard was among the first four candidates selected for the program in l965. When he graduated in 1967, he was 28 years old and an enthusiastic advocate of the physician assistant concept. His first PA position was at Duke Hospital working for the Division of Endocrinology. Two years later, he joined a private physician in practice in Durham.

As a student and later as a graduate, Richard Scheele was an organizer and spokesperson for the PA profession. He was instrumental in mobilizing students at Duke into the Stead Society which still exists today. As other PA programs developed throughout the United States, Richard worked hard to bring students and graduates of these programs together, forming the first professional organization for PAs. That organization was called the American Association of Physician Assistants, which today is known as the American Academy of Physician Assistants and of March 29, 2004 has 32,567 members.

Richard died of a heart attack in 1970 at the age of 31, leaving behind a wife and young child. Because of his leadership and pioneering efforts for the PA profession, in 1970 the Duke PA Program established an award in his name, presented annually to the student who exemplifies his academic and professional leadership. This award keeps alive the pioneering spirit, enthusiasm, and dedication of those early graduates.