PA Leadership Series: David Mittman, PA-C

This is one of several interviews as part of our PA Leadership blog series. Over the next few weeks, we will be posting Q&A interviews with PAs who have shown leadership within our profession. These include entrepreneurs, business owners, directors, educators and many other titles. Each person who participated is passionate about what they do and are great examples of just how variable the PA profession can be.

David Mittman is a prominent figure in the PA world and will start his position as President-Elect in July 2018. I must note that David is speaking for himself only, and not as a representative of any group including Clinician 1 or the AAPA.

Tell us a little about yourself? How long you’ve been a PA, where you went to school, where are you employed currently, and anything else you’d like to add.

I interviewed for PA school at LIU in Brooklyn, NY in the spring of 1973. Lucky enough to get chosen. Started school in September. I met a number of PAs while I was an Air Force Medic and decided after watching them, I wanted to be as good as they were someday. PA school was the hardest thing I have ever done. Finding a job was the second hardest. It took almost six months to sell myself and my profession into a position.

I spent almost 9 years practicing family practice in Brooklyn, NY; almost always being the first PA to do anything as there were no PAs where I practiced. Anything new was “never done before” and I would not take no for an answer. I spent one year not being legally able to write prescriptions. Then through hard work, we passed our prescribing legislation. I was one of the first PAs to share a panel of patients with a physician at HIP and later really have a panel dedicated mostly to me. Also, I was the first PA credentialed in the Air Force Reserves. I was also the first Reservist to be awarded hospital privileges at an Air Force hospital.

I got involved politically as a PA early on. I was Vice-President of my student society at LIU and ran for the NYSSPA BOD after I graduated. At the ripe old age of 26, I was President of the New York State Society of PAs; the largest PA state organization in the USA. I have started 3 other PA political or career groups and served on the AAPA Board twice (thirty years apart) as well as have an accomplished career as a PA entrepreneur/businessperson.

Dave Mittman

Dave at the San Diego PA Conference, 1984

What is your role as a leader? What does your typical day look like?

Get up at about 8 and meditate a bit. Then breakfast and do work on Clinician 1. I am one of its founders and am Editor-In-Chief. I work at home so it’s fun. I also work on AAPA and PA leadership things. Later in the afternoon is reserved for phone calls with other PAs. I check our site at night also but it’s wonderful work. I rely on my colleagues for advice and support daily.

How do you define a PA Leader?

A PA Leader is someone who knows and has practiced medicine. A PA leader looks to “forward” their profession. A PA Leader does not let any group own their mind or any substance own their body. A PA Leader is there to serve PAs, our patients, and the greater public good. A PA leader is both a blessing to those who love us and a 24/365 curse, to those that oppose us. A PA Leader is involved in life and lives it large. A PA Leader is bold. A PA Leader is defined by how much they care about their family, their friends and their community. A PA Leader always gives more than they take. A PA Leader loves all people. A PA Leader mentors and teaches those in the profession. A PA leader looks for win/win solutions. A PA Leader understands and supports OTP. And lastly, a PA Leader sees our profession with boundaries that do not stop us from practicing at the highest level we can practice at. If you do a number of those you are already a PA Leader.

If you work clinically, what is your relationship with your supervising physician? If you have a non clinical role, what is the structure of the business or institution you are employed with and where does your role fall within that structure?

I left clinical practice in the mid-1980s when I joined the staff of PHYSICIAN ASSISTANT Journal. I have started a number of medical communications businesses since 1990. I was one of the co-founders of Clinician Reviews and 6 other medical journals and a CME company with Clinicians Publishing Group in 1990 and have generally worked for myself since that time. My partners and I sold our company in 2003 and had to leave it it totally in 2005. I started Clinician 1 also and we sold it to a third party in 2015. I am currently the Editor-In Chief and love doing this work. C1 is a terrific site. You will learn something new every day.

Do you divide your time into clinical and administrative tasks? How do you balance your time?

I have the time to balance between Clinician 1 and my PA leadership role as soon to be President-Elect of the AAPA as well as other things that I have going on in my life.

Did you pursue a leadership role or was it offered to you?

I learned what I needed to learn and always pursued more. It’s scary but also can be fun. Positions were offered when I was an employee. Learning is a daily occurrence. Starting my own company with my partners was an amazing experience.

How did you prepare for your role as a PA leader? Did you take any leadership type courses prior to entering the role(s) you are in now?

My PA leadership started at 21. I think you need to want to lead. Some of us are born with this crazy gene and it just won’t go away. When you realize that, you can learn to refine your leadership skills, your listening skills, your negotiation skills. You need to be one of your colleagues and never leave the grassroots PA. You need to listen to their problems and concerns. PA leadership taught me all of those things and taught me I could use those same exact skills in business leadership. It was an easy transition.


NY and California State Presidents circa 1980


Dave and Eric Laneuville who played Luther Hawkins, the first “PA” on TV in “St. Elsewhere”.

Do you have room or opportunities to grow in your leadership position(s)?

Not anymore as far as future titles. I am fine with what I have achieved, or will soon achieve. I can always grow and learn more. That will never stop. It happens every day. I look to where I can add to my leadership skills. I bounce things off other PAs every day. I read leadership articles daily. I have mentored hundreds of leaders for our profession. I will continue to as long as I can.

Are you satisfied with your position? If you could do it all over again, would you?

I would do it again in a heartbeat. My true belief is that if we get OTP, we have not yet seen the “Golden Age” of our profession. But to move to that level, we will have to all be involved somehow. To some PAs, it will be by joining our associations. For others, daily leadership. Some will also lead on social media.

Do you think PAs are adequately educated about how to be a leader? If not, do you have any suggestions on what should be taught?

I think we need more on PA identity and history. More from PAs that actually changed things. More from some of us that were there when no one knew what a PA was. How did we change things? How do we do the same in the future? What are the issues facing us today? When should we be worrying and when is that worry unfounded?

Do you have any suggestions for newly graduated PAs interested in becoming leaders in their community?

In the PA community, yes. We all know what the barriers are facing our profession. No one can deny we need every PA involved. Start with your state or specialty association. Get on a committee. Learn the factors that we feel are effecting us. Come up with some solutions and work to solve them. Run for your state society board of directors. We all need to do something to be involved.

Do you have any suggestions on how established PAs can take on leadership roles?

Really, it’s no different than what was said above except that PAs with experience are living the issues. We know what we have to do. You can also take on leadership roles at work. Use your employer to gain that leadership experience. Talk to other PAs. Look at the evidence.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Yes. Being involved as a PA with other PAs and PA leaders has been the greatest thing I have ever done professionally. Our AAPA Board today is made up of some truly wonderful people. PA leadership led me to places and to friends that have lasted 40 or more years. I am very good friends with PAs who were students this year. I have traveled internationally because I was a PA. I have published an article about our profession in the British Medical Journal. I have grown to know and understand many other professionals, especially NPs because I was a PA. My current best friends are PAs. They get me. Our profession has been my life and I can tell you if you do the same you will grow in ways you can never predict today. Most PAs feel we are family. I do also and am honored to be one of us. Do it!!

What are your social media handles and website links?

I use my real name and am always on Clinician 1 (www.clinician1.com) and on the AAPAs Huddle. Come on and let’s keep this profession going strong.

Thanks again to Dave for a great interview! You can find him online and very active in PA forums. As president-elect you will likely see more of him in the coming year with AAPA.


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Physician Assistant, Owner and Blogger at EmpoweredPAs.com. Currently practicing in a Pediatric Emergency Department, overseeing and developing evidence-based clinical practice guidelines with teams of amazing people, supporting and mentoring Pre-PA and PA Students, with a hope to advance our profession and give PAs the tools and resouces they need to advance their careers.