Leigh Elrod Named Don Pedersen Endowed Chair
Physician Assistant Studies Chair First of its Kind in Utah
In February of 2021 Don and Kathy Pedersen, alumni of the University of Utah’s Physician Assistant Program (UPAP), established the Don Pedersen Endowed Chair in the Division of Physician Assistant Studies. The endowed chair, which is the first of its kind in Utah and one of only a few endowed chairs in the field of physician assistant studies nationally, provides financial resources to advance important initiatives within the University’s Division of Physician Assistant Studies. After an intensive application period, the newly established chair has been awarded to Leigh Elrod, MPAS, PA-C, alumna of the program and current Chief of the Division.
An endowed chair is a mark of academic excellence and a prestigious honor for the benefactor for whom it is named, the faculty member holding the Chair, the Department, and the entire University. The University of Utah’s legacy of excellence and impact has been supported by a long tradition of endowed faculty positions and the visionary benefactors who have established them.
The Don Pedersen Endowed Chair commemorates the wide-ranging and substantive impact Don Pedersen has had on UPAP and on physician assistant training and clinical work in Utah and across the world. Don Pedersen has been intimately involved with the University’s program since its earliest days, serving first as the program’s academic coordinator in 1979 and eventually leading the program as program director and then division chief, overseeing the program’s transition from a certificate system to a degree-granting graduate program. He was instrumental in the development of the national Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA) research arm and the founding of the Journal of Physician Assistant Education. Together with his wife, Kathy, he established a global outreach for Utah’s physician assistant trainees in Papua New Guinea, Thailand, and Nepal. Kathy and Don have also served in multiple high-level positions of leadership in physician assistant boards and regulating institutions and have worked tirelessly to advance the visibility and efficacy of the physician assistant profession.
As the inaugural holder of the Don Pedersen Endowed Chair, Elrod is committed to maintaining the focus on advocacy, development, and excellence in training the Pedersen's have demonstrated throughout their careers. She views her responsibilities in the Division as a natural outgrowth of the foundation laid by Don and Kathy.
“Don’s visionary spirit and dedication to the core belief that everyone should have access to quality medical care is the foundation of UPAP and a beacon for the Physician Assistant division,” she says. “The Don Pedersen Endowed Chair should be utilized to honor Don’s legacy and visionary spirit to grow the Division and promote accessible, equitable, high-quality patient-centered healthcare through innovative and inclusive education, clinical care, leadership, scholarship, and health promotion and advocacy.”
The new chair has been added to the group of endowed chairs held by the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, the Division of Physician Assistant Studies’ home department. Elrod officially began her chair tenure in January 2023.