In Memoriam: J. Jeffrey Heinrich, Ed.D., P.A.

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ConnAPA is saddened to report on the passing of Dr. J. Jeffrey Heinrich, Ed.D., PA, among one of the first PAs in Connecticut and a co-founder of ConnAPA. He served as its fifth President.

In honor of Dr. Heinrich’s life as a PA, ConnAPA has asked Bruce Fichandler to write some comments about his colleague, with whom he worked for 25 years and remained a friend throughout their working years and into retirement.

Bruce has chosen to do so by sharing a letter he wrote on behalf of the nomination of Jeff for AAPA Outstanding Physician Assistant of the Year in 2007 which he did indeed win that year. It was one of Jeff’s proudest moments as a PA.

(Further information about Dr. Heinrich’s many accomplishments can be found on the PA History Society (which he co-founded)  site:pahx.org/assistants/heinrich-j-jeffrey/ and the Physician Assistant Education Association site:paeaonline.org/alerts/in-memoriam-j-jeffrey-heinrich-edd-pa-c/)

Listing of the numerous awards bestowed on Dr.Heinrich include (ConnAPA recognition in bold):

Jack W. Cole Student Society Award from the Yale University PA Program (1976)
Clinical Instructor of the Year Award from the Yale PA students (1978)
Distinguished Service Award from the American Academy of Physician Assistants (1985)
President’s Award from the Connecticut Academy of Physician Assistants (1986)

Medical Writing Award from the American Academy of Physician Assistants (1986)
President’s Continuing Education Award from the American Burn Association (1986)
Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Duke University PA Program (1992)
Distinguished Service Award from the Connecticut Burn Care Foundation (1992)
Curtis P. Artz Distinguished Service Award from the American Burn Association (1993)
Distinguished Service Award from the Association of Post-Graduate Physician Assistant Programs (1993)
First Founder’s Award from the Connecticut Academy of Physician Assistants (1994)
Medical Writing Award from the Surgical Physician Assistant Journal (1996), the Civilian PA of the Year Award from the AAPA Veterans Caucus (1996)
Distinguished Service Award from the Connecticut Academy of Physician Assistants (1998) The J. Jeffrey Heinrich Scholarship to be awarded annually to a CT PA student (1998)
Alpha Eta Honor Society at the George Washington University (1998)
President’s Leadership Award from the American Academy of Physician Assistants (2000)
Distinguished Service Award from the Norwalk/Yale PA Surgical Residency Program (2001
PA Hall of Fame at the Duke University PA Program (2002)
National Outstanding PA of the Year from the American Academy of Physician Assistants (2007).

January 12, 2007
PAragon Award Selection Committee
American Academy of Physician Assistants
950 N. Washington StreetAlexandria, Virginia 22314
Re: Letter of Nomination For Dr. J. Jeffrey Heinrich, EdD, PA
As Outstanding Physician Assistant of the Year

Dear Committee Members:
I am writing in support of the nomination of Dr. J. Jeffrey Heinrich, EdD, PA, as this year’s AAPA Outstanding Physician Assistant of the Year. I know that Mr. Cawley has written you with a detailed iteration of all of Dr. Heinrich’s accomplishments and when combined with a copy of his CV, obviates the need for me to repeat all of his myriad of accomplishments. I would, however like to offer some comments about the appropriateness of this award for Dr. Heinrich based on my 33 years of working with him.

I have known Dr. Heinrich from the very start of our PA careers in 1973. We began at the Yale Trauma/Section of Plastic Surgery at Yale University within days of each other as our first entry into the PA profession. These were very exciting times for us on multiple levels. Not only were we entering an occupation that was barely recognized as a medical entity, but we were doing so as only the second and third PAs in the entire Yale-New Haven Hospital/Yale University School of Medicinecomplex.We faced all of the issues well known to PAs of that time including lack of defined roles, unfamiliarity of physicians as to who we were and what we could do and very limited acceptance by nursing.As he has done in all of his professional activities, Dr. Heinrich approached these matters with unbridled enthusiasm, a commitment to make things work and a level of dedication that was to prove highly successful in laying the groundwork for the success of all future PAs at this institution (we now have over 100 PAs!). He helped develop a job description that has been used ever since, not only here, but by numerous other institutions as well. Largely through his efforts, we were able to quickly establish a vital role on the Trauma and Burn services (both of which were run by the section of Plastic Surgery). In addition, based on his professional and knowledgable approach to the patients, he was able to quickly win over both the physician housestaff and the nurses we worked with on a daily basis. In fact, even though he left Yale over 8 years ago, many of those same nurses still ask me for updates as to how he is doing.

But for Dr. Heinrich, being a PA was more than just taking care of patients. Regardless of the time and effort it took to establish ourselves as practioners, he found time to be actively involved in professional organizations on both the state and national level.

Again, Mr Cawley has done a nice job of highlighting those efforts, but from my perspective, as well as so many of his colleagues in the area, it was truly inspiring to see his untiring efforts on our behalf. I know my eventual involvement in CONNAPA and the AAPA were a direct result of watching Dr. Heinrich’s performance. Despite my best efforts, I was always at least one step behind him in everything I chose to do (he was CONNAPA president, then I was CONNAPA president, etc ). I can also safely say the motivation of countless others to participate was based on the example Dr. Heinrich set. Furthermore, the outstanding practice environment we enjoy in Connecticut today is due in very large part to the ground-breaking work he did. This includes everything from being instrumental in the establishment of the state organization, to numerous legislative drives to improve the laws governing PAs, to the creation of our PA Foundation, he just was a part of it all! The numerous awards and honorary membership bestowed on him by the PAs in this state are only a small token of the debt of gratitude owed him.

Finally, the other key component as to why Dr. Heinrich deserves recognition a PA of the Year relates to his tremendous love of teaching. There are now literally thousands of PAs out there who have been touched in some way by the efforts of Dr Heinrich to impart some of the knowledge he has garnered over the years.

Between teaching numerous classes of students at the Yale PA Program, and the Norwalk/Yale PA Residency Program (which again he helped set up and which still bears his mark 8 years after leaving it), to lectures at conferences, and his numerous publications, as well of course, his work at the George Washington PA program as its director, he has helped shape the minds of some of our best clinicians. And like everything else he has done, he has approached teaching with that zealousness and fervor that more of us should embrace. He is always looking for new teaching methods to improve the educational process. He was among the first to bring hand held devices and computers into the educational experience of the students at Yale and Norwalk. He has introduced numerous innovative aspects to the curriculum in terms of topics and labs. I firmly believe that his efforts not only have educated all these PAs, but has instilled in so many of them the drive to be the life-long learners we stress they should be.

In conclusion, I can think of no one else more deserving of the recognition of AAPA’s PA of the Year. It is an award long overdue and I encourage, in the strongest manner possible, the Awards Committee to bestow this honor on Dr Heinrich.

Sincerely,

Bruce Fichandler, P.A.

Donations in Dr. Heinrich’s name can be made to;

The ConnAPA PA Foundation
members.connapa.org/Donate-to-PAF

The PA History Society
PA History Society   12000 Findley Road  Suite 100 Johns Creek GA 30097