In 1992, the vision of a Physician Assistant program was rooted in one man's prayers and the counsel of his advisors. Union College had demonstrated unique strength in its health science programs, laying a foundation for further opportunities. Various health care professions were considered, but by 1994 the college President's Council regularly discussed the possibility of a physician assistant program.
Dr. John Kerbs, president of Union College from 1991 to 1998, demonstrated his bold leadership, staying firmly committed to fully exploring every avenue of the PA profession, consulting with PA educators, PAs and physicians across the country, national accreditation bodies and government legislators. He remained convinced that PAs were significantly contributing to improved health care in our society and that a professional program would perfectly fit the ideals of Christ-honoring service to mankind espoused by Union. He presented the concept to the Union Board of Trustees in November of 1994, and a consensus was reached to formally investigate the feasibility of beginning such a program.
The challenge had only begun. Dr. Kerbs and his staff recruited faculty, raised substantial financial support and gave oversight to the developing curricula. Dr. Kerbs was steadfast in his belief that the PA program was a part of God's design for Union. The PA Advisory Committee he chaired unequivocally committed itself to the goal of the PA program. At an assembly of the entire Union College faculty and staff, Dr. Kerbs led the group to kneel together at their seats in fervent prayer for the program.
In the summer of 1997, the PA program hosted the accreditation team, and in October, Union College was officially informed that it had received the national accreditation. Dr. Kerbs was quick to give God the glory for this achievement and continued to emphasize the desire for the program to represent the highest caliber of Christian medical education.
Dr. Kerbs retired from Union College in 1998, and passed away suddenly in April, 1999. He is survived by his wife, Nancy, two sons, Jim and Jeff, and five grandchildren.
In honor of Dr. Kerbs' commitment to the PA program, the inaugural class of Union PA students created a campus student organization named the "John Kerbs Society."
For more information about the John Kerbs Society, go to the JKS website or contact Corlan Vonderschmidt, current president of the Society, at covonder [at] ucollege [dot] edu.