(September 20, 1940 - July 13, 1990)
Class of 1969
Roger Whittaker graduated from the Duke University PA Program in 1969, and earned his Bachelor of Science from Alderson-Broaddus College that same year. He was an early leader in the PA profession who left a legacy of leadership, friendships, and lasting contributions to the success of the physician assistant profession.
Roger was trained as a surgical technician in the U.S. Navy and worked in California as a civilian surgical technician at the University of California, San Francisco, where he met Dr. George Stevenson, a neurosurgical resident at the time. When Dr. Stevenson entered private practice, he recruited Roger to work with him in Redding, California. Roger was an excellent surgical technician and served as Dr. Stevenson’s first assistant. Using the skills and training he received while assigned to the Marines as a Navy Corpsman, Roger would often fly from Redding by air ambulance to pick up seriously injured head trauma patients, stabilize them and bring them back to Redding for surgery. A hospital in Redding took exception to the use of a nonphysician to first assist and instigated a suit by the district attorney against Roger and Dr. Stevenson. Shasta County vs. Whittaker (1966) became a landmark case regarding the use of nonphysicians to assist with surgical and medical tasks. Dr. Eugene Stead was invited to testify on behalf of Dr. Stevenson about the use of non-physicians (such as PAs) to extend health care services. As an outcome of the case, Dr. Stead invited Roger to enroll in the Duke University PA Program, which he did in 1967.
After graduation from Duke, Roger worked in occupational medicine for Western Electric. Two years later, he joined classmate William Stanhope, founding program director of the new University of Oklahoma PA Program, who recruited Roger as clinical coordinator.
Roger and two classmates (Stanhope and Ron Peterson) were instrumental in establishing the American Association of Physician's Assistants (later the American Academy of Physician Assistants, AAPA) while at Duke. Roger led the effort to create the AAPA House of Delegates, and spearheaded the needed bylaws revisions. He served as president of the AAPA in 1976 and 1977. During his term of office the first Constituent Chapter workshop was held to develop PA leaders and provide them legislative advocacy experience.
Roger was the founding president of the Oklahoma Academy of Physician Assistants. He served as a member of the State Medical Board of Oklahoma for many years.
Roger earned the respect of colleagues and patients for his expertise in the management of hypertension, and received a 20 year commendation from the Oklahoma City VA Hospital. When he died of cancer at age 49, many of his patients honored his memory by attending his funeral, where he was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal from the Oklahoma National Guard. He is survived by wife, Charlene, and daughter, Holly.