Physician assistant educational programs began as part of a larger movement in the creation of new health professions. The educational organizations of the PA profession were fashioned by physician leaders in medical education. In developing PA programs, progressive physicians and others created innovative approaches to medical education that included decentralized education, emphasis on psychosocial components, and creative deployment approaches. The competency-based PA model employed ideas and elements that were ahead of their time in health professions education. PA education moved to a degree-based system in the 1990s. PA education was based on nontraditional models of medical education that have proved to be successful in training effective generalist clinicians.