Nilson, M.P.A.S., P.A.-C, has practiced as a physician assistant since 1997, initially practicing primary care in a rural area. He has been a physician assistant educator since 2000. Nilson has been the program director at USD for the past nine years and continues to practice in emergency medicine.

The SDAPA Physician Assistant Distinguished Service Award was established to recognize outstanding achievement of physician assistants in the state of South Dakota. This award is given based on achievements prior to the year of nomination. The recipient must demonstrate dedication to the profession throughout his/her career. The recipient must be actively practicing in South Dakota for at least 10 years, be actively involved in community service or education, and actively involved in state and national organizations.

“This is a well-deserved award for Professor Nilson, who is an outstanding scholar-practitioner and a tireless advocate for Physician Assistants,” stated Michael Lawler, M.S.W., Ph.D., dean of the USD School of Health Sciences.

USD’s Physician Assistant Studies Program, part of the School of Health Sciences, accepts 25 students annually in its rigorous 24-month master’s program. Half of the time is spent in the classroom with the additional time spent at a clinical training site. For more information about the Physician Assistant Studies Program at USD, visit

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