The Distinguished Fellow program was established by AAPA in 2007 to recognize exceptional contributions of physician assistants to the profession through professional achievement, leadership, professional interaction, learning and community service. Distinguished Fellows represent only two percent of the entire AAPA membership.

Nilson has been chair of the USD Physician Assistant Studies department since 2003. He is also a graduate of the program. In addition to his work as department chair, he continues to work clinically in a hospital emergency room.

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