College of Medicine to welcome inaugural class into physician assistant program

As the need for skilled clinicians grows in the nation’s health care system, Penn State College of Medicine prepares to welcome the inaugural class of a new physician assistant (PA) program this spring.

This first class of 30 students will begin their studies in May in the 24-month graduate program. The program will focus on preparing students to provide preventive health care services and care for both acute and chronic disease.

“Our new physician assistant program is another innovative way we are training the health care professionals of tomorrow, with a focus on the primary care setting,” said Dr. Harold L. Paz, CEO of Penn State Hershey Medical Center and Health System, Penn State’s senior vice president for health affairs, and dean of the Penn State College of Medicine. “In keeping with a legacy started here more than five decades ago, the program will combine a humanistic approach to medicine with the sensibilities required to provide care efficiently in a rapidly-changing health care landscape.”

Physician assistants are licensed to practice medicine under the supervision of physicians. They are formally educated to examine patients, diagnose injuries and illnesses, and provide a range of treatment services.

The program will foster an attitude of student-centered learning, encouraging students to develop the critical thinking skills they will need to provide excellent care to patients in a clinical setting.

More than 1,900 people applied for the 30 slots in the program’s inaugural class. Among those who have been accepted are:

-- A four-time Olympic athlete

-- A former professional baseball player

-- Three military veterans

-- A professor from Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology

“Our new PA program will prepare a pool of diverse and dedicated professionals for careers in providing high quality patient-centered care,” said Dr. Terry Wolpaw, vice dean for educational affairs. “The program will also enhance collaboration at the College of Medicine, bringing opportunities for students in all of our programs to learn about, from and with each other.”

Christine Bruce is the founding director of the PA program. Dr. David Richard is the program’s inaugural medical director.

The new PA program at the College of Medicine has been accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). More information about the program is available on the Educational Affairs page on the College of Medicine website.

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Last Updated February 28, 2014