College of Medicine physician assistant program partners for early acceptance

July 06, 2020

HERSHEY, Pa. — Penn State College of Medicine is creating a new partnership with Lincoln University in Pennsylvania and Hampton University in Virginia that provides their undergraduate students early acceptance into its physician assistant program.

Students at the two universities can apply early ― during their junior year in undergraduate studies ― to the physician assistant program. They will not need to go through the national application process, which can be both expensive and cause extra barriers for some students.

The agreement highlights another way the College of Medicine is increasing minority representation and helping to boost diversity in the nation’s health care system. It has similar early assurance agreements with historically black colleges and universities for medical school students.

“This is an important opportunity for Penn State College of Medicine as we continue to build our physician assistant program,” said Dr. Kevin Black, interim dean of Penn State College of Medicine. “Through the diversity of our students, we are increasing the richness of our learning environment and, ultimately, our ability to care for the patients we serve.”

Sharone Jones, assistant vice president of Student Success and Experiential Learning at Lincoln University, sees the partnership as a tremendous opportunity for students: "It provides a unique opportunity for exceptional pre-med students at Lincoln University to navigate a clearly defined pathway for guaranteed acceptance into Penn State's physician assistant program."

The program accepts 30 students each year and, since beginning in 2014, has graduated about 150 physician assistants.

Each student spends two years in the program. The first year is classroom-based learning and the second year, through Penn State Health and additional health care organizations, allows students to work directly with patients. An emphasis on primary care is at the core of the Penn State program.

"We are very excited about this partnership with Penn State College of Medicine, which offers our students at Hampton who are pursuing careers in health care an early identification pathway to becoming a physician assistant,” said Michael Druitt, assistant to the dean of the School of Science. “Student development, support and a commitment to increasing diversity are paramount to both of our institutions."    

Lynette Chappell-Williams, chief diversity officer at Penn State Health and associate dean of diversity and inclusion at Penn State College of Medicine, said looking for opportunities to create diversity in physician assistant programs at Penn State College of Medicine and elsewhere is critical. A national study found that many members of minority populations prefer to be seen by a physician assistant or nurse practitioner rather than a physician.

“We know the makeup of our country continues to shift, and Penn State College of Medicine is taking steps to meet the changing population by finding opportunities to increase the diversity of our students,” Chappell-Williams said.

A physician assistant, under the supervision of a physician, is able to perform most of the same patient care tasks as a physician, including seeing their own patients, ordering and evaluating laboratory and diagnostic studies, and writing prescriptions. The first group of accepted students from the two universities will begin at Penn State College of Medicine in May 2022.

The program also has an early assurance agreement with Franklin & Marshall College and Lebanon Valley College, both in Pennsylvania, which follows the medical school’s mission of reaching students studying in proximity to the medical school.

Last Updated September 03, 2020