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New Master of Physician Assistant Program

health sciences students

May 2012

Watch a short video of the news conference.
Read the Quad-City Times story.
Check out the Dispatch/Argus report.
News Channel 8 reports on the announcement.

On Tuesday, May 8, St. Ambrose University announced a new Master of Physician Assistant degree program, the first program of its kind offered in the Quad Cities and western Illinois region.

With a strong history and regional reputation for excellence in the training of health care professionals, St. Ambrose is in a unique position to prepare students for a growing profession that offers excellent career opportunities and answers local and regional needs for primary care services. The program plans to accept its first class in June of 2014.

"The new St. Ambrose University MPA program will be an outstanding addition to the university's offerings-and important to the future of health care in the region," said Davenport cardiologist Michael Giudici, MD, who also serves as a St. Ambrose Board of Trustees member. "St. Ambrose has always been an institution that prides itself on being a part of the community and this is just another example of how the university looked at a regional need and responded."

The American Association of Medical College Center (AAMC) for Workforce Studies reports the demand for physician services is increasing rapidly as the nation's population continues to age, grow, live longer and have more chronic illnesses that require increased medical attention. Physician assistants are part of the solution to help alleviate shortages in states where the distribution of physician providers is problematic.

The St. Ambrose MPA program builds upon an existing strength and an area of strategic focus at St. Ambrose. More than 525 students are currently enrolled in the university's accredited health sciences programs in nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology and social work.

"The new graduate program, Master of Physician Assistant, is an excellent addition to an already exceptional set of offerings in the health sciences field at St. Ambrose," said St. Ambrose President Joan Lescinski, CSJ. "At a time of economic challenge, St. Ambrose offers students the opportunity to prepare for well-paying careers with myriad employment opportunities."

St. Ambrose Board of Trustee member Dan Broderick '82, MD, said the addition of the MPA program to the other health science offerings will allow St. Ambrose to cultivate a team approach to patient care that soon will become common in the health care industry.

"The modern health care team really is a team," he said. "It's not just physicians and nurses. PAs are really an integral member of that modern health care team."

In 2011 Forbes Magazine gave the physician assistant graduate degree a first-place ranking for the "best long-term opportunity" master's degree based on salary and employment outlook, citing, in part, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics projection of a 39.7 percent increase in positions for PAs by 2018. According to a 2009 American Academy of Physician Assistants job survey, the mean salary for PAs working at least 32 hours per week was $93,100.

At the news conference, the university also announced the appointment of Clare Kennedy as MPA program director. A native of Omaha, Neb., Kennedy has been a physician assistant since 1996 and served as assistant professor in the University of Nebraska Medical Center Physician Assistant program, where she also served as faculty mentor of the student-run clinic for the underserved. Earlier in her career Kennedy directed the Rosebud Reservation Cancer Center in Rosebud, S.D., and was the telemedicine coordinator at the Rosebud Indian Health Service Hospital.

"The new MPA program answers a regional need for primary care service providers and provides the opportunity to prepare for a very fulfilling career," said Kennedy. "I'm excited to have been chosen as founding director of St. Ambrose's newest degree program in the health sciences field and look forward to educating the next generation of physician assistants."

Entry into the 27-month St. Ambrose MPA program will be a competitive process. Applicants must have earned their undergraduate degree; successfully completed specific prerequisite courses; and gained at least 500 hours of health care experience. Thirty-member cohorts will begin with classroom and laboratory studies including anatomy, pathology, physical examination and clinical medicine during the first 15 months, followed by 12 months of clinical rotations under the supervision of physicians and other specialists in required and elective practice areas of clinical specialization. Based on projected needs in rural states, the program will emphasize primary care. Graduates will be eligible to seek licensure to practice in one or more of the 50 states.

Physician assistant practice includes all elements of patient care including taking medical histories, completing examinations, ordering diagnostic tests and providing medical care including the prescription of medications. PAs attend to a wide variety of patients, assist in surgery, or specialize in one of a wide variety of practice areas in conjunction with their supervising physician.

The St. Ambrose MPA is seeking provisional accreditation from the Accreditation Review Council for Physician Assistants (ARC-PA). The first cohort is scheduled to graduate in December 2016.

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