The Master of Physician Assistant Studies degree program at St. Ambrose University has secured a major program development achievement - it has been granted Accreditation-Provisional status by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA).
"Reaching this important milestone is indicative of the strength of St. Ambrose's health sciences programs and signifies that the new MPAS program has demonstrated its preparedness to initiate teaching future physician assistants," said Sandra Cassady, dean of St. Ambrose's College of Health and Human Services.
"Like other highly qualified health care professionals prepared by St. Ambrose, MPAS graduates will become key members of the evolving health care delivery team, and answer a growing regional need for primary care service providers."
The first 30-member class will begin studies June 16. Although 18 members of the first class are from Iowa and Illinois, some students will come from as far away as California, Ohio and Texas.
Cassady noted that the MPAS program received more than 300 qualified applications for the 30 openings in the inaugural class.
At full capacity, the program will simultaneously enroll three cohorts. ARC-PA's notice that it would grant Accreditation-Provisional status also accepted SAU's request that it be allowed to enroll up to 30 students in the first class of students, 30 in the second class and 30 in the third class.
"The large pool of well-qualified applicants - even before we reached Accreditation-Provisional status - is a testament to St. Ambrose's reputation, and allowed us to be very selective in our offers," said MPAS Program Director Clare Kennedy.
"In addition to the MPAS building upon an existing strength and an area of strategic focus at St. Ambrose, the strong first class also can be attributed to Iowa's reputation for excellent PA education programs, support from the medical community, and our program's primary care and rural practice emphasis," Cassady said.
Since announcing its commitment to developing an MPAS program in 2012, St. Ambrose has garnered significant support from the Quad Cities and regional medical communities. Many local and regional clinicians, practitioners and medical systems have already indicated that they want to be involved with the students' clinical experience placements, which for the first class will begin in late 2015.
"The recruitment and training of physician assistants is crucial to providing for the future health care needs of patients throughout our region, especially for those in rural settings," said Shane Brown, vice president of physician services at CGH Medical Center, Sterling, Ill.; and a member of the University's advisory board for the MPAS program. "The new program at St. Ambrose will significantly improve the opportunity for health care organizations to hire and retain PAs."
The SAU MPAS program is the only physician assistant program in the Quad Cities and western Illinois region, and one of only 187 such programs nationwide.
Entry into the 29-month St. Ambrose MPAS program is a competitive process. Applicants must have earned an undergraduate degree, successfully completed specific prerequisite courses, and gained at least 500 hours of health care experience with direct patient contact. Fourteen months of classroom and laboratory studies will be followed by 15 months of clinical rotations.
Applications for the next cohort will be accepted beginning April 17, 2014, through the centralized application site for PA programs (CASPA). A link is available on the SAU website at www.sau.edu/mpas.
In 2013, Forbes Magazine named the physician assistant graduate degree a "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 38 percent increase in positions for physician assistants between 2012 and 2022. According to a 2009 American Academy of Physician Assistants job survey, the mean salary for physician assistants was $93,100.
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 may 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 Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant is the accrediting agency that protects the interests of the public and physician assistant profession by defining the standards for physician assistant education and evaluating physician assistant educational programs within the territorial United States to ensure their compliance with those standards.
The ARC-PA has granted Accreditation-Provisional status to the St. Ambrose University Physician Assistant Program. Accreditation-Provisional is an accreditation status. The status indicates that the plans and resource allocation for the proposed program appear to demonstrate the program's ability to meet the ARC-PA Standards, if fully implemented as planned. Accreditation-Provisional does not ensure any subsequent accreditation status. It is limited to no more than five years from matriculation of the first class.
The first St. Ambrose MPAS cohort is scheduled to graduate in December 2016.