University of Lynchburg, a forerunner in health science education, will offer a Physician Assistant Medicine degree, beginning in summer 2015.
According to the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of physician assistants is expected to increase 30 percent from 2010 to 2020, much faster than the average growth rate for most occupations.
University of Lynchburg’s 27-month curriculum will lead to a master’s degree. The curriculum is an intensive, rigorous, progressive program of study that includes fundamental science and clinical medicine. The curriculum is built around a modular-based format that allows students to study multiple interrelated components of medicine at the same time.
Students will complete coursework in basic sciences, pharmacology, clinical medicine, patient examination techniques, as well as surgical and technical clinical skills. Many of the courses have lecture and laboratory components and will focus on critical thinking along with problem-based learning and simulation.
Clinical medicine and supervised clinical experiences will be a hallmark of the program. Through a series of clinical rotations, students will have numerous opportunities to develop clinical skills and expand their knowledge by participating in structured clinical experiences under the supervision of licensed health care providers in a variety of specialties. The LC curriculum will also provide opportunities for students to participate in Emergency Medical Services and pre-hospital patient care.
According to Dr. Edward Polloway, dean of the School of Graduate Studies, University of Lynchburg created this program in response to the significant need for trained physician assistants in this region and beyond. “We carefully studied national data on projected opportunities in the field and also responded to the input we received from health care administrators from our region,” he said. “Our short-term goals for the program will be focused on the accreditation process and recruiting students for the first class, which will begin June of 2015,” he explained.
University of Lynchburg will host a site visit from the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) in November of 2014 and will seek to receive accreditation in March of 2015. Recruiting will begin in April of 2014.
“Long-term goals include developing a fellowship (residency) program that will provide extraordinary opportunities for the preparation of our students as they enter this profession and the completion of a state-of-the-art health sciences facility that will house the program,” Polloway said.
The physician assistant has become an essential healthcare provider who has increased affordability and access to care. All 50 states and the District of Columbia allow physician assistants to practice medicine and to prescribe medications. Physician assistants are nationally certified and state-licensed to practice medicine within the team approach to patient-centered care. They perform physical examinations, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret lab tests, perform procedures, and assist in surgery.
Currently, more than 90,000 physician assistants nationwide provide health care, including more than 2,000 physician assistants who are certified in Virginia. Forbes.com rates the physician assistant master’s degree as the number one master’s degree in the United States.
The need for expanded healthcare in underserved areas and rural areas is also increasing. Approximately 20 percent of the U.S. population lives in rural areas, and rural residents are often limited in obtaining essential healthcare by lack of transportation, extreme weather, social isolation or poverty level living conditions. Presently, 17 percent of physician assistants practice in rural areas nationally as compared with 10 percent of physicians.
Dr. Jeremy Welsh (pictured above) serves as program director and Dr. John D. (Dan) Johnson III serves as medical director. Dr. Johnson works with the physician assistants at Centra’s emergency department. “Our local PAs not only provide quality care in family medicine but also serve patients in many medical specialties,” he said. “I foresee the role of the physician assistant continuing to expand while filling the void left by a predicted future physician shortage.”
Additional information on the Physician Assistant Medicine program is available at www.lynchburg.edu/pa or by contacting Dr. Jeremy Welsh at 544-8876.
The program offering is contingent upon the approval of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, SACSCOC. University of Lynchburg has applied for provisional accreditation from the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). The College anticipates matriculating its first class in June 2015, pending provisional accreditation in March 2015. Provisional accreditation is an accreditation status for a new PA program that has not yet enrolled students, but at the time of its comprehensive accreditation review, has demonstrated its preparedness to initiate a program in accordance with the accreditation standards. The program will not commence in the event that this provisional accreditation is not received.