The Doctor of Medical Science program at the University of Lynchburg has partnered with the Society of Air Force PAs, a professional organization serving the needs of active duty, retired, guard, and reserve Air Force PAs.
Through this partnership, Society of Air Force PA members are eligible for a 10% tuition discount when they complete the DMSc degree at Lynchburg.
“We are beyond excited to partner with the Society of Air Force PAs,” said Dr. Jenna Rolfs ’20 DMSc, who directs Lynchburg’s DMSc program.
“This partnership will allow both organizations to promote professional doctoral education for PAs, while continuing to meet the mission of service, excellence in patient care, and executive leadership.”
The 12-month DMSc is a 100% online program that offers PAs an intensive, clinical experience in their desired specialty, as well as education in executive leadership, research, health care law, and global health.
The program includes a yearlong research project and offers concentrations in addiction medicine, administrative medicine, advanced professional practice, behavioral medicine, emergency management and global health, and medical education.
“This partnership is such a tremendous step forward for our Air Force professionals,” said Sarah Sims, a current DMSc fellow and a member of SAFPA. “It sends a message that the Society of Air Force PAs recognizes and endorses the DMSc as the direction of our profession.”
She added that there’s been a shift in the civilian sector, where doctoral training is needed to be competitive in today’s market — especially when it comes to administrator and leadership positions.
“We’re starting to see this cultural shift in the military, where those without a doctoral degree may not be invited to the proverbial table, and if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu,” Sims said.
Sims sees the discount as a huge motivator, particularly for those who already benefit from the GI Bill.
“The discount this partnership provides will make the doctoral degree more affordable and thus more attainable with the current military wage,” she said.
In return, she added, the DMSc program will benefit from a more diverse student body.
“The diversity of experience our military PAs bring to the DMSc courses fosters a broader awareness of the PA profession at large and enriches the learning environment for all DMSc students.”
Sims, a Bremerton, Washington, native, enlisted as a medic in 2001. She rose through the ranks until discovering a “passion for practicing medicine as an independent duty medical technician.”
Since graduating from the Interservice PA Program in 2012, Sims has been teaching Anatomy and Physiology to enlisted medics and has worked in specialties such as family medicine, traumatic brain injury, chronic pain management, and women’s health.
Most recently, she served as a qualified aeromedical PA at the Yokota Air Base Flight Medicine Clinic in Tokyo, completing a fellowship with the U.S. Air Force Surgeon General’s office after a competitive selection process this past summer.
“I’m using my newly honed administrative skills within the Air Force Medical System Force Development office to foster leadership, mentorship, and professional development across the force of 44,000 total force Air Force medics,” she said.
Sims, who is also a mother of five, first learned about the DMSc program in 2019. “At the time, I convinced myself I was too busy right now to start,” she recalled. An active board member and the immediate past president of SAFPA, she was trying to establish herself in a very demanding job while juggling family responsibilities.
But after the COVID-19 pandemic, which taught her “that things can always be busier,” Sims researched available PA doctoral programs and decided Lynchburg was the best fit.
“I pulled the trigger this summer and began my DMSc in education and have zero regrets,” she said. “The Lynchburg curriculum has challenged and excited me, teaching me more about research than I thought possible in a short time. The professors are engaging, available, and really dedicated to your learning experience.
“My life is busy right now, but it’s always going to be busy. The flexible program Lynchburg offers for busy professionals makes my goal of attaining a quality DMSc education something I can do now and not five to 10 years from now.”
The views expressed in this article are entirely Sims’ own and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Air Force or the U.S. government.