New Physician Assistant Degree

Medical school program will address nationwide shortage of primary care providers

Tufts School of Medicine has developed a Physician Assistant (PA) degree program to help address twin demands for more primary-care providers and affordable health care.

The new 25-month program expects to matriculate its first class of students in January 2013, pending provisional accreditation by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) in September 2012. Only students who graduate from an ARC-accredited program are permitted to sit for the national certification examination and be eligible for state licensure as physician assistants.

The program is planned to launch in January 2013 with a class of 30 students, leading to a master of medical science degree. The Tufts program is the only PA program in Massachusetts offered by a medical school and one of three medical school-affiliated programs in New England.

The U.S. Department of Labor projects a 39 percent growth in PA jobs by 2018.

“Increasing access to care means increasing access to caregivers,” says Harris Berman, dean of Tufts Medical School. “We as a country are looking at more effective models to increase access to care, and there is a growing role for PAs, who provide diagnostic, therapeutic and preventive care under the supervision of licensed physicians.”

Physician assistants often work as part of a health-care team, taking medical histories, examining patients, prescribing medications, interpreting lab tests and X-rays and diagnosing and treating patients.

“The faculty who educate our future physicians will be educating our future physician assistants,” says Aviva Must, dean of the medical school’s Public Health and Professional Degree Programs. PA students will have access to the resources that are provided to Tufts’ M.D. students, including the school’s Clinical Skills and Simulation Center, where students work with state-of-the art, computerized mannequins that behave like real patients.

“Our goal is to expand the program to 50 students over the next three years,” says Richard Murphy, an assistant professor of public health and community medicine who will be the program director.

During their first year, PA students will take 27 courses, including anatomy, physical diagnosis, internal medicine, geriatrics, pediatrics, women’s health and behavioral medicine. In the second year, students will complete 48 weeks of clinical rotations at Tufts-affiliated hospitals, private practices and clinics in Massachusetts.

Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis through the PA program website starting in May.


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