Jan 31, 2014
By Jody Grenert
Responding to a shortage of healthcare professionals, especially in rural areas, Ohio University plans to launch a master’s-level physician assistant program in May 2015 on an extension campus that the university is developing near Columbus.
The program was approved Jan. 24 by Ohio University’s Board of Trustees but must also be approved by the Ohio Board of Regents and secure provisional accreditation before it can begin admitting students as planned in July 2014.
The 27-month, 7-semester program is aimed at students committed to working in medically underserved urban and rural communities, with an emphasis on rural populations in Appalachia. It will offer a Master’s Degree in Physician Assistant Practice (MPAP), said James C. Zedaker, the program’s director.
“I anticipate a charter class of 45 students who will come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences,” Zedaker said. “We have seen interest from individuals ranging from paramedics/EMT’s, nurses, dieticians, undergraduate students with little to no clinical experience, military members and veterans.”
Physician assistants, also called PAs, are medical professionals who work as part of a team with a physician. They are nationally certified and state-licensed to practice medicine under the supervision of a physician. PAs perform physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret lab tests, perform procedures, assist in surgery, provide patient education and counseling, and make rounds in hospitals.
Employment of physician assistants is expected to increase 38 percent between 2012 and 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2013, the American Academy of Physician Assistants reported that the median annual salary of physician assistants was $100,000.00.
The PA program’s administrative home will be Ohio University’s School of Rehabilitation and Communications Sciences, part of the College of Health Sciences and Professions (CHSP). But it will be physically located at the university’s new extension campus in Dublin. A March 19 groundbreaking ceremony is planned for the building that will house the PA program.
“We take great pride in preparing healthcare professionals to work with underserved populations,” said Randy Leite, CHSP dean. “Physician assistants are key members of today’s healthcare teams. Our focus will be on preparing outstanding PAs who will work effectively with physicians and other providers to bring healthcare to those in need across Ohio.”
For more information about the Physician Assistant program, go online to www.ohio.edu/chsp/rcs/pa/.