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School of Medicine introduces master’s program in physician assistant studies

Stanford’s School of Medicine has launched a new master’s program in physician assistant (PA) studies that will train clinicians beginning fall 2017.

This new program will replace the current PA associate’s degree, which is a collaboration between Stanford and Foothill College, a local two-year community college. Applications to the master’s program, which will award Master of Science degrees, are due Nov. 1.

“The mission of this [new] program is … to train PAs to go out and do great medicine … [and] to become the next generation of leaders,” said Andrew Nevins, the program’s medical director and clinical associate professor in infectious diseases.

A PA is a medical personnel who can independently administer medical procedures, such as prescribing pills or performing surgery. However, the procedures allowed to be performed are determined in writing between the doctor and PA, and a PA cannot practice without a supervising physician.

According to Nevins, the PA is trained under the medical school model, which differs from the education given to nurses.

“Our [PA] program is going to be 30 months long, essentially three years [of training],” Nevins said. “Most of the first two years is going to be [relatively similar to] the M.D. curriculum. After those first two years, the PA students will have clinical rotations for a year.”

In addition, students will be asked to focus on a scholarly concentration, with options consisting of community health, health services and policy research, clinical research and medical education. Students will finish the program with a capstone project.

In order to be eligible for the program, potential students must have received a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university. They should have also completed required science courses and obtained 500 hours of clinical experience. The 500 hours is a decrease from Stanford’s prior program requirement of 3,000 hours.

The new program was conceived after the national accreditation program for PAs mandated that all PA degrees must either become master’s programs by 2020 or be removed, according to clinical professor Sue Fernandes.

In reaction to this mandate, the Stanford School of Medicine commissioned Fernandes and clinical assistant professor Rhonda Larsen to determine the future of Stanford’s PA education. Fernandes and Larsen decided that Stanford ought to continue teaching PAs and determined that offering a Master of Science degree would be the best way to go, according to Fernandes.

“[The new PA program] gives Stanford a real opportunity to make a mark in this rapidly growing field,” Nevins said. “[A PA is] one of the leading positions in terms of job growth that is out there. We really need healthcare providers, but many people are choosing not to do healthcare because [training] is very long, very expensive.”

According to Stanford Premedical Association officer Kali Cornn ’18, students will now have a new option to consider when deciding a career in medicine.

“We really try to encourage students to explore alternative pathways to medical school,” Cornn said. “I think this new program will give students another opportunity to know [another way] to engage in medicine.”

 

Contact Christina Pan at capan ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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