EMU seeks to start a new PA program

Eastern Michigan University is offering a physician assistant program along with making advanced renovations to Rackham Building, where the program will be housed.

The program is a 24-month master degree professional program and is intended to train students to become involved in the PA profession and knowledgeable within the medical field.

Program Director Jay Peterson said the PA program will include the teaching of interdisciplinary practice and primary care medicine, using advanced technology and providing hands-on education with small-group learning.

He also said PAs can help in the area of medical decision-making while working in any other area of medicine. PAs also interact with patients by taking medical data from them and performing examinations like EKG’s, X-rays and CT scans. PAs can assist in surgeries and prescribe medications to patients. They can also work alongside physical therapists and social workers.

“Our students are the center of our universe,” Peterson said. “So we are arranging and building faculty to make sure we have the appropriate number of faculty to give the time and effort to the students to give a good learning experience.”

Peterson said when the applications come in, they will be reviewed and then on-campus interviews will be provided making it a “very competitive application process.”

The EMU PA program has applied for what is known as Accreditation-Provisional from the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant. The Accreditaton-Provisional is an accreditation status for a new PA program that doesn’t have any currently enrolled students, but at the time of review, has shown its readiness to begin such a program.

Peterson said EMU is seeking to begin the first classes of the PA program in May 2014 if the program gains accreditation in September of this year, and intends to increase its class size every year by 10 students. The class size will harbor 20 students, and an online-only application process is currently open to people wanting to join the program. This application process ends on Sept. 1, 2013.

“This is a brand new program and the general outline for the PA program has already been approved by the Board of Regents (at EMU) and by the State of Michigan,” Peterson said.

If the program doesn’t gain accreditation, it won’t launch.
He also said job demands for a PA are very high. PAs practice in areas, including general internal medicine, family practice and family pediatrics.

“We anticipate nationally, especially with the change in the healthcare laws with the Affordable Care Act, the baby boomer aging generation, there’s going to be a pretty significant need for more practitioners, and PAs are poised to help fill that void,” Peterson said.

He said the PA program will advance in learning techniques not just through textbooks.

“We’re going to be using a lot of technology like cloud-based software programs so students can log in from anywhere,” Peterson said. “We’re going to be utilizing audience-response systems to keep students engaged, make sure we’re focused on the important content. We’re going to be videotaping a lot of them when they’re practicing so that they can use that to learn. We’re really using some cool, advanced simulation software.”

He said Rackham would provide a number of different rooms each with its own purpose. The building would provide a larger lecture classroom, which will have digital LCD screens and be equipped with new, wireless technology. Some rooms will be built for small-group rooms, which will be used for problem-based learning where the software system will be primarily devoted to patient cases.

Peterson said within these patient cases, students work together and work through that patient case.

“We’re really excited about the university’s commitment to having the renovations in Rackham,” Peterson said. “I view it as kind of the perfect situation. So we have this really cool, historically important building in the center of campus, so it gives high visibility and it’s a smaller building. The other aspect is that it will be largely devoted to the students.”

An email statement from the office of the associate provost and the associate vice president for academic programming and services, Rhonda Longworth, states a budget is currently being finalized for board approval, so there are no set figures as of yet when it comes to the program or renovations to Rackham.

Christine Karshin, EMU associate professor said developing the new program provides students with an avenue to get into the PA profession where there is a high demand.

“Anytime you start a new program, it benefits the current students and prospective students and alumni who may be looking to further their education,” Karshin said.

For more information on the EMU PA program, visit emich.edu/chhs/hphp/pa.

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