EMU adds PA program


Starting May 5, 2014 Eastern Michigan University will officially have a 24-month full-time physician assistant graduate program.

“The Board of Regents recognized the need for more high-level healthcare providers and recognized that physician assistants can help fill both the local, statewide and national need for these healthcare providers,” said Jay Peterson, physician assistant program director.

The PA program at EMU is only the sixth in Michigan. The other five are at the University of Detroit Mercy, Western Michigan University, Central Michigan University, Grand Valley State University and Wayne State University.

“I think it shows that Eastern Michigan University recognizes important programs and what’s going on with healthcare today,” Peterson said. “Many of the local hospitals including U of M employ hundreds of PAs and [they] need a supply of new workers.”

Peterson said EMU will have a patient exam suite with mock patient rooms in Rackham Hall. Each room has cameras in the corner recording everything students learn while they practice with mannequins. To help students develop skills interacting with patients, the mannequins talk to them, have pulses, heart sounds and more.

“It’s much easier to get feedback watching and listening to yourself than it is for the student to provide feedback to [another student] or for us to be standing in the corner with a checklist saying ‘you did this wrong,’” Peterson said. “We know that practicing with medical technology makes sense before practicing on real patients, so we have a brand new medical simulation center.”

Considering the rise in technology in the medical field, Peterson said the first three semesters involve students doing a lot of computer work. The last three semesters involve clinical rotations in hospitals or medical centers in the area. He said the program had more than 600 applicants for 20 spots in its first class.

“Part of our curriculum is based on Problem Based Learning (PBL) where students work in small groups and together work through patient cases,” Peterson said. “What we need to do is teach them the clinical decision making skills, problem solving skills, and patient interacting skills they need so that way they know the core information.”

Haneen Elder, founder and president of the Physician Assistants club at EMU, said she entered this field because it’s a rewarding career professionally and socially. She plans to pursue her graduate degree at EMU because it has the newest program and feels it will become the most reliable.

“The world of medicine is constantly changing so it is important that the programs adapt to that change as well,” Elder said. “If I am going to invest so much time and money into a program I want to make sure it is a program that will offer the top education as well as the most realistic view of medicine. I feel that Eastern would provide their students with an idea of what to expect as well as a taste of how it works.”

Elder said the PA program will benefit students because of its early introduction between medicine and technology.

“The students who are fortunate enough to go through the Eastern program will have an advantage that many other pre-established programs cannot provide,” Elder said. “Eastern has integrated some of the most advance technologies into their curriculum which will directly correspond to the production of competent professionals that are greatly needed in a time of such drastic change.”

Bianca George, vice president of the PA club, agrees with Elder. She said the joint effort in starting the club was for the sake of networking students who share common goals and have the opportunity to ask any questions about the program.

“We are both working toward building up a solid base of students so that we can make it worthwhile for speakers or mentors from various PA programs and organizations to visit our club,” George said.

According to George, she is most excited about working with students in a smaller class size to find diagnoses and go through the hard training together. She said EMU is her first choice for PA programs because it uses the problem based learning curriculum and it has a new facility dedicated solely to the PA students.

“Another really important reason to me is that everyone I’ve spoken with who is associated with the program has been very friendly and eager to answer any question,” George said.

Elder hopes people who join the PA club will walk away with a better understanding of the profession and the process of becoming a PA.

“The PA club strives to provide many informational sessions that not only outline the basic requirements of various programs throughout Michigan but as well as different qualities that will help an individual stand out,” Elder said.

Peterson said he and the other faculty members are eager to start the program after receiving so much support from university staff and medical professionals.

“We’re excited to make a difference, we’re excited to bring this program to the university, we think it’s going to help the students, we think it’s going help the community, it’s just a great situation overall,” Peterson said.

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