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PA Program Celebrates 20th Anniversary

by Rodney Tanaka

February 1, 2010

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The Physician Assistant program welcomed back alumni and celebrated its 20th anniversary on Friday, Jan. 29, 2010 at Western University of Health Sciences.

Guests including WesternU Provost and COO Benjamin Cohen, DO, Executive Vice Provost for Academic Development and Effectiveness Gary Gugelchuk, PhD, Senior Vice President for University Advancement Thomas Fox, PhD, COMP Dean Clinton Adams, DO, MPA, FACHE, and Pomona Mayor Elliott Rothman joined College of Allied Health Professions Dean Stephanie Bowlin, EdD, PA, and Department of Physician Assistant Education faculty, staff and students in celebrating this milestone. The evening’s activities included a reception and a free continuing medical education (CME) seminar, “Chest X-ray Demystified,” presented by the PA faculty.

The program has grown from six students in the first class to 98 in the Class of 2011. The profession has grown from 20,628 PAs in 1991 to 73,893 PAs in 2008, according to the American Academy of Physician Assistants.

“When the PA profession started, their scope of practice was narrow,” said Roy Guizado, MS, PA-C, Chair of the Department of Physician Assistant Education. “People didn’t know how to use PAs. They were doing histories and physicals. Now you see PAs in every field of medicine, working arm in arm with physicians in a mutually beneficial relationship.”

The Department of Physician Assistant Education was the third program on campus and was founded to address the shortage of health care providers in the western states. The establishment of the PA program, along with the Health Sciences Education and the Physical Therapy Education programs, was an important step in expanding WesternU from a single college – the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific – into a comprehensive health professions university with nine colleges.

WesternU is nearing completion on a $100 million campus expansion project. The university opened four new colleges in the 2009-10 academic year, and implemented an interprofessional education (IPE) curriculum that brings together students from the different disciplines on campus to learn how to work together for the betterment of patients. Dr. Bowlin, who was hired as an instructor in May 1990, said she is amazed at the growth of the university.

“PAs, being a dependent practitioner, have always learned how to form collaborations and work as a team,” she said. “We embrace the IPE process here at WesternU.”

The majority of PA faculty members are graduates of the program. Paige McNamara, PA-C, graduated in the charter class, worked in family practice and surgery, then returned to WesternU about four years ago.

“I just wanted to give back,” she said. “It felt right.”


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