Western University of Health Sciences (WesternU) has changed its Primary

Care Physician Assistant (PA) certificate program to a master’s degree

level, effective for students beginning the program in August 2000.

Students who complete the two-year program will be awarded a Master of

Science (MS) degree in Physician Assistant Studies. Students entering the

program must have a bachelor’s degree.

WesternU’s board of trustees unanimously approved the change at its August

7 meeting.

“”Our PA program wants to remain among the leaders in educating physician

assistants,”” said Stephanie Bowlin, EdD, PA-C, acting dean of WesternU’s

College of Allied Health Professions. “”As the profession matures, PAs are

assuming greater roles and responsibilities in the delivery of health care

services. To keep pace with these advances, the master’s program will

include a stronger emphasis on analytical and problem-solving skills

necessary to excel in the current and future health care environments.””

Physician assistants are health professionals licensed to practice

medicine with physician supervision. PAs exercise autonomy in medical

decision making and provide a broad range of diagnostic, therapeutic,

preventative and health maintenance services. PAs may work in a primary,

specialty or surgical practice settings and are centered on patient care.

Their work also may include educational, research and administration

activity.

PA educational programs throughout the country have evolved in order to

keep up with these advances, Dr. Bowlin said. While most PA programs

started as certificate or associate degree-granting programs, most now

confer a bachelor’s degree. And, over the past five to seven years, the PA

educational community has started to embrace the master’s degree as an

appropriate entry-level to the profession, Dr. Bowlin added.

Of the seven PA education programs in California, two schools already

provide a master’s degree program; WesternU is now the third. On the

national level, just 37 of the country’s 110 PA programs offer an entry-

level master’s degree, Dr. Bowlin said.

WesternU’s master’s level PA program will remain 24 months in length. Two

courses will be combined and three courses will be added. The number of

units needed to graduate will increase by a net 16 semester units over the

two years. According to Dr. Bowlin, the additional courses will help

students develop their research abilities, aid the understanding of the

current health care delivery systems such as HMOs, and will help them

start and implement health programs in the community.

“”One thing that definitely won’t change is our emphasis on our students

pursuing their PA careers in undeserved and rural areas,”” Dr. Bowlin said.

Applications for the fall 2000 semester may be obtained beginning in

September. The application deadline is December 31.

For more information on admission requirements to WesternU’s MS in PA

Studies program, contact the University’s Office of Admissions at (909)

623-6116.