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Provost's Update

November 2013

Meeting a community need: EMU prepares to launch Physician Assistant Program

PA ProgramWith a growing population, aging baby boomers and influx of newly insured patients under the Affordable Care Act, demand for health care in the United States has never been higher. At the same time, there is a projected shortage of primary care doctors, since more physicians are entering specialty areas of medicine.

To help fill the primary care gap, medical providers are relying increasingly on Physician Assistants (PAs). The profession is booming. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the number of PAs will increase 30 percent by 2020 — faster than the average for all occupations.

To meet this crucial health care need and produce graduates for this burgeoning field, EMU's College of Health and Human Services (CHHS) is launching a Physician Assistant Program. The first group of 20 students will begin the rigorous 24-month graduate-level program in May 2014. Eastern's PA program is the sixth in Michigan.

"PAs work in nearly every field of medicine," says CHHS Associate Dean Chris Karshin. "They work under the supervision and direction of physicians and surgeons as part of a comprehensive medical team. PAs are formally trained to examine patients, diagnose injuries and illnesses, and provide treatment. Patients benefit because PAs can often see them sooner and spend more time with them than physicians. Mid-level providers like PAs are the key to providing the level of health care patients expect."

One of the program's exciting aspects is the partnership forged with St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ypsilanti.

"Eastern and St. Joseph are collaborating on renovating the hospital's Advanced Medical Simulation Center and Human Anatomy Dissection Laboratory," says Jay Peterson, EMU Physician Assistant Program Director. "Students will use the Simulation Center to practice team-based training using life-like mannequins. We'll expose students to complex medical situations and they'll respond appropriately as a team, just as they would in a real medical setting. In the Dissection Lab, students will learn human anatomy by working with cadavers."

Renovations are also underway at Eastern's Rackham Building to create classroom, office and lab space for the program.

"In addition to a lecture hall, we'll have smaller labs where students can practice clinical skills such as suturing," Peterson says. "We'll also have simulated patient exam rooms resembling those in a primary care office. The program's first year focuses on hands-on skills practice and simulation. During the second year, students will engage in supervised clinical rotations."

Peterson says he's excited to help create and shape the program, which he expects will have a profound impact on the community.

"Our students will have a firm foundation in primary care medicine and be able to find jobs in our area," he says. "Eastern is in a great location, with two large hospital systems nearby. We also have a huge population of patients and health care providers. Besides filling a health care need in our community, the PA program will raise awareness of Eastern across the country. The fact that we're launching this program shows that Eastern is progressive and ready to meet new challenges."

Visit the Physician Assistant Program website for more details about admissions, curriculum, accreditation, students and faculty.