Physician Assistant Studies
The University of North Texas Health Science Center (UNTHSC) Physician Assistant Program is accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant.
The Program was first established in 1997. Today, the Program is housed within the School of Health Professions. The mission of the Program is to improve the health and quality of life for the people of Texas by administering and providing an exemplary graduate-level education for physician assistant students with interest in primary care medicine and in meeting the needs of underserved populations.
The Department of Physician Assistant Studies provides the academic home for students and faculty involved in the Master of Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS) degree curriculum. Upon successful completion of the curriculum, graduates receive an MPAS degree. The MPAS curriculum prepares students for entry into clinical practice as a physician assistant. US News and World Report magazine has ranked the Program among the top 35 graduate-level physician assistant programs in the Nation.
Our aim is to provide students with an environment that is both conducive to learning the art and science of medical practice and to helping our students achieve individual growth as healthcare professionals.
Teaching Goals for the Physician Assistant Program are:
- Educate physician assistants equipped through academic and clinical training to provide patient care services with appropriate supervision of a licensed physician.
- Provide a course of professional study that provides graduates with appropriate knowledge of physical and mental disease and the skills to accurately and reliably perform the range of health care procedures and duties customarily ascribed to the PA profession.
- Foster development of the intellectual, ethical, and professional attitudes and behaviors that generate trust and respect from the patient population served by the physician assistant.
- Prepare physician assistants with the knowledge, technical capabilities, and judgment necessary to perform in a professional capacity.
- Prepare physician assistants to serve in expanded roles, which meet developing needs in society's health care environment.
- Prepare physician assistants through curriculum, clinical experiences, and role models to provide medical services to underserved patient populations where the supervising physician may be physically located at the practice site or at a site remote from the physician assistant.
- Provide instruction that stresses the role of the physician assistant in health maintenance and preventive medicine while also taking into consideration the social, economic, and ethical aspects of health care delivery.
- Provide didactic and clinical experiences that prepare the physician assistant for dealing with cultural diversity in the patient population.
- Provide educational experiences that promote understanding of the interdependence of health professionals and foster an interdisciplinary team approach to the delivery of health care.
- Prepare the physician assistant with the knowledge and skills needed to perform clinical research activities and projects.
- Prepare physician assistants with the knowledge and skills needed to be life-long learners and design educational activities appropriate for patients, clinical students, and colleagues.
- Provide educational experiences that stimulate active learning in the science and art of medicine and that foster a desire for continued learning as a practicing professional.
These above goals translate into Expected Graduate Competencies for UNTHSC PA students. These competencies provide a roadmap for the design of the Master of Physician Assistant Studies curriculum. The curriculum is arranged to educate the student on the knowledge and skills that are needed to develop these competencies. Enrolled PA students must complete and pass each course in the curriculum in order to graduate and receive the MPAS degree.
General goals of the program include:
- Meeting increasing demand for primary care PAs in the State of Texas and the country by growing the class size and graduating more PA students.
- Status: In 2009, the Accreditation Review Commission for PA Education (ARC-PA) approved the Program to increase its entering class size from 40 students in 2008 to 70 students by 2010. In 2013, the Program was again approved to increase the class size to 75 students. These increases represent an 80% growth in entering class size over a 5-year period. The graduation rate for the same timeframe has averaged 97.4% of the entering students.
- For UNTHSC PA graduates taking the PA National Certification Examination (PANCE) each year, the percentage of graduates who pass the exam on their first attempt will exceed the national average for similar graduates taking the exam for the first time each year.
- Status: In 2013, UNTHSC's graduating PA class obtained a 100% first-time pass rate on the PANCE. The national average in that same year was 94%. PA graduates from UNTHSC have exceeded the national first-time pass rate on the PANCE every year for the past 5 years. For more information on UNTHSC's annual pass rates, to go PANCE Results.
- Status: In 2013, we conducted an employment survey of PA Classes of 2009-2013 alumni from UNTHSC. The overall response rate to our survey was 79%. Of the 2009-2012 group, 86% of graduates were employed clinically at the time of the survey. An additional 9% were employed in non-clinical roles. For the recently graduated class of 2013, only 7% of graduates reported they were not yet employed. Based on overall feedback from survey respondents, 96% of UNTHSC's PA graduates over the past 5 years are employed clinically or in job related to research, education and other health-related fields.
- Status: Just prior to graduation, the Program conducts surveys of new graduates asking them to give overall impressions of the Program and the education they have received. Over the past 5 years, these surveys have shown our PA graduates do value their education from UNTHSC. For example, when questioned about "overall quality" of their education, the average ratings spanned from 3.2 to 3.4 on a scale of 1-4, where 3.0 was considered "good" and 4.0 was considered "excellent." When asked how well the program had prepared them to work as a PA, an average of 95.6% of graduates rated their preparation as "good" or "excellent."