Collin Welteroth, pre-med student, Reading Hospital

 

Master of Medical Science in Physician Assistant Studies Program Overview

 

 

Physician assistants, more commonly referred to as PAs, are medical professionals who diagnose illness, develop and manage treatment plans, prescribe medications, and often serve as a patient’s principal healthcare provider. Versatile and collaborative, PAs receive thousands of hours of medical training. They are nationally certified and state licensed to practice medicine in every medical and surgical specialty and setting.

 

Physician Assistants work in hospitals, medical offices, community health centers, nursing homes, retail clinics, educational facilities, workplace clinics, and correctional institutions. PAs also serve in the nation’s uniformed services and other federal government agencies.

 

What does a Physician Assistant do?

Student intern at hospital
Physician Assistants' specific duties depend on the setting in which they work, their level of experience, their specialty and state laws.

In general terms, PA's can perform the following:

• Take medical histories
• Conduct physical exams
• Diagnose and treat illness
• Order and interpret tests
• Develop treatment plans
• Prescribe medication
• Counsel on preventive care
• Perform procedures
• Assist in surgery
• Make rounds in hospitals and nursing homes
• Do clinical research


A Bachelor's and Master's in 5 Years

Alvernia’s Master of Medical Science in Physician Assistant Studies (MMSPAS) program is offered in a “3+2” format, allowing students to graduate in five years with both a bachelor’s degree in Biology and a master of science degree in Physician Assistant Studies. The 3+2 BIO-PA year-round program builds on Alvernia’s student-centered learning model by pairing students with local healthcare professionals in the Reading community for clinical rotations; and upholds Alvernia’s core value of Service by healing and nurturing members of the community in need.

Chemistry student in laboratory
Physician Assistant coursework includes in-depth learning of core competencies in preparation for advanced studies.

 

The first three years of the BIO-PA program focuses on the undergraduate portion of the degree. Subjects explored include:

  • General chemistry
  • Principles of biology
  • Organic chemistry
  • Anatomy &  physiology
  • Microbiology
  • Statistics
  • Genetics
  • Medical terminology
  • Immunology
  • Cell biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Pathophysiology
  • Pharmacology

 

Alvernia's 3+2 accelerated BIO-PA program requires 500 hours of direct (hands-on) experience with patients, completed on the student's own time before entering the graduate phase of the PA program. The preferred experiences are military medic/corpsman; paramedic/EMT; nurse (LVN, RN); radiology or medical technologist; physical, respiratory or occupation therapist; medical assistant; certified nurse's aide; home health aide; athletic trainer and other relevant professions directly dealing with patients. Experiences not counted as direct patient care are administrative duties in a health care facility, pharmacy technician, personal trainer, shadowing doctors or PAs, and medical research not involving any patient contact.

 

Virtual dissection laboratory table
​ State-of-the-art virtual dissection laboratory offers engaging, effective and ethical means of learning human anatomy. ​Dr. Eric Recktenwald explains the features here.



Year 1 of the PA graduate program is completing all of the graduate coursework. Year 2 of the graduate program is the clinical rotations. There are 10 clinical rotations and each is 5 weeks long. They are in family medicine (twice), emergency medicine, internal medicine, surgery, pediatrics, women's health including prenatal and gynecologic care, behavioral and mental health care, and two electives.

 


Post-Baccalaureate Master of Medical Science in Physician Assistant Studies Program

Beginning in the Summer/Fall of 2024, an additional entry point into the Master of Medical Science in Physician Assistant Studies program will be available to post-baccalaureate graduates. Graduates having secured a 4-year accredited undergraduate degree are eligible to apply to the Post-Bacc PA Program. Pre-requisite and course progression requirements closely align with the 3+2 Accelerated BIO-PA program with the exception of 500 additional hours of direct (hands-on) experience with patients, completed on the student's own time prior to acceptance into the Post-Bacc PA program. More information to come about this option closer to the start date.

 

A Career as a Physician Assistant

The PA profession is one of the fastest growing in the country. Due to the increased demand for health services as a result of our growing aging population, employment for Physician Assistants is expected to increase significantly over the next decade. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of physician assistants is expected to grow by 31% from 2019-2029; this is much faster than the average for all occupations and healthcare diagnosing or treating practitioners. 

 

Physician Assistant Practice Areas, 2019, NCCPA


Physician Assistant Practice Areas according to the National Commission on Certification of Physician's Assistants (NCCPA), 2019 Report.

 

The average median salary for a PA in 2020 was reported to be over $115,000, with the highest 10% earning over $162,000.

 

Pennsylvania is among the top five states with the highest employment levels of PAs in the country. Like many states, Pennsylvania faces a physician shortage and the number of primary care physicians is expected to decline. PAs will be utilized to help meet community needs and provide primary care for Pennsylvania patients. The recent COVID-19 national emergency has only compounded these concerns. PAs will play a critical role in the multipronged solution to increase access to care and ensure our nation is prepared to adequately respond to public health needs and emergencies in the future.

 

Mission Statement

Alvernia University Physician’s Assistant Program will enhance the Mission of Alvernia University in line with Franciscan values and the ideal of “knowledge joined with love.” Patients of Alvernia PA graduates will be treated by ethical leaders with moral courage educated by our SEARCH (liberal arts) core curriculum. An Alvernia PA will have the opportunity to use theological, philosophical, scientific, and clinical knowledge gained at Alvernia to transform the world around them through healing of the body and soul.

Physician Assistants can effectively implement the values of Saint Francis. Accessible, affordable healthcare benefits members of the community in their greatest times of need. Reverence and care for the dignity of all individuals, and a sense of responsibility for others are important components of an ethical healthcare professional. The Alvernia PA program will create PA’s with the moral judgement necessary to service society with love and justice.

Alvernia PA’s will directly enhance Alvernia’s devotion to service of the disadvantaged through pro-bono clinical work in the surrounding Reading community. Alvernia PA’s will have the opportunity to gain experience in the clinic and heal disadvantaged members of the Reading community.

Admission Criteria

Admission Criteria for BIO-PA (3+2) Accelerated Program

Decisions regarding admission into the university will be made by the Office of Admissions. Admission into the BIO-PA accelerated (3+2) program will be available to students who meet the criteria of 3.5 high school GPA and 1170 SAT. Admissions into the accelerated program will be determined by the Department of PA and Biology Admissions Committee in accordance with the university undergraduate admissions policies. Upon timely completion of ALL admission criteria, applicants will be offered admission into the accelerated program upon entrance into the university and conditional guaranteed admission into the graduate PA program as determined by the maximum number of allotted seats in the program per accreditation standards. Students within the accelerated (3+2) format will follow a modified curricular plan in biology labeled BIO-PA.

Course Progression Requirements for Graduate Phase of BIO-PA Accelerated (3+2) Program

The following pre-requisite courses must be completed with a final grade of "C" or better to enter into the graduate PA program:

  • General Chemistry I and II; both with lab (8 credits)
  • Principles of Biology I and II, both with lab (8 credits)
  • Organic Chemistry I and II; both with lab (8 credits)
  • Anatomy and Physiology I and II; both with lab (8 credits)
  • Microbiology with lab (4 credits)
  • Statistics (3 credits)
  • Genetics (3 or 4 credits)
  • Medical Terminology (1 credit)
  • Immunology (3 credits)
  • Coursework in cell biology, biochemistry, pathophysiology, and pharmacology are highly recommended.
Curriculum

Semester 1 (16 credits)

  • COM 101 or MAT 131 if needed (3 credits)
  • SEARCH 101 (3 credits)
  • BIO 103 Principles of Biology w/ lab I (4 credits)
  • CHE 104 General Chemistry I (3 credits)
  • CHE 110 General Chemistry Lab I (1 credit)
  • BIO 200 Medical Terminology (1 credit)
  • CHE 107 Laboratory Safety (1 credit)

Semester 2 (18 credits)

  • PHI 105/THE 105 (3 credits)
  • BIO 104 Principles of Biology w/ lab II (4 credits)
  • CHE 105 General Chemistry II (3 credits)
  • CHE 111 General Chemistry  Lab II (1 credit)
  • MAT 230 Calculus I (4 credits)
  • CORE (PSY 101) (3 credits)

Semester 3 (18 credits)

  • PHI 105/THE 105 (3 credits)
  • CORE (3 credits)
  • CHE 201 Organic Chemistry I (3 credits)
  • CHE 210 Organic Chemistry Lab I (1 credit)
  • MAT 209 Probability and Statistics (3 credits)
  • MAT 220 Math/Statistics Computer Lab (1 credit)
  • BIO Elective (BIO 107/117) (4 credits)

Semester 4 (18 credits)

  • CORE (3 credits)
  • BIO 405 Pharmacology (3 credits)
  • CHE 202 Organic Chemistry II (3 credits)
  • CHE 211 Organic Chemistry Lab II (1 credit)
  • BIO 221 General Microbiology w/ Lab (4 credits)
  • BIO Elective (BIO 108/118) (4 credits)

Semester 5 (17 credits)

  • CORE (3 credits)
  • CORE (3 credits)
  • BIO 303 Genetics (3 credits)
  • BIO 309 Genetics Lab (1 credit)
  • BIO 409 Immunology (3 credits)
  • PHY 200 Physics w/ lab I (4 credits)

Semester 6 (17 credits)

  • CORE (3 credits)
  • CORE( 3 credits)
  • BIO 410 Pathophysiology (3 credits)
  • BIO 304 Cell Biology (3 credits) 
  • BIO 311 Cell Biology (1 credit) 
  • PSY 200 Physics w/ lab II (4 credits)

Semester 7 (25 credits)*

  • PA XX Clinical Medicine I (4 credits)
  • PA XX Pathophysiology I (3 credits)
  • PA XX Pharmacology I (2 credits)
  • PA XX Physical Diagnosis I (3 credits)
  • PA XX Clinical Problem Solving I (2 credits)
  • PA XX Advanced Clinical Skills I (3 credits)
  • PA XX Clinical Anatomy (4 credits)
  • PA XX Management and Admin of Healthcare (1 credits)
  • PA XX Ethics of Healthcare (3 credits)

*PA Didactic Year Courses will require winter and summer course work to accommodate all PA course requirements.

Semester 8 (21 credits)*

  • PA XX Clinical Medicine II (4 credits)
  • PA XX Pathophysiology II (3 credits)
  • PA XX Pharmacology II (2 credits)
  • PA XX Physical Diagnosis II (3 credits)
  • PA XX Clinical Problem Solving II (2 credits)
  • PA XX Advanced Clinical Skills II (3 credits)
  • PA XX PA in the Healthcare System (1 credit)
  • PA XX Behavioral Science (2 credits)
  • PA XX Integrative Medicine (1 credit)

*PA Didactic Year Courses will require winter and summer course work to accommodate all PA course requirements.

Program Timeline

Timeline for Accelerated Undergraduate Students:

  • August 2022 - First cohort of accelerated students enters the accelerated pre-PA program
  • Summer/Fall 2025 - First cohort of accelerated students begins the PA program
  • Summer/Fall 2027 - First cohort of accelerated students graduates with a Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies

Program Timeline:

  • May/August 2023 - Application due to the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc.(ARC-PA)
  • August/November 2023 - Initial Site Visit
  • March 2024 - The ARC-PA decides on Provisional Accreditation
  • Spring 2024 - Interview for the first PA program cohort
  • Summer/Fall 2024 - First PA program cohort
  • Summer/Fall 2026 - First PA program cohort graduates with a Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies

Timeline for Graduate Students:

  • May/August 2023 - Application due to the ARC-PA
  • August /November 2023 - Initial Site Visit
  • March 2024 - The ARC-PA decides on Provisional Accreditation
  • Spring 2024 - Interview for the first PA program cohort
  • Summer/Fall 2024 - First PA program cohort
  • Summer/Fall 2026 - First PA program cohort graduates with a Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies
Experiential Learning

Alvernia’s location and proximity to local hospitals and medical centers offers a multitude of possible clinical associations to support the PA program. The number of quality health care facilities and physicians from many different specialties within a 50-mile radius of main campus, provides a great advantage to students, affording them the opportunity to take a variety of elective clinical experiences as well as the required clinical rotations.

Rotations include:

  • Family medicine
  • General surgery
  • Pediatrics
  • Behavioral & Mental Healthcare
  • Emergency medicine
  • Obstetrics/gynecology
  • Internal medicine
Tuition

To determine the cost of this program, please visit our Tuition page. For a personalized estimate, please contact an admissions counselor at 610-790-8269 or at admissions@alvernia.edu.

Financial Aid

100% of Alvernia students receive some form of scholarship and/or aid. Our admissions counselors can help you identify the aid that is available to you and for your program. For more information, visit our Financial Aid page.

Accreditation

The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc. (ARC-PA) is the accrediting body which sets the standards for all PA programs. This accreditation is essential in order to have a PA program. As a new program, Alvernia University Master of Medical Science in Physician Assistant Studies is currently seeking Provisional Accreditation.

All programs offered by Alvernia University are approved by the Department of Education of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools.

 


Learn More

For more information about Alvernia’s Master of Medical Science in Physician Assistant Studies Program contact the Admissions Office at 1-888-ALVERNIA or 610-796-8269 or admissions@alvernia.edu, or reach out directly to:

 

Department Contact

Rosemarie Chinni

Bernardine Hall Room 234

610.568.1492

rosemarie.chinni@alvernia.edu