Meeting The Demand

Dominican is meeting the growing demand for students prepared to work in the healthcare sector with its new Master of Science Physician Assistant Studies (MSPAS). The inaugural class of 24 students arrived on campus in August.

The new program comes as employment of physician assistants is projected to grow 30 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. A recent Forbes article, which draws on data from The National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants, states that California is among the states where PA salaries are rising the fastest, with a median salary of $105,000.

PAs are licensed, nationally certified healthcare professionals who practice medicine on healthcare teams with physicians and other providers. They practice and prescribe medication in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. territories, and the uniformed services. PAs deliver a broad range of medical and surgical care and services. Their main focus is direct patient care in primary care, specialty practices, and emergency departments. Additional duties may include education, research, and healthcare services management.

Dominican's School of Health and Natural Sciences received 369 applications for the initial cohort of 24 students. Enrollment will grow to 30 students per cohort in fall 2018 and 40 students per cohort beginning fall 2019 and ongoing.

With only a handful of universities offering PA programs in Northern California, demand for space greatly outweighs supply. Stanford, University of Pacific, Touro University, Samuel Merritt University, and UC Davis also offer PA programs.

Demand is high throughout California for PAs,” says Dr. Ana Maldonado, Dominican’s Physician Assistant Program Director. “Nationally, there’s a strong need for PAs in surgery and specialty clinics, which is why we received many in and out-of-state applications.”

The new class is composed of 17 women and seven men aged from 21 to 44. Students obtained their bachelor’s degree from educational institutions throughout the United States, including Vermont, Hawaii, and Michigan. About 70 percent of the class studied and graduated from universities in California. Their individual clinical experience in direct patient care range from 500 hours to more than 6,000 hours, with the average clinical experience for 24 students at 2,736 hours.

While at Dominican, the students’ clinical experiences will include local and state-wide hospitals, community health centers, and private practices.

The 28-month, full-time program includes supervised clinical practice experiences in family medicine, pediatrics, internal medicine, women’s health, and behavioral medicine. Students also will complete rotations in emergency medicine, inpatient medicine, and surgery. Dominican has established 80 clinical sites for the PA students, including all of the Northern California Kaiser Permanente Hospitals, PRIMA medical centers, and the Marin County Community Clinics.

Dr. Maldonado, who joined Dominican in 2015 to develop the program, has been a part of the physician assistance education community for more than 15 years. Prior to entering the field as an Assistant Professor at the MCPHS University PA Program in Boston, she provided clinical education for PA and FNP students in community health centers in California and Massachusetts. Most recently, over the past five years, she has educated PA/MPH students as an Associate Professor at Touro University. She received her PA degree from the Stanford Medical School PA Program in 1983, her Master in Public Health from San Jose State University 1989, and her Doctorate in Health Science from Nova Southeastern University in 2012.

The PA program builds on Dominican’s strengths in the health sciences and natural sciences. In recent years the University has constructed and renovated buildings across campus in support of student success in both the sciences and health sciences.

In 2015, the $12 million renovation of Meadowlands, a Victorian mansion, tripled classroom and laboratory space for nursing, occupational therapy, PA, and public health and health sciences. The 30,000 square foot building contains simulated hospital rooms, classroom space, and labs.

The nearby 35,000 square foot science center houses biology, chemistry, and marine biology labs in which undergraduates work alongside faculty mentors. Since opening the building in 2007, Dominican has added a Master’s degree in Clinical Laboratory Sciences and a Master’s degree in Biological Sciences in association with both the Buck Institute for Research and Aging and BioMarin.

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