The University Of Nevada School Of Medicine Is Launching A PA Study Program: Here Is What That Means

Courtesy of the University of Nevada School of Medicine

The University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine, in partnership with Renown Health, recently announced a new Physician Assistant (PA) Studies Program to meet the growing need for more healthcare professionals locally and statewide.

What is a Physician Assistant? Click Here

The first class of 24 PA students begins instruction on July 2, 2018 at the University of Nevada, Reno Redfield Campus. The 25-month long full-time master’s degree program is the first such program in the Nevada System of Higher Education and supports the Educated and Healthy Citizenry priority outlined in Governor Brian Sandoval’s Strategic Priorities.

Students will take academic and clinical courses, clinical skills training and supervised clinical practice, resulting in a Master of Science in Medicine Physician Assistant Studies degree. Upon completion, PAs are qualified to conduct physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, write prescriptions, perform and assist in surgeries.

6_15_2018 PA Launch Event 049
University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine officials hosted a press conference and public open house to launch the new Physician Assistant (PA) Studies Program and introduce the program to the community. From left to right: Sy Johnson, executive vice president and chief operations officer, Renown Health; Doug Merrill, M.D., MBA, MA, executive vice president, chief medical and academic officer, Renown Health; Amanda Wong, inaugural PA student, Brian Luaf, PA-C, UNR Med PA Studies Program founding program director; Allison Stephens, Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) regent; Ryan Wong, inaugural PA student; Marc Johnson, Ph.D., president, University of Nevada, Reno, Thomas L. Schwenk, M.D., dean, University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine. UNR Med photo by Brin Reynolds

Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about the program:

What is the Physician Assistant Studies Program?

The University of Nevada, Reno Physician Assistant (PA) Studies master’s degree program is a 25-month, full-time academic professional degree program that includes basic science and clinical coursework, clinical skills training and supervised clinical practice. Program graduates will expand access to high-quality healthcare services in Nevada. The PA Studies Program was designed to offer students from across Nevada -particularly those with extensive experience in health care, including military veterans, emergency medical technicians, and paramedics – the opportunity to obtain an advanced degree in medicine. The program is intended to provide an alternative career path for returning students who have interests in health care other than what is currently offered at the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine. Upon successful completion of the program (anticipated graduation of the first class is August 2020), 24 new graduates will be prepared to immediately enter Nevada’s healthcare workforce and make an immediate impact on Nevadans’ access to medical care.

 

Why is the Master of Physician Assistant Studies Program important?

The University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine’s PA Studies program is the first such program in the Nevada System of Higher Education, and it supports the Educated and Healthy Citizenry priority outlined in Governor Brian Sandoval’s Strategic Priorities. The program’s purpose is to increase the number of providers in the Nevada primary care workforce who are trained specifically to address healthcare shortages statewide. A particular focus of the program is on attracting and training qualified candidates from rural and urban underserved communities in Nevada where they may return to practice.

The program will prepare students for a career as a PA in order to increase access to health care in Nevada. The curriculum includes 13 months of classroom instruction followed by 12 months of preceptor-supervised clinical training.

The UNR Med PA Studies Program mission is to train flexible and committed clinicians dedicated to strengthening health care in their communities. The vision of the program is to expand and enhance access to health care for all Nevadans through PA workforce development and advocacy for the profession.

 

Who is a Physician Assistant and what does a PA do?

A PA is a nationally certified and state-licensed medical professional. PAs are medical professionals

who diagnose illness, develop and manage treatment plans, prescribe medications, and often serve as a patient’s principal healthcare provider. With thousands of hours of medical training, PAs are versatile and collaborative. PAs practice in every state and in every medical setting and specialty, improving healthcare access and quality.

The PA profession was founded on, and remains committed to, the concept of team practice. The physician-PA team is effective because of the similarities in PA and medical school curriculum and clinical training.

 

When is the Physician Assistant Studies Program available at UNR Med?

The University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine Physician Assistant (PA) Studies Program has been granted Accreditation-Provisional from the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc. (ARC-PA). The program enrolls its first class of 24 students on July 2, 2018. Accreditation-Provisional is an accreditation status granted when the plans and resource allocation—if fully implemented as planned—of a proposed program demonstrate the program’s ability to meet the ARC-PA Standards. The program will be located at the University of Nevada, Reno Redfield Campus in south Reno.

 

How many Physician Assistants are employed in Nevada?

According to the 2016 National Commission on Certification of Physicians State by State Report,

Nevada statistics include:

  • Number of Certified PAs: 775
  • Percent of Total PAs in U.S.: 0.7%
  • Rate per 100,000 Population: 25.7
  • Rank*: 42 of 51 states

*Rank based on rate per 100,000 population.

  • Top PA Practice Areas by Percent:

21.4% – Family Medicine/General Practice

16.3% – Other

15.8% – Emergency Medicine

13.8% – Surgical Subspecialities

6% – Dermatology

 

Who is overseeing the Physician Assistant Studies Program?

After 20 years practicing in the northern Nevada community, Brian S. Lauf, PA-C, joined the

University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine as the founding program director of its Physician Assistant (PA) Studies Program. His interest in developing a PA program in northern Nevada goes back to the early 1990s. Growing up in Reno, Lauf’s career in medicine began as an EKG technician at the Reno VA hospital. Shortly thereafter he joined the United States Air Force, becoming a medic, where he was introduced to the PA profession. After his military service, Lauf returned home to northern Nevada where he attended and graduated from Truckee Meadows Community College and then transferred to the University of Nevada, Reno where he studied biology. Prior to graduating from the University of Nevada, Reno, Lauf was accepted into the inaugural class of the developing PA program at Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland, Oregon, where he went on to graduate with honors in 1997. After graduation, Lauf returned to northern Nevada where he simultaneously entered practice and continued his education by completing a Master of Physician Assistant Studies – Family Medicine from the University of Nebraska.

The UNR Med PA faculty also includes: Julie Thomas, PA-C, academic coordinator; Patrick Enking, PA-C, director of clinical education; Danielle Kempton PA-C, director of assessment and research; Maria Valencik Ph.D., basic science coordinator; Stephanie Wright, M.D., medical director; and Rubina Hackbusch, admissions and recruitment coordinator. Alexis Hutchings and Nicole Preston are the administrative assistants for the program.

 

How was the Master of Physician Assistant Studies program developed?

 The Nevada System of Higher Education’s Board of Regents approved UNR Med’s request for a new Master of Physician Assistant Studies degree on June 10, 2016. The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, the University of Nevada’ Reno’s regional accreditation agency, provided final degree approval. The School of Medicine joined forces with key healthcare partner, Renown Health to provide program development, start-up and clinical training. Longtime supporter William N. Pennington Foundation has provided critical facility, equipment and technology support.

 

How can people learn more about the Master of Physician Assistant Studies program?

Information and updates about the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine’s PA Studies

Program is available at: med.unr.edu/physician-assistant. Contact the PA Studies program office at: (775) 784-4843 or paprogram@med.unr.edu.

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