The Physician Assistant profession in the United States originated in the mid 1960's at Duke University followed quickly by programs at the University of Colorado and the University of Washington. Although the original "Duke model" was designed to train assistants to the physician in such highly technical areas as renal dialysis and hyperbaric chamber therapy, it quickly became apparent that such highly skilled members of the health care team had wider applicability. Within one decade, most states had enacted enabling legislation for physician assistant practice and the number of educational programs grew to about 50. Many of the early PA's practiced in primary care in underserved areas, which continues to be an important focus for PA's today. Over the ensuing years, the profession has grown in numbers, respect and practice arenas.
PA's are highly qualified health professionals who have been prepared, through a demanding academic and clinical curriculum, to practice medicine as an agent of a physician. PA's gather and evaluate medical data and participate in the process of clinical decision-making, diagnosis and therapeutic management. They take medical histories, perform physical examinations, order and interpret laboratory and diagnostic tests and develop treatment plans. Typically they provide diagnostic and therapeutic patient care in virtually all types of clinical settings. In specialty settings the PA may assist in surgery or in complex diagnostic procedures, participate in patient rounds and provide perioperative care. In 48 states, including California, physician assistants have authority to write prescriptions. As a skilled member of the health care team, the PA improves patients' access to medical care and enhances the physician's effectiveness.
The Role of Physician Assistants
The role of the PA varies considerably across the spectrum of medical practice and is largely determined by the location, setting and specialty of the practice in which the PA is employed. PA's can be found in solo and group practices, in ambulatory clinics, health maintenance organizations, emergency departments and academic medical centers. They work in primary and tertiary care centers from family medicine to neurosurgery. Our educational process is designed to give the student a broad knowledge of basic science and its application to medical practice as well as exposure to all major clinical disciplines. Samuel Merritt's generalist approach insures that our graduates will be prepared to work with physicians in all clinical disciplines and in all settings.
The Physician Assistant Department is accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). The ARC-PA is the only accrediting body for physician assistant programs and is sponsored by the American Academy of Physician Assistants, the Association of Physician Assistant Programs, the American College of Surgeons, the American Academy of Family Practice, the American College of Physicians, the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Samuel Merritt University is accredited by the regional accrediting association, the Senior Commission of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
The policies of the PA program are designed to support the integration of classroom knowledge and clinical experiences necessary for the practice of medicine as a new health professional. As such, faculty expect the adult learner to demonstrate behaviors consistent with their role as a new colleague. Academic performance and professional conduct as demonstrated by integrity, ethics, personal accountability, appearance and interpersonal skills are an integral part of faculty assessment. Deficiencies in any of these areas are brought to the attention of the student by the faculty as quickly as possible in both oral and written form. Failure in either or these areas may result in dismissal from the program.
Grades during the preclinical year are as follows:
A: 90 - 100
B: 80 - 89
C: 70 - 79
D: 60 - 69
Grades during the clinical year are:
Satisfactory: 70 - 100
A PA student who earns a grade of "D" in any course will be suspended until the course can be successfully completed. A student earning an "F" in any course is subject to dismissal. A student earning a second "D" or an "F" in any course will be dismissed from the program. A PA student receiving an "unsatisfactory" on one clinical rotation may be permitted to repeat the rotation, however failure to receive a satisfactory in that rotation or receipt of a second unsatisfactory in any rotation will result in dismissal from the program.