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SMU Physician Assistant program receives $1.23 million Federal Grant

Samuel Merritt University

October 14, 2010
MEDIA ADVISORY

SMU Physician Assistant program receives $1.23 million Federal Grant

(OAKLAND, Calif., October 14, 2010)  Samuel Merritt University Master of Physician Assistant (MPA) program has received a $1.23 million grant from the Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to be used for program expansion.  The scholarship funds will be used for development of a Health Professional Shortage Area track (HPSA Track) within the PA program.  The HRSA grant will provide support for 28 additional students over the next five years.

"We are very pleased to have received the HRSA grant.  In light of healthcare reform, it not only increases the number of healthcare providers but it helps assure that they will be where they are most needed," says Sharon Diaz, SMU President.  "A greater number of PAs will have a direct impact on the number of future primary care providers in our state and in Hawaii.  With fewer medical students pursuing careers in primary care, the PA program will help fill the gap created by a shortage of primary care physicians.  These kinds of funds are win-win."

Under the leadership of Dr. Michael De Rosa, MPH, PhD, PA-C, Chair of the MPA program, the grant will help meet the growing need for cost-effective, accessible healthcare for a rapidly expanding population in 13 underserved counties in Northern California and in Hawaii.  Students from these areas who express an interest in providing primary care in their home environments after graduation are eligible to receive $22,000 per year for two years through the HRSA funding.  The students will complete the didactic phase in Oakland and all required clinical rotations in the targeted HPSA area (California or Hawaii).

"With this grant we are able to expand the program without putting further pressure on our local rotations," explains Dr. De Rosa.  "We can take people from underserved areas, where research shows that students will be will be more likely than others to work in their home areas after graduation.  They will also have a chance to build their professional network hopefully leading to job opportunities in the target region."

The HPSA Track is expected to expand the MPA enrollment by eight students each year (from 36 to 44) by actively recruiting four qualified students from 13 medically underserved counties in Northern California and four from Hawaii. 

"All of Hawaii suffers from a shortage of healthcare professionals, yet the state has only 200 practicing PAs and no programs that train physician assistants," said Dr. De Rosa.  "Given the incidence of obesity and other chronic diseases on the islands, the people of Hawaii have a significant need for the kind of front-line primary care that PAs provide."

The HPSA Track applicants will need to commit to returning to these underserved communities for clinical rotations.  According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, nearly all 50 states will have a shortage of primary care physicians by the year 2020.  Samuel Merritt University is one of nine schools in California to offer a PA program.  There are only 148 other PA programs in the U.S.

Samuel Merritt University, located in Oakland, California, has been educating health science practitioners who are committed to making a positive difference in diverse communities since 1909.  Nearly 1,400 students are enrolled at SMU, with campuses in Oakland, Sacramento, San Francisco and San Mateo.  The University offers an undergraduate degree in nursing; master's degrees in nursing, occupational therapy, physician assistant; and doctoral degrees in physical therapy and podiatric medicine. For more information visit www.samuelmerritt.edu.