PA students sitting at table learning

Master Physician Assistant Program

SMU's Physician Assistant Department prepares graduates for the practice of medicine in diverse communities and with interprofessional teams.

Campus Location


  • On Campus

Program Duration

  • 27 Months

Prepare for a Career in Healthcare

Mission Statement:  The Master Physician Assistant Department at Samuel Merritt University strives to serve the University and the medical community by preparing graduates who are interdependent medical providers, demonstrate commitment to the community and the profession through active leadership, manifest critical and creative thinking, utilize effective communication skills, and who possess the educational foundation for continued growth and development in a changing world of diverse cultures.

Program Learning Outcomes:  All graduates of the SMU PA Program are expected to demonstrate proficiency in medical knowledge, communication skills and teamwork, patient-centered care, professional development and evidence-based practice.

Our PAs experience an inclusive and diverse campus culture that supports student success in a collaborative learning environment. Extensive use of medical simulation technology, a cadaver lab, and opportunities for community service enhance learning.

What We Look For: Core Values

  • Interpersonal/interprofessional communication
  • Teamwork
  • Critical thinking
  • Patient interaction/exposure
  • Responsibility
  • Technical skill
  • Medical knowledge

Featured Events

Program Requirements and Info

Certification Exams, Graduation, and Employment Rates

Physician Assistant National Certification Exam (PANCE) Pass Rates (First-Time Takers Only)

  • CY2023 (2024 PANCE Pass Rate): 81% (3 graduates yet to take the exam as of 4/1/2024)
  • CY2022 (2023 PANCE Pass Rate): 95%
  • CY2021 (2022 PANCE Pass Rate): 87%
  • CY2020 (2021 PANCE Pass Rate): 93%
  • CY2019 (2020 PANCE Pass Rate): 98%

Graduation Rate*

  • CY2019, 94%
  • CY2020, 96%
  • CY2021, 98%
  • CY2022, 89%
  • CY2023. 98%

*%  of Entering Cohort that Graduated Within 150% of Expected Time

Employment Rate in the Profession (within 6 months of graduation)**

  • 2021-2022 graduating class, 98%
  • 2020-2021 graduating class, 100%
  • 2019-2020 graduating class, 89%

**Employment data only includes graduates who responded to SMU Alumni Survey; employment rate not necessarily representative of graduates who did not respond to SMU Alumni Survey.

The MPA is an entry-level master’s degree designed for those who have already earned a Bachelor's degree. Your major can be in any field. 

In addition to fulfilling all prerequisites with a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.8 as calculated by CASPA, competitive applicants will have experience in healthcare, three letters of references including one from a Physician Assistant, writing samples and attend an all-day interview event. You are not required to take the GRE exam. If you are an international medical applicant, you will need to submit your TOEFL score and an evaluation of your academic transcript by a U.S. evaluation service that is a member of NACES.

Approximately144 candidates are interviewed in a typical admission cycle. The program admits a class of 44 students on the University's Oakland campus annually. 

The first four semesters of the MPA curriculum are devoted to basic medical and clinical science. The final three semesters (one year) involve full-time clinical experiences in primary care, geriatric and emergency medicine, and surgery. All courses are required; no transfer or advanced placement credit is offered. All students must be enrolled full-time.

Due to the rigorous nature of the MPA Program, being employed outside the University while enrolled is strongly discouraged. 

SMU PA Program Goals 

Benchmarks and measures of success for current class(es) and three previous cohorts
(Reviewed and updated annually in August)

Goal 1: To admit applicants who will enhance the diversity of our student body and the profession

  • Measures of success: race/ethnicity (black/Hispanic) of matriculated class, metrics include PA admission, SMU campus and Physician Assistant Education Association data.
  • Reviewed and updated: annually during the spring semester by the department chair
  • Benchmarks: 
    • Greater percentage of black/Hispanic PA students at SMU than national program data (PAEA)
    • Proportion of black/Hispanic students equal to or greater than university total (SMU)

Year Admitted — Black/Hispanic SMU, Black/Hispanic PAEA

2021 –--27%, 32%

2020 --- 25%, 11.5%
2019 — 25%, 11.9%
2018 — 14%, 10.7%
2017 — 36%, 10.4% 
2016 — 25%, 10.8%


*SMU Board of Regents goal is 25% black/Hispanic student body

Year Admitted — Black/Hispanic SMU, Black/Hispanic MPA

2022 –--30%, 42%

2021 –- 27%, 32%

2020 --- 25%, 27%
2019 — 25%, 27%
2018 — 25%, 14%
2017 — 23%, 36%


Note: The PA Department consistently exceeds its benchmarks for racial and ethnic diversity relative to PA Education and the University as a whole. A drop in enrollment of black and Hispanic students in 2018 resulted from issues we experienced managing a large pool of applicants. Those issues were addressed and the proportion of black/Hispanic students in our 2019 entering cohort rebounded. 

Goal 2: To graduate knowledgeable PAs through rigorous didactic and clinical education

  • Measures of success include program accreditation status, didactic phase GPA, and PANCE pass rates
  • Reviewed and updated annually in spring and as needed per changes by Department Chair
  • Accreditation
  • Benchmark: maintain the status of accreditation-continuing
  • Measures of success: ARC accreditation actions


1999-2001 accreditation-provisional
2001-2019 accreditation-continuing
2019-2021 accreditation-probation

2021-2029 accreditation-continuing


Didactic Phase GPA

  • Reviewed and updated annually in spring by Curriculum Committee
  • Benchmark: Cohort GPA > 3.2


Class of 2023: average cum GPA 3.53

Class of 2022: average cum GPA 3.58

Class of 2021: average cum GPA 3.46
Class of 2020: average cum GPA 3.51
Class of 2019: average cum GPA 3.42
Class of 2018: average cum GPA 3.33
Class of 2017: average cum GPA 3.44
Class of 2016: average cum GPA 3.31


PANCE Pass Rate


  • CY2022 (2023 PANCE Pass Rate): 95%
  • CY2021 (2022 PANCE Pass Rate): 87%
  • CY2020 (2021 PANCE Pass Rate): 93%
  • CY2019 (2020 PANCE Pass Rate): 98%
  • CY2018 (2019 PANCE Pass Rate): 76%
  • CY2017 (2018 PANCE Pass Rate): 96%

In 2019, the SMU PA Program also experienced its worst PANCE performance in its more than 20-year history. In response, the program faculty conducted a detailed review of PANCE and other performance measures, analyzing six years’ worth of performance metrics. From this review of program data, the department identified several predictors of poor PANCE performance based on didactic phase GPA, end-of-rotation examination performance, and PACKRAT performance. In 2019, we implemented a PANCE success plan that identifies students who might benefit from faculty support based on the metrics above. Faculty support includes student-specific PANCE study plans based on test preparation, literature, and individualized coaching. The first cohort to engage in this support took the PANCE in 2020 and achieved a 98% pass rate (41/42).

Goal 3: To graduate PAs who function as effective members of Interprofessional teams

Measures of Success:

  • Participation in interprofessional learning at SMU 
  • Reviewed and updated annually in summer by Academic Coordinator
  • Benchmark: 100% participation in IPE Patient Safety and Communication Course, spring semester

Note: Since 2016, we have had 100% participation of PA students in the Interprofessional Patient Safety and Communication Course. Students participate in multi-learning simulation scenarios with colleagues from other disciplines and learn from and with each other in this unique learning experience. Other interprofessional opportunities on campus include hotspotting, TEAMStepps training, and project IGNITE.

Goal 4:  To graduate PAs who effectively use data, information, and technology to support medical decision-making

Measures of Success:

  • Preceptor evaluation (beginning CY 2020) 
  • Reviewed and updated annually in spring by the Clinical Coordinator
  • Benchmark: 90% scores of 4 or 5 on preceptor evaluations rating student use of data in support of medical decision making. 

For the CY2020 cohort, students were rated at a 4 or 5 by their preceptors on 386 out of 408 (94.6%) evaluations of rotation performance to date. The program has met its benchmark for CY2020.

For the CY2021 cohort, students were rated at a 4 or 5 by their preceptors on 388 out of 424 (91.5%) evaluations of rotation performance. The program has met its benchmark for CY2021.

For the CY2022 cohort, students were rated at a 4 or 5 by their preceptors on 363 out of 379 (95.8%) evaluations of rotation performance. The program has met its benchmark for CY2022.

Note: This goal was added for the 2020 clinical year in order to support newly-revised Institutional Learning Outcomes. To assess our performance relative to our benchmark, we have added a question to our preceptor evaluation of clinical year students and we are using the data from those surveys to demonstrate our success at achieving this goal beginning in spring of 2021.

Goal 5:  To graduate PAs who engage in effective self-care and wellness strategies to avoid provider burnout

Measures of Success:

  • Semester advising meeting reports
  • Reviewed and updates: Annually in fall semester by the Department Chair
  • Benchmark: 90% of students are able to articulate effective and appropriate measures to assure their own personal wellness in regular meetings with their advisors. 

In 2019 and 2020, 100% of students who addressed wellness were able to articulate effective and appropriate measures to assure their own wellness. In 2021, the advising form was changed to mandate the conversation occurs and is documented at all advising encounters. 

The percentage of students during advising able to articulate a plan for effective self-care and wellness:

Spring 2022- 100%

Summer 2022- 94%

Fall 2022- 100%

Spring 2023- 100%

Note: The issue of provider wellness is an emerging topic in PA education as well as medical fields generally. In recognition of this important issue, Samuel Merritt University has added an Institutional Learning Outcome dedicated to provider wellness and prevention of burnout. Additionally, the ARC-PA is addressing this issue in the latest version of the accreditation standards for PA programs. At the PA program, we will continue to work to ensure this conversation is a regular feature of routine advising meetings. We will add prompts to student reviews and advisor feedback forms that facilitate the conversation. Additionally, we will work with the University and other sources to integrate wellness into our curriculum and student experience, including recommending that students, faculty and staff make regular use of resources available through SMU's BeWell SMU Hub.

Core Values

The faculty of the Samuel Merritt University Physician Assistant (PA) program places significant importance on the admission process. We believe that recruiting high-quality candidates who will actively engage in graduate medical education and honor the responsibility placed on a health care provider is imperative to the success of our graduates and our institution. To this end, the PA faculty has identified core values that will be evaluated in all candidates for admission to our program. These values, in order of importance to PA faculty, are:

  • Interpersonal/Interprofessional Communication
  • Teamwork
  • Critical Thinking
  • Patient Interaction/Professional Exposure
  • Responsibility
  • Technical Skill
  • Medical Knowledge

In our review of your application, we will be looking carefully for evidence demonstrating these values. It is the applicant's responsibility to use the components of the CASPA application including personal statements, supplemental essays, and descriptions of previous experiences to demonstrate the values listed above.

Will the program accept online prerequisites? 
Yes, the program will accept all prerequisite coursework (including labs) completed online from an accredited institution. However, faculty highly encourages labs to be taken in person. 

Will the program accept prerequisites completed as Pass/Fail? 
Yes, the program will accept prerequisite courses completed on a Pass/Fail basis ONLY for Spring/Fall 2020. All completed prerequisites must have a “passing” grade.  

Will the program accept virtual shadowing experience? 
No. The program understands that shadowing experiences with Physician Assistants in clinical settings is difficult and can be an obstacle to applicants. However, we believe it is critical to understanding the role of Physician Assistants to shadow or work with PA’s in person; we will no longer accept virtual shadowing experience.

Will there be any delay in processing of applications? 
No, there are no changes to the PA Department’s application review timeline or process.

Note: Unless addressed above, all other PA admission requirements apply.

Admission Requirements

The PA is an entry-level master’s degree designed for someone who has already earned a baccalaureate with a major in any area. Applicants will be evaluated for admission based upon the following criteria in the context of the SMU PA program’s core values (as listed above). All candidates must meet the following criteria in order to be considered for admission:

  • Baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited institution;  
  • All prerequisites must be completed by the time of application;
  • Minimum cumulative GPA of 2.8 as calculated by CASPA;
  • Minimum science GPA of 2.8 as calculated by CASPA;
  • Minimum of 1000 hours of patient care experience (described below);
  • Three letters of reference. (Preference is given to letters from physicians and physician assistants. Letters from relatives or family friends will not be considered. See below).
  • Casper Test


Our minimum GPA requirement is 2.8 (cumulative and science GPA); preference will be given for applicants that have a GPA of 3.2 or higher. Competitive applicants will have a GPA of 3.4 or higher.

Letters of Reference

Three letters of reference are required. One letter should be from a medical provider (PA, NP, DPM, MD, or DO) who has directly observed you in your patient care role. Competitive applicants will have at least one letter of reference from a PA. Letters from personal friends, family, or patients will not be accepted.

Patient Care Experience

We define patient care experience as paid or volunteer work in a clinical setting that involves hands-on patient care where you are directly responsible for the patient’s well-being. Examples of patient care experience include, but are not limited to: medical assistant, certified nursing assistant, emergency medical technician, behavioral health technician, phlebotomist, paramedic, athletic trainer, clinical pharmacist, dietician, medical scribe, physical therapy aide, radiology technician, registered nurse, respiratory therapist, sonographer, etc. In order to diversify our cohorts of students, we also accept work experience as a patient advocate, medical interpreter, social worker, or community health worker. Patient care experience does not include front office or administrative work.

All reported Patient Care Experience will be evaluated based upon the following criteria:

  • Certification
  • Specific duties performed
  • Quality of patient interaction
  • Total number of hours accrued
  • Setting(s)
  • Patient population served

We value both diversity and continuity of clinical experiences. Preference will be given to applicants who have demonstrated continuity of patient care experience and have accrued at least 1000 hours in the same patient care position. Competitive applicants will have 2000-4000 hours of direct patient care experience.

Principles of Holistic Admission 

The SMU PA Department conducts a holistic process of admission as defined by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) to enhance the diversity of our student body. Our process is modeled after the core principles of holistic admissions articulated by the AAMC:

1) Selection criteria are broad-based, linked to the mission and goals of the University, and promote diversity as an essential element of University success,
2) A balance of experiences, attributes, and traditional academic metrics is applied equally to all candidates in order to create a diverse interview and class pool,
3) Admission staff and department representatives consider each application.

MPA Admission Review

In accordance with principle one of the core principles of a holistic review process published by the AAMC, the admission process outlined here is consistent with University mission and program goals and uses a broad array of selection criteria to create a diverse cohort. Consistent with core principle three of the AAMC principles of holistic review, admission staff and program faculty collaborate in a review of applications that occurs in three stages:

Stage 1 — Preliminary review, conducted by admission staff—Candidates who have met the minimum requirements defined above are selected for departmental application review.

Stage 2 — Initial departmental review—Candidates are selected for detailed application review. Personal attributes and demographic factors are considered in addition to traditional metrics in this stage but do not contribute to the detailed application review or scoring of the application (see below for further detail). The intent of this step is to help create the most diverse pool of qualified applicants possible for detailed faculty review and scoring and to assist in tracking student performance in the program. This step is consistent with core principle four of the AAMC principles of holistic review.

Stage 3 — Detailed departmental review—Faculty review the entire application and assign a score based upon a balance of traditional academic metrics (GPA and health care experience) and personal attributes and experiential factors (see below for further detail). This step is consistent with core principle two of the AAMC core principles of a holistic application review. 

Traditional academic metrics used in this review include overall and science GPA and clinical experience. GPA in the last 60 units of the academic record may be used in stage two for candidates whose overall record may not provide a complete and current picture of academic performance and potential. 

Preference is given to students who demonstrate high overall and science GPA and/or greater clinical experience based on time in service (hours) and the level of training and responsibility of the clinical experience as determined by the program. Preference is also given to those with experience shadowing a PA. 

Personal attributes and demographic and/or experiential factors given preference in this review include measures of socioeconomic status and disadvantage (defined by answers given to socioeconomic status questions within the CASPA application), veteran status, and time since undergraduate degree. 

Preference is given to those from economically or environmentally disadvantaged backgrounds—evidence includes families that were economically disadvantaged or received public assistance, from designated rural/ health professional shortage areas (HPSA), candidates who represent the first generation in their family in higher education or for whom English is not their primary language, candidates who attended high schools with high proportions of students receiving free or reduced-price lunches or from which a low proportion of graduates went to college. Additionally, preference is given to veterans, and those who received their baccalaureate degree more than 10 years ago. 

Based upon the extensive review and scoring of applications as described above, candidates are chosen for interviews. 


From the process described above, we will generate an interview pool of  approximately 144 candidates for interviews in a typical year. Communication skills, emotional intelligence, professional practice, academic readiness, ethical orientation, and fit for the programwill be assessed during the interview experience. The interview is mandatory, all day and includes multiple activities to assess each applicant.

The admission interview day will consist of multiple activities which include: group meeting with the department chair, two one-on-one faculty/alumni interviews, student panel interview, a team-based activity, a video essay, and a campus tour. 

Students will be selected for admission based on all scores and feedback generated during the application review and interview process described above. The program will make final decisions by March 1, and formal notifications will be sent by the admissions office thereafter. Students will be informed of  admissions decisions by one of the following notifications: offer of admission, waitlist with position number, or denial of admission. If you have not received a formal notification from the Office of Admission by March 16, please contact the Office of Admission. 

Students who need disability accommodations may request them by emailing the director of the Disability Resource Center. Please give as much notice as you can to allow time to set them up.

All prerequisite courses must be completed with a grade of “C“ or better. All prerequisites must be completed by the time of application.

A minimum of 16 semesters or 24 quarter units of biological sciences are required. Biological sciences courses must include classes in: anatomy, physiology, microbiology and an additional biology elective.  See additional details below.

For applicants in the quarter systems who have taken Human Anatomy, Human Physiology, and Microbiology courses with a lab and are short in units: an advance course may be able to fulfill the requirement for the subject. Please contact the Admission Office for more information.

Prerequisite Requirement, Semester or Quarter Units

Human Anatomy*, introductory or advanced course is acceptable, no lab required. A combined course in A&P can be used to meet the requirement only if two combined A&P courses are presented, 4.0 semester or 6.0 quarter units

Human Physiology *Introductory or advanced course is acceptable, no lab required. A combined course in A&P can be used to meet the requirement only if two combined A&P courses are presented, 4.0 semester or 6.0 quarter units

Microbiology*, introductory or advanced course is acceptable, no lab required, 4.0 semester or 6.0 quarter units

Biology Elective, any area of the biological sciences, 4.0 semester or 6.0 quarter units

Statistics, introductory or advanced course is acceptable, 3.0 semester or 5.0 quarter units

Inorganic/General Chemistry*, we will accept a standard Inorganic Chemistry course. Or the first course of a General Chemistry course series. We require chemistry courses at the level a biology or premed major would complete, 4.0 semester or 6.0 quarter units

Organic Chemistry*, we will accept a standard Organic Chemistry course or the second course of a General Chemistry course series. We require chemistry courses at the level a biology or premed major would complete, 4.0 semester or 6.0 quarter units

*Strong preference will be given to those who have completed these courses within the past 5 years. This recency recommendation is less stringent for those currently working in the health care field.

GRE Scores

Results from the GRE exam are not required for admission into the MPA program.

International Medical Graduates

International medical graduates and students educated abroad may apply for admission. Regardless of previous professional training and academic degrees earned, Samuel Merritt's MPA curriculum must be completed in its entirety; Samuel Merritt University’s MPA program does not offer advanced placement. 

  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is required of all International Medical Graduates.

All international academic transcripts must be evaluated by a U.S. evaluation service that is a member of the National Association of Credential Evaluations Services (NACES) for degree, course content, semester unit equivalencies and science and cumulative GPAs prior to the application deadline. The evaluation must be sent to CASPA as part of the application.  Information on NACES may be found at For all applicants educated outside the United States it is strongly recommended that they complete one semester (15 units) of graduate or undergraduate coursework at a U.S. college or university. In addition, all other admission requirements must be met.


The need for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is required of all international medical graduates and scores should be submitted with the application. The need for a TOEFL for other applicants will be assessed based on information provided by applicants on their application. If the TOEFL is required, applicants must achieve a minimum score of 100 (Internet Based Test). Scores must be submitted during the application process.


The program will require applicants to complete the Casper test beginning 2024; the test needs to be completed prior to the September 1 deadline for consideration. Your Casper results do not need to be included in your application, the PA program will access your results directly in Acuity Insight.Casper is an online, open-response situational judgment test. It asks what you would do in a tough situation, and more importantly, why. This helps determine behavioral tendencies of applicants pursuing people-centered professions. The results of the Casper test will be included in our holistic admissions review.

Acceptance in Transfer Policy
Visit this link to find the university's Acceptance in Transfer Policy.

Application Fees
Application fees are payable to the Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA). Samuel Merritt University does not charge an additional admission fee.

Non-Refundable Deposits and Fees
Students offered admission pay a non-refundable tuition deposit of $350 to secure their seat in the class.

Application fees and tuition deposits are non-refundable, whether or not the student withdraws in the first week of the term.

Policies and procedures for refunds of tuition and fees can be found in the Student Handbook and Catalog.

Tuition Calculator
There is a tuition calculator that provides a detailed summary of annual tuition, all fees for the program, and a cost estimator for the entire program.

Tuition Calculator

Graduate education to become a Physician Assistant is a significant, important, and valuable investment in your future. The Physician Assistant program at Samuel Merritt University is proud to offer a variety of ways to assist in funding your education including scholarships, work-study, and student loans. The first step in applying for financial aid at SMU is to submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

The PA program SMU offers scholarships and an assortment of resources for funding opportunities outside of the program. Most scholarships are awarded on the basis of financial need. A limited number are awarded for academic merit. Scholarships for Physician Assistants include:

  • Sharon Clark Diaz
  • Employee Campaign
  • Marshall Steele, Jr.
  • Hitchcock Heydman
  • Henry & Bernice Bigge
  • Faculty Scholarship
  • Alumni Scholarship
  • Elks of the Year
  • William Breslin

WICHE – Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education.  WICHE grants are available for students from certain geographical areas of the country.  More information is available at the WICHE website, Financial Aid Package at Samuel Merritt University is personalized to you.  We develop your financial aid package using guidelines set by the Department of Education and the estimated costs of each program.

In addition to the cost of tuition, books and fees, financial aid can also cover other indirect educational costs, so the total cost of attendance includes:

  • Books and Supplies
  • Room and Board
  • Transportation
  • Personal Expenses
  • Other fees as determined by program/college

Once you receive your financial aid package, check this budget against your actual living expenses and we can make necessary adjustments to meet your needs.

Detailed information about financial aid, budgeting, total cost and application processes are available on the webpage.

We realize that the financial aid process can be difficult and overwhelming.  We are here to help.  Financial Aid staff can assist with budgeting, understanding your awards and understanding the process.  The SMU staff is committed to each and every prospective student and enrolled student.  We have an open door policy and are available via phone or email. or 510-879-9200


Sequential Course Curriculum     Course Descriptions

The first 15 months (four semesters) of the curriculum are devoted to the preclinical studies of the basic medical and clinical science necessary for practice as a physician assistant. The final 12 months (three semesters) of the curriculum are full-time clinical experiences in primary care, medicine and surgery. All courses are required, no transfer credit is accepted and no advanced placement is offered. All students must be enrolled on a full-time basis.

The Thirteenth Annual Report on Physician Assistant Education published in 1996 examines the curricula of all entry-level Masters PA programs by hours of instruction in the areas of basic medical and behavioral science, physical assessment, and clinical medicine during the first year of the program. In the basic sciences, the average hours of instruction were 451.0; Samuel Merritt's curriculum provides 405 hours. Behavioral science instruction averaged 182.4 hours; Samuel Merritt includes 195 hours. Didactic medicine accounted for 341.8 (meeting) hours of instruction and Samuel Merritt provides for 390 hours. Samuel Merritt allots 48 hours for the instruction of special skills which is the national average. Overall, the arrangement of instructional hours as designed by Samuel Merritt compares favorably with the nationally reported figures for master's degree programs.

Clinical Year

The clinical phase us composed of eight required and two elective rotations, as well as a pre-clinical preparation course and a summative evaluation course. Rotations are completed in inpatient and outpatient settings, long-term care centers, and emergency departments.

* Required rotations include:

  • Family Medicine

  • Internal Medicine

  • Pediatrics

  • Geriatrics

  • Women’s Health

  • Surgery

  • Emergency Medicine

  • Behavioral Medicine

As part of the clinical year, students have training in resume writing, risk management and malpractice insurance, California practice regulations, obtaining a PA license, certification and NPI number, and other topics related to the transition from program to practice. Students complete Basic Life Support (BLS) certification and N95 mask fitting early in the clinical year.  

Please Note: While the PA program is eager to work with students to create a training experience that supports the students' individual career ambitions and will collaborate with students who present opportunities for clinical training sites, PA students are in no way required to solicit or identify their own clinical sites or preceptors (ARC accreditation standard A3.03).

PA Program Competencies (ARC ACcreditation Standard A3.12g)

Medical Knowledge (PLO1)

  1. Demonstrate mastery of principles of anatomy, physiology, and pathophysiology necessary for entry-level clinical practice as a physician assistant
  2. Demonstrate competency in obtaining an adequate medical history necessary to evaluate, diagnose and formulate a patient-centered treatment plan for patients with commonly encountered medical, surgical and behavioral conditions
  3. Demonstrate competency in physical examination skills necessary to evaluate, diagnose and formulate a patient-centered treatment plan for patients with commonly encountered medical, surgical and behavioral conditions
  4. Understand pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic principles of patient health management and wellness
  5. Demonstrate the application of medical knowledge and critical thinking necessary to develop an accurate differential diagnosis in patients presenting with common medical, surgical, and behavioral conditions
  6. Apply current health care screening and maintenance recommendations for patients across the lifespan

Communication Skills & Teamwork (PLO2)

  1. Develop and demonstrate effective, professional and ethical interpersonal and communication skills
  2. Demonstrate maturity, flexibility, and emotional stability appropriate for working in the health care setting
  3. Demonstrate competency in oral and written communication that meet the medical and legal standards established for health care professionals
  4. Demonstrate their ability to work effectively with other healthcare professionals

Patient-Centered Care (PLO3)

  1. Understand the influence of culture, biases, and attitudes on health and health care practices
  2. Demonstrate empathy, respect, and appropriate sensitivity to perspectives, values, and cultural norms that are other than one's own
  3. Access and utilize evidence-based recommendations and guidelines for patient-centered clinical practice
  4. Effectively demonstrate skills in obtaining patient history that addresses the unique preferences, values, needs, and cultural/spiritual norms of each patient and his/her family, and develop patient management plans that are in concordance with those elements
  5. Work effectively with other members of the health care team, including the patient and family, to provide care that is responsive to the patient's needs
  6. Utilize patient education and counseling techniques, including information technology, that are appropriate and responsive to a patient's age, preferences, values, culture, and norms

Professional Development (PLO4)

  1. Conduct themselves in a professional manner in all academic and clinical settings
  2. Demonstrate excellent interpersonal skills, reliability, responsibility, empathy, respect, and integrity
  3. Demonstrate professional relationships with other health care providers
  4. Demonstrate a commitment to ongoing professional development and ethical practice
  5. Demonstrate culturally appropriate care in a diverse patient population

Evidence-Based Practice (PLO5)

  1. Locate, appraise, and integrate evidence from scientific studies related to their patients' health
  2. Critically evaluate medical literature using their knowledge of study design and statistical methods to inform their clinical practice
  3. Identify and evaluate current medical literature to enhance their medical knowledge
  4. Identify and evaluate current medical literature used in clinical decision making related to best practice standards

The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc. (ARC-PA) has granted Accreditation-Continued status to the Samuel Merritt University Physician Assistant Program sponsored by Samuel Merritt University. Accreditation-Continued is an accreditation status granted when a currently accredited program is in compliance with the ARC-PA Standards.

Accreditation remains in effect until the program closes or withdraws from the accreditation process or until accreditation is withdrawn for failure to comply with the Standards. The approximate date for the next validation review of the program by the ARC-PA will be June 2029. The review date is contingent upon continued compliance with the Accreditation Standards and ARC-PA policy.

The program’s accreditation history can be viewed on the ARC-PA website at

PA students are expected to develop a robust medical knowledge base and requisite clinical skills, with the ability to appropriately apply knowledge and skills, effectively interpret information, and contribute to patient-centered decisions across a broad spectrum of medical situations in all settings. The following technical standards, in conjunction with the academic standards, are requirements for admission, promotion, and graduation. The term “candidate” refers to candidates for admission to PA school as well as current PA students who are candidates for retention, promotion, or graduation.

These requirements may be achieved with or without reasonable accommodations, the cost of which will be borne by the institution. These standards should not serve as a deterrent to any candidate with disabilities who desires to pursue medical education. Candidates with disabilities bring unique perspectives which contribute to the diversity of the student population and will create a diverse health care workforce of culturally competent practitioners who can meet the needs of their patients. Candidates with disabilities are encouraged to contact the Disability Resource Center to begin a confidential conversation about possible accommodations necessary to meet these standards. Fulfillment of the technical standards for graduation from PA school does not guarantee that a graduate will be able to fulfill the technical requirements of any specific clinical position.

Observational Skills

A candidate must acquire information as presented through demonstrations and experiences in foundational sciences. In addition, a candidate must be able to evaluate a patient accurately and assess relevant health, behavioral and medical information.  Candidates must be able to obtain and interpret information through comprehensive assessment of patients, correctly interpret diagnostic representations of patient physiologic data, and accurately evaluate patient conditions and responses. 

Communication Skills

Candidates must exhibit interpersonal skills to enable effective caregiving of patients, including the ability to communicate effectively in English with all members of a multidisciplinary health care team, patients, and their families in person and in writing. Candidates must be able to clearly and accurately record information and accurately interpret verbal and non-verbal communication.

Patient Care Skills

Candidates must perform physical examinations and diagnostic maneuvers. A candidate should be able to perform or direct basic laboratory tests (urinalysis, wet mount, etc.), diagnostic and therapeutic procedures (venipuncture, placement of catheters and tubes, lumbar puncture, suturing, etc.), and interpret electrocardiograms and imaging studies.  A candidate must be able to provide or direct general care and emergency treatment for patients, and respond to emergency situations in a timely manner; examples of emergency treatments reasonably required of a physician assistant include, but are not limited to, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, administration of intravenous medications, application of pressure to arrest bleeding, opening obstructed airways, and performance of obstetrical maneuvers.  Candidates must meet applicable safety standards for the environment and follow universal precaution procedures.

Intellectual-Conceptual, Integrative, and Cognitive Skills

Candidates must be able to learn through a variety of modalities, including but not limited to, classroom instruction; laboratory, including cadaver lab; small group, team and collaborative activities; individual study; preparation and presentation of reports; and use of computer technology.  A candidate must effectively interpret, assimilate and understand the complex information required to function within the PA school curriculum including, but not limited to, the ability to comprehend three-dimensional relationships and understand the spatial relationships of structures; effectively participate in individual, small group, and lecture learning modalities in the classroom, clinical and community settings; learn, participate, collaborate and contribute as a part of a team; synthesize information both in person and via remote technology; interpret causal connections and make accurate, fact-based conclusions based on available data and information; formulate a hypothesis, investigate the potential answers and outcomes; and reach appropriate and accurate conclusions. A candidate must be able to find sources of knowledge and acquire the knowledge through various modalities, and possess the ability to be a life-long learner.

Behavioral Attributes, Social Skills and Professional Expectations

A candidate must be able to exercise good judgment, promptly complete all responsibilities attendant to the diagnosis and care of patients, and develop mature, sensitive, and effective relationships with patients. The skills required to do so include the ability to effectively handle and manage heavy workloads, function effectively under stress, adapt to changing environments, to display flexibility, and to learn to function in the face of uncertainties inherent in the clinical problems of patients. Candidates are expected to exhibit professionalism, personal accountability, compassion, integrity, concern for others, and interpersonal skills including the ability to accept and apply feedback and to respect boundaries and care for all individuals in a respectful and effective manner regardless of gender identity, age, race, sexual orientation, religion, disability, or any other protected status. Candidates should understand, and function within, the legal and ethical aspects of the practice of medicine, and maintain and display ethical and moral behaviors commensurate with the role of a physician assistant in all interactions with patients, faculty, staff, students and the public. Interest and motivation throughout the educational processes are expected of all candidates.

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Our students participate in simulations and other hands-on learning opportunities in state-of-the-art facilities.


Our PA faculty are dedicated to training students to become physician assistants who help their patients live stronger and healthier lives. Our faculty are recognized experts in clinical reasoning, ethics, and the best practices in teaching and learning of graduate health professions students.


Tana Summers

MS, PA-C Department Chair Assistant Professor Program Director
Julia Stevens

Julia Stevens

MPA, PA-C Director of Clinical Education Assistant Professor
Lauri Paolinetti

Lauri Paolinetti

MPAS, PA-C Assistant Professor

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