Physician Assistant examing male

Master of Physician Assistant

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

Campus Location

Format

  • On Campus

Program Duration

  • 27 Months

Deadlines

Prepare for a Career in Health Care

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.

Accreditation: At its June 2019 meeting, the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc. (ARC-PA) placed the Samuel Merritt University Physician Assistant Program sponsored by Samuel Merritt University on Accreditation-Probation status until its next review in June 2021.

Probation is a status of temporary accreditation conferred when a program does not meet the Standards and when the capacity of the program to provide an acceptable educational experience for its students is threatened.

Once placed on probation, a program that fails to comply with accreditation requirements in a timely manner, as specified by the ARC-PA, may be scheduled for a focused site visit and/or risk having its accreditation withdrawn.

Specific questions regarding the Program and its plans should be directed to the Program Director and/or the appropriate institutional official(s).

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

At its June 2019 meeting, the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc. (ARC-PA) placed the Samuel Merritt University Physician Assistant Program sponsored by Samuel Merritt University on Accreditation-Probation status until its next review in June 2021.

Probation is a status of temporary accreditation conferred when a program does not meet the Standards and when the capacity of the program to provide an acceptable educational experience for its students is threatened.

Once placed on probation, a program that fails to comply with accreditation requirements in a timely manner, as specified by the ARC-PA, may be scheduled for a focused site visit and/or risk having its accreditation withdrawn.

Specific questions regarding the Program and its plans should be directed to the Program Director and/or the appropriate institutional official(s).

A Message From the Program Chair

The Samuel Merritt University Master Physician Assistant Program has a 20-year history of excellence in PA education. During our most recent self-study and accreditation review process, issues pertaining to the clinical year and how we collect and analyze data regarding our students’ supervised clinical practice experiences were raised. These issues, as well as a few logistical and administrative program issues, led to a decision to place the SMU PA Program on a probationary accreditation status. This is a temporary designation allowing the program time to comply fully with accreditation standards and expectations. The SMU PA Program remains an accredited program during its probationary period.

The SMU PA Program immediately engaged the resources of the University which is fully supportive of our efforts. Together the Department faculty and University administration will work to address issues raised in this review and restore our accreditation status to “Accreditation-Continuing.” We have every confidence that we will achieve this outcome together. In the interim, the SMU PA Program remains a strong, experienced program and faculty and will continue our efforts to train the best PA’s possible.

Sincerely,

Mike DeRosa, PhD, PA-C
Chair, Master of Physician Assistant program
MDeRosa@samuelmerritt.edu
510.879.9280

Certification Exams, Graduation, and Employment Rates

Certification Pass Rates (First-Time Takers Only)
2018 Pass Rate (PANCE)      78%
2017 Pass Rate (PANCE)      96%
2016 Pass Rate (PANCE)      95%

Graduation Rate*
2016-2017 Cohort      93%
2015-2016 Cohort      91%

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

Employment Rate in the Profession (within 6 months of graduation)**
2016-2017 graduating class      94%
2015-2016 graduating class     100%
2014-2015 graduating class     100%

**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.

Core Values

The faculty of the Samuel Merritt University Physician Assistant (PA) program place 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.

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):

  • 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.
  • Healthcare experience as described below
  • Three letters of reference. Strong preference is given to letters from physicians and physician assistants. Letters from relatives or family friends will not be considered.
Health Care Experience

The PA program defines health care experience as paid and/or volunteer work in the clinical setting that reflects the core values listed above and primarily involves patient contact and/or exposure. This experience can be gained through a variety of occupations including, but not limited to: medical assistant (back office), EMT, paramedic, certified nursing assistant, phlebotomist, scribe, registered nurse, and medic, among many others. In order to diversify our classes, we also accept work experience as a patient advocate, medical interpreter, or community health worker.

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 four 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
4) Race and ethnicity are considered as part of a broader mix of personal attributes, experiential factors, and demographics

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 — Departmental initial 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 create the most diverse pool of qualified applicants possible for detailed faculty review and scoring. This step is consistent with core principle four of the AAMC principles of holistic review.

Stage 3 — Detailed faculty 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 exceptional academic records based upon overall and science GPA and/or exceptional clinical experience based on hours and the level of training and responsibility of the clinical experience as determined by the program. 

Personal attributes and demographic and/or experiential factors recognized in this review include: race/ethnicity, measures of socioeconomic status and disadvantage (defined by answers given to socioeconomic status questions within the CASPA application), veteran status, 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 candidates from populations that are underrepresented in medicine, veterans, and those who received their baccalaureate degree more than 10 years ago. Consistent with a mandate of the Board of Regents of Samuel Merritt University, preference is also given to those from Hispanic and black/African American backgrounds in combination with the other non-traditional factors identified (core principle four of the AAMC principles of holistic review). 

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

Most competitive applicants will have a GPA over 3.2, a minimum of 1,000 hours of previous experience in health care and 50 hours shadowing a physician assistant. We acknowledge that applicants may have diverse health care experiences. It is the applicant’s responsibility to address how their particular experiences demonstrate the aforementioned core program values in the application. This can be accomplished in the job duties, personal statement, and/or supplemental essay question sections of the application.

Interviews

From the process described above, we will generate an interview pool of 144 candidates for in-person interviews. Communication skills, academic and professional potential, understanding of academic and professional integrity, critical thinking skills and knowledge of the SMU PA program and PA profession will be assessed during the interview experience. The interview is mandatory, all day and held on campus.

The admission interview day will consist of six activities: group meeting with the department chair, two one-on-one faculty interviews, student panel interview, a simulation 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. Students will be notified by March 1 of admissions decisions which will be one of the following: offer of admission, waitlist with position number, or denial of admission. 

Students who need disability accommodations may request them by emailing Elisa Laird-Metke, Disability Resource Center director. Please give as much notice as you can to allow time to set them up.

SMU PA Program Goals (Standard A3.14b)

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), gender, age at matriculation (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
2019 — 25%, 11.9%
2018 — 14%, 10.7%
2017 — 36%, 10.4% 
2016 — 25%, 10.8%
2015 — 29%, 12.2%

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

Year Admitted — Black/Hispanic SMU, Black/Hispanic MPA
2019 — NA%, 25%
2018 — 25%, 14%
2017 — 23%, 36%
2016 — 24%, 25%
2015 — 18%, 29%
2014 — 18%, 18%

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

  • Accreditation status
  • 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

Data
1999-2001 accreditation-provisional
2001-19 accreditation-continuing
2019-21 accreditation-probation

Didactic Phase GPA

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

Data
Class of 2020: available January 2020
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

Data
Class of 2018: 78% first-time pass rate
Class of 2017: 96% first-time pass rate
Class of 2016: 95% first-time pass rate

Note: At its June 2019 meeting, the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc. (ARC-PA) placed the Samuel Merritt University Physician Assistant Program sponsored by Samuel Merritt University on Accreditation-Probation status until its next review in June 2021. 

Probation is a status of temporary accreditation conferred when a program does not meet the Standards and when the capacity of the program to provide an acceptable educational experience for its students is threatened. 

Once placed on probation, a program that fails to comply with accreditation requirements in a timely manner, as specified by the ARC-PA, may be scheduled for a focused site visit and/or risk having its accreditation withdrawn. 

Specific questions regarding the Program and its plans should be directed to the Program Director and/or the appropriate institutional official(s).

The SMU PA Program continues to make progress in its efforts to restore our accreditation status to “Accreditation-Continuing.” We have, to date, met all reporting deadlines. The University has provided support in the form of additional personnel and an accreditation consultant to facilitate this work. The PA Program will be reviewed again in 2021 with a resolution of probationary status in July of that year. 

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 will take the PANCE in 2020.

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 Clinical Coordinator
  • Benchmark: 90% scores of 4 or 5 on preceptor evaluations rating student use of data in support of medical decision making. 

Data
Available spring 2021

Note: This goal has been 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 will use 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. 

Data
Available spring 2021.

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 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. 

  • A regionally accredited bachelor’s degree with the appropriate pre-requisite courses completed by time of application

  • Minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0; competitive applicants will have above a 3.2

  • Minimum undergraduate science GPA of 3.0; competitive applicants will have above a 3.2

  • Health care experience, paid or volunteer: 1,000 hours of related direct patient contact, and a minimum of 50 hours shadowing a physician assistant

  • Three letters of reference from healthcare providers; one must be from a physician assistant

  • Writing samples as described in the CASPA application

  • In-person interview

2018 PA Admitted Student Profile
Applicants1865
Admitted61
Seats Available44
Overall GPA Range
(range for middle 50% of admitted students)
3.23-3.55
Science GPA Range
(range for middle 50% of admitted students)
3.22-3.63

 

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.

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 3.0 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.
 

Health Care Experience

The MPA program defines health care experience as direct, "hands-on" patient contact that is paid and/or volunteer and reflects the core values listed above.  This experience can be gained through a variety of paid or volunteer work includ­ing, but not necessarily limited to: EMT, paramedic, certified nursing assistant, medical assistant, phlebotomist, scribe, registered nurse, medic, etc.

Most competitive applicants will have a minimum of 1,000 hours of related direct patient contact in addition to a minimum of 50 hours shadowing a Physician Assistant. We acknowledge that applicants may have diverse health care experiences.  It is the applicant’s responsibility to address how their particular experience incorporates the core program values in the application.  This can be accomplished in the job duties and/or personal statement.

Interviews

Upon receipt of your verified application from CASPA, the review process will begin. Approximately 144 individuals will be invited to interview and a class of 44 will be accepted. Academic potential, personal integrity and maturity, interpersonal skills and knowledge of the health care system in the United States are all part of the evaluation process and weigh heavily in the final admission decision.  The interview is a mandatory, all day, on campus interview. 

Students who need disability accommodations may request them by emailing Elisa Laird-Metke at drc@samuelmerritt.edu. Please give as much notice as you can to allow time to set them up. Further information about the Disability Resource Center can be found here

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 www.naces.org. 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.

TOEFL

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.

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, www.wiche.edu.Your 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.

https://www.samuelmerritt.edu/admissions/affording-smu/financial-aid-and-scholarships

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.

finaid@samuelmerritt.edu or 510-879-9200

 

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.

For more information on the courses, read the Course Descriptions.

Preclinical Studies

Fall I
PA601 + LAB  Human Gross Anatomy + Cadaver Lab  5.0
PA603  Microbiology and Infectious Disease  3.0
PA615 + LAB  Physical Diagnosis  4.0
PA617 + LAB  Interpersonal and Interprofessional Communication  2.0
PA690  Introduction to Evidence Based Practice (online)  2.0

Spring I
PA602  Physiology and Mechanisms of Disease I  3.0
PA620  Medicine I  4.0
PA660  Integrating Seminar I  1.0
PA608  Pharmacology I  3.0
PA646  Behavioral Medicine  3.0
PA630  Ethics & Professionalism (online)  2.0

Summer I
PA604  Physiology and Mechanisms of Disease II  3.0
PA621  Medicine II  4.0
PA609  Pharmacology II  3.0
PA628 LAB  Diagnostic Methods (Radiology)  1.0
PA631 LAB  Interpretation of EKG  1.0
PA624  Geriatrics  2.0
PA661  Integrating Seminar II  1.0

Fall II
PA622  Pediatrics  3.0
PA623  Obstetrics and Gynecology  3.0
PA625  The Role of the PA in General Surgery  3.0
PA626  Emergency Medicine  3.0
PA629 LAB  Clinical Skills  1.0
PA662  Integrating Seminar III  1.0
PA627  Health Policy and Systems of Healthcare  2.0
PA605 LAB  Clinical Simulations  1.0

Spring II
PA607  Pre-Clinical Preparation  3.0
PA606  Summative Evaluation  3.0

Clinical Rotations January through December (Spring II-Summer II-Fall III)
Clinical Year

The 12-month-long clinical phase is composed of seven required and two elective rotations. Students are also required to complete a supervised clinical practice experience in Behavioral and Mental Health during their clinical year. Rotations are completed in inpatient and outpatient settings, long term care centers, and emergency departments.* Required rotations are:

PA680 - Family Medicine Clerkship  2.0
PA681 - Internal Medicine Clerkship  2.0
PA682 - General Surgery Clerkship  2.0
PA683 - Pediatric Clerkship  2.0
PA684 - Geriatric Clerkship  2.0
PA685 - Obstetrics and Gynecology Clerkship  2.0
PA686 - Emergency Medicine Clerkship  2.0
PA687 - Elective I  2.0
PA688 - Elective II  2.0
Total units  18.0

* Order of rotations in clinical year will vary.

As part of the clinical year, students return to the program for seminars in resume writing, risk management and malpractice insurance, California practice regulations, and other related to the transition from school to practice. In addition, students complete ACLS early in the clinical year.

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.

Why Choose SMU for PA?

Our program offers personalized attention that prepares you for national certification.

95%

PANCE First-Time Pass Rate from 2001-19

SMU's PA certification pass rates exceed the national average.

No. 1

Best Health Care Job

U.S. News & World Report Best Jobs rankings.

$113k

Median Annual Salary for PAs in California

Becoming a PA can be a financially rewarding career path.

An Inside Look at the PA Program

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

Faculty

Our PA faculty are dedicated to training students to become occupational therapists 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.

SMU Perspectives