Inaugural Graduation

Photo by Robert Steckmest, Strategic Marketing and Communications

First Class of the School of Medicine Physician Assistant (PA) Program

The first class of the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine Physician Assistant (PA) program is graduating.

The Master of Medical Science PA program is the only one in the Kansas City area. The closest accredited PA programs are at Wichita State University in Kansas and Missouri State University in Springfield. The UMKC program differs from those and many other PA programs by being administered through a school of medicine, where future physicians and PAs learn side by side. This training model mirrors the team-based approach of PAs working under the supervision of a physician to improve coordination of care and patient outcomes.

The same initial group of 14 who started in 2014 are all graduating May 23 along with Doctor of Medicine, Master of Science in Anesthesia, Master of Science in Bioinformatics, Master of Health Professions Education, Graduate Certificate in Clinical Research and Graduate Certificate in Pediatric and Congenital Cardiovascular Perfusion students.

“The majority of the students (PA students) have secured positions, primarily in Missouri or the Kansas City area,” said program director Kathy Ervie, who is also a practicing PA. “They are very service oriented and are excited to start caring for patients.”

The UMKC School of Medicine PA Class of ’16 volunteered at the Sojourner Health Clinic and the Kansas City Free Eye Clinic, and many plan to continue their volunteer work when they begin their career. One student, Chelsea Light, was recognized the week before graduation as a UMKC Vice Chancellor’s Honor Recipient. Faculty and staff nominate students based not only their academic achievement, but their volunteer service to the campus and community.

Because of their general medical background, PAs have flexibility in the types of medicine they can practice. PAs perform physical examinations, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret lab tests, perform procedures, assist in surgery, provide patient education and counseling and make rounds in hospitals and nursing homes. All 50 states and the District of Columbia allow PAs to practice and prescribe medicine.

PAs were created in the mid-1960s due to a shortage of primary-care physicians. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts PAs will be the one of the most in-demand professions, expected to grow 30 percent from 2014 to 2024. In 2010, it was the No. 2 best job, according to Money magazine.

There are 20 UMKC PA students in the Class of ’17 and 19 in the Class of ’18.

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