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College partners with EVMS for physicians’ assistant program

Written By:  Amanda Sikirica, The Flat Hat, October 23, 2014

Seven College students are currently interested in this program, according to Professor Raymond McCoy, Program Advisor for the PA partnership.

“Students in their junior year may apply to EVMS through the EAP,” McCoy said in an email. “They may receive acceptance during the summer after their junior year. They would then know that they [could] go to EVMS PA program for their master’s degree. Students will still complete the senior year here at William and Mary.”

Started in the spring of 2014 and prompted by the Director of Admissions for PA at EVMS, this is the only prerequisite partnership offered for students interested in a PA degree.

Although students of any major may apply, those who have completed the prerequisite courses by the end of their junior year and have at least 500 of the 1,000 hours of direct clinical health-care experience needed are the ideal candidates, McCoy said.

Maya Barnes ’17 has been looking into the PA program at EVMS before this partnership was developed — she was able to make plans to apply through McCoy. Barnes was recently certified as an Emergency Medical Technician and is a new member of the Williamsburg Volunteer Fire Department. She is currently working on the 500 hours of direct healthcare experience requirement. 

“I realize that it would be hard for someone to apply if they didn’t consider becoming a PA until junior or even sophomore year,” Barnes said in an email. “Unlike medical school, direct patient care experience is required to get into PA school, which can be hard to get as an undergraduate, even more so when starting as an upperclassman.”

Sara Minor ’17 also has been planning to be a PA since she started at the College. She echoed Barnes’s warning about how difficult it can be for students to acquire the 1,000 hours of experience needed by the start of the EVMS program.

“Direct patient hours are not just shadowing, they are actually working with doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals to provide care to patients. Well-established programs like EVMS require at least 1,000 hours but the number of hours varies tremendously between programs,” Minor said in an email.

Minor emphasized the important role personal planning played in her own ability to participate in the program, but the EAP has given her secure knowledge that the courses she is taking at the College will count as prerequisites for EVMS.

“Since it is a growing field, there are programs being established across the country at a relatively fast pace and unlike medical school or nurse practitioner programs, physician assistant programs all tend to be a little different from each other. For example, some schools want organic chemistry while others want biochemistry,” Minor said.

Kinesiology major Emma Kennedy ’15 says that if this program had been around earlier in her undergraduate career, she would have participated.

“The average age of students entering PA school at the moment is 27-30, so the opportunity to be able to become a practicing PA before most are even accepted to PA school is invaluable,” Kennedy said in an email.

The College’s Pre-Physician Assistant Advising webpage describes PAs as “health-care professionals licensed to practice medicine with physician supervision, [who] conduct physical exams, provide preventative care, diagnose and treat illnesses, assist in surgery and can write prescriptions.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the projected job growth for PAs is 38 percent from 2012 to 2022 compared to the 11 percent average for all occupations. The average length of PA graduate schools is 28 months, in comparison to four-year medical schools and a residency to become an MD.