First class of 30 will reap rewards of two years of planning, development
Nobody is happier about the introduction of the physician assistant program at Mississippi College than Dr. Robert Philpot.
“It was like God was looking at my to-do list and checking it over,” said the chairman of the new department. “It’s been a very exciting 18 months preparing for our first-ever classes. Building this program from the ground floor has been rewarding.”
The first of its kind in Mississippi, MC’s physician assistant program will work in conjunction with the University of Mississippi Medical Center and federal clinics to help solve the state’s vast healthcare needs. A PA is a healthcare professional trained and licensed to practice medicine with the limited supervision of a physician. As part of their comprehensive responsibilities, physician assistants conduct physical examinations, diagnose and treat illnesses, assist in surgery and prescribe medications.
“Mississippi College’s unveiling of the state’s first physician assistant program is well-timed to address the region’s healthcare challenges for years to come,” said MC president Lee Royce. “The program adds further recognition to our already excellent reputation in premedical and nursing education.”
A two-year project in the making, the physician assistant program will officially open May 24 with 30 students. The brand-new 10,000-square-foot Medical Education Center will be home to the program and features classrooms, mock exam rooms, faculty and staff offices, conference room and a state-of-the-art video recording system.
Since making the move to Clinton from South University, where he served as chairman of the institution’s physician assistant program, Philpot says the Central Mississippi area has greeted the fledgling program with open arms. He envisions a program at MC that places graduates in physician-directed teams in medically underserved areas.
“I’ve been impressed by the warm welcome we’ve received by everyone in the medical community,” he said. “Our biggest challenge with the program is educating Mississippians about physician assistants and what they can do. There are less than 100 in the state and they all received their degrees elsewhere. We want people to understand how valuable physician assistants can be to healthcare.”
Studies show the quality of care given by physician assistants matches that of nurse practitioners and physicians in comparable situations, with high levels of patient satisfaction.
Here’s how the MC program will work: typically, students enter with a bachelor’s degree and prerequisites such as anatomy, physiology, microbiology and organic chemistry. They spend the first 12-15 months in classrooms and labs studying several disciplines, from emergency medicine to psychology. The second year is spent engaging in clinical rotations.
Finding a job shouldn’t be a problem for new graduates of the program. The U.S. Bureau of Labor projects the demand for physician assistants will climb by 27 percent in the next five years. Forbes magazine ranks the profession as the fourth fastest-growing in the nation.
“Many students, especially women, choose a physician assistant career over becoming a doctor,” Philpot said. “It offers a lot of flexibility in the career path.”
Graduates of the MC program will take the Physician Assistance National Certification Examination prior to licensure.
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