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Mississippi State to launch first public university physician assistant program

By BECKY GILLETTE

The first physician assistant training program at a public university in Mississippi is scheduled to begin no later than January 2021.

“The Master of Physician Assistant Studies Program, housed on Mississippi State University’s Riley Campus in Meridian, will prepare clinical practitioners to meet critical needs in rural healthcare,” said Sid Salter, chief communications officer for MSU. “The goal of the program is to increase access to quality healthcare in a drastically under-served state. This program offers Meridian and the broader statewide community the opportunity to address the state’s critical healthcare needs by expanding the number of health care team members with PAs who can perform diagnostic, therapeutic, preventative and health management services.”

PA-Cs (physician assistants-certified) serve under the supervision of doctors of medicine or osteopathy. The Mississippi Board of Trustees of Institutions of Higher Learning approved MSU-Meridian’s plan to provide the new degree program in 2017.

“MSU is grateful for the support of the Mississippi Legislature, the State College Board, local governments in the City of Meridian and Lauderdale County, and the broader healthcare community in the Meridian area as we bring this innovative, necessary program to the citizens these officials serve and represent,” Salter said.

Both the university and healthcare facilities in the area will benefit.

“It will enhance Meridian’s status as a major regional health care hub in east central Mississippi and West Alabama,” Salter said. “Additionally, MSU benefits from tremendous support of local medical facilities with two major hospitals located in Meridian.

Plans are to admit 20 students in the first class and gradually increase the class size to 30.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the number of positions available to PAs to grow by 30 percent between 2014 and 2024. Salter said the median starting salary for PAs was $98,180 in 2015 and will be well into the six-figure range by the first students graduate from the program.

ARC-PA is the accrediting agency that protects the interests of the public and PA profession by defining the standards for PA education and evaluating PA educational programs within the territorial U.S. to ensure their compliance with those standards.

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About Becky Gillette