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Combined B.S. Health Sciences/M.S. Physician Assistant Studies

Combined B.S. Health Sciences/M.S. Physician Assistant Studies Checksheet

Location: Philadelphia University Main Campus


By offering a strong foundation of natural science courses combined with human sciences, psychology, and unique clinical experiences, the Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences program prepares graduates for entry into the professional phase of the physician assistant program.

The mission of the M.S. in Physician Assistant Studies is to provide students with the foundation of knowledge, technical skills and critical thinking necessary to competently perform the functions of the physician assistant profession in an ethical, empathetic manner working with a licensed practicing physician. A secondary focus is to prepare students to provide comprehensive medical services to diverse underserved patient populations in inner-city and rural locations.

Health Sciences Learning Goals and Outcomes

Health sciences students will be able to apply scientific and psychological concepts to the clinical setting by:

  • Identifying key anatomic structures and physiologic processes.
  • Comparing and contrasting normal and abnormal psychological development.
  • Translating medical terminology in medical writing.
  • Constructing a paper and/or presentation on a scientific or medical topic.

Students will explain the various factors that influence human health by:

  • Applying concepts of preventative health to patient scenarios.
  • Identifying ways in which disease can affect mental and physical function.
  • Identifying ways in which psychosocial factors can affect health.

Students will apply principles of professional, respectful, ethical behavior to clinical scenarios by:

  • Identifying and address the ethical considerations in a clinical situation.
  • Demonstrating respectful professional behavior to patients and providers that they encounter in a clinical setting.  

Students will compare and contrast medical professionals and settings in order to make future choices regarding career or advanced medical training by:

  • Interviewing a health care provider in the physician assistant field.
  • Identifying influential clinical experiences from observation in a clinical setting.
  • Matriculating into the professional phase of the physician assistant studies program. 

Physician Assistant Studies Graduate Outcomes:

  • Accurately elicit a medical history and perform an appropriate physical examination based on patient presentation.
  • Formulate an appropriate differential diagnosis based on history and physical exam findings.
  • Appropriately recommend and interpret common diagnostic studies based on history and physical exam findings.
  • Diagnose and manage acute and chronic medical and psychological disorders based on clinical presentation and diagnostic testing results for patients across the lifespan.
  • Develop and implement appropriate treatment plans for common disorders including medications, surgery, counseling, therapeutic procedures, rehabilitative therapies, or other therapeutic modalities.
  • Perform common laboratory studies and clinical procedures.
  • Screen for diseases, assess for risk factors of common disease, and initiate and recommend health promotion and disease prevention measures.
  • Provide patient education and counseling for common medical and psychological illnesses, common medical procedures, therapeutic regimens, adherence, and health maintenance.
  • Recognize when a problem is beyond the scope of the PA provider and refer the patient to the supervising physician, appropriate specialists, and/or community resources.
  • Effectively document medical information in a variety of formats.
  • Demonstrate competence in written, oral, and electronic forms of communication with patients, families, and other members of the health care team.
  • Perform a medical literature search, critically evaluate the relevance of the medical literature, and apply evidence based medicine principles to clinical practice.
  • Show sensitivity regarding the emotional, cultural and socioeconomic aspects of the patient, the patient’s condition, and the patient’s family.
  • Conduct themselves in a professional courteous manner and with the highest ethical and legal standards expected of a health care professional and consistent with the role and responsibilities of a physician assistant.
  • Continue to develop lifelong learning skills through on-going self-reflection, active engagement, and professional development.

Profession Overview

A physician assistant (PA) is a medical professional who practices medicine with the supervision of a licensed physician. PAs provide a wide variety of medical services traditionally performed by physicians. The concept for the profession originated in the early to mid-1960s as a way to enhance the provision of medical care to people residing in medically underserved areas. The care of the underserved remains an ongoing goal of the profession.

Physician assistants work in all 50 states, in a wide range of medical settings including physicians’ offices, hospitals, clinics, emergency departments, military and Veterans Administration installations, nursing homes, industrial health centers and correctional institutions. They work in conjunction with a physician and have a wide array of responsibilities including taking medical histories, conducting physical examinations, ordering or performing lab and other diagnostic tests, synthesizing data to make a proper diagnosis, developing a treatment plan, performing health-related counseling, performing various procedures such as casting, suturing and assisting in surgery. PAs can prescribe medication in all states.

Accelerated B.S. in Health Sciences to M.S. in Physician Assistant Studies
This option is designed for students who have no or few college credits (less than 16 credit hours). Students who have in excess of 15 college credits completed as dual enrollment while a high school student, AP, or IB credits will be required to work with the advising staff and the program to identify the courses which it is most beneficial to transfer into the program.  A maximum of 15 credits will be accepted and students are not permitted to advance beyond their cohort.  It is designed as a five-year accelerated course of study and includes complete undergraduate and graduate degrees. The first six semesters (three years) make up the pre-professional phase and are designed to academically prepare students for PA training and provide a comprehensive general education. The pre-professional phase consists of medically-related science and psychology prerequisite courses along with all of the components of the Hallmarks Core program.

Progression criteria for the pre-professional phase includes:

  • Maintaining minimum grade point averages of 3.25 cumulative and 3.25 core GPA
  • Earning a C or better in all core courses
  • Obtaining a minimum of 200 hours of direct patient contact
  • Obtaining state certification as an emergency medical technician or certified nursing assistant
  • Acquiring 3 required letters of references
  • Completing a personal essay
  • Obtaining approval of the PA Program Admissions Committee

Matriculation requirements to be admitted to the professional phase of the program:

  • Meet all pre-professional phase requirements for progression as listed above
  • Complete all pre-professional phase coursework
  • Meet our technical standards or have written approval from the PA Program for accommodations as listed below
  • Pass a criminal background check
  • Pass a child abuse clearance
  • Pass drug abuse screening tests
  • Meet the CDC and Philadelphia University’s requirements for vaccination and tuberculosis screening

Physician Assistant Studies Program Description
The physician assistant studies program provides a comprehensive academic experience that stresses the practical application of current medical theory. The program faculty members are actively practicing health care providers with a great depth of knowledge and experience. Students are exposed to the clinical environment throughout their education with patient contact even during the classroom or didactic portion of the program. The physician assistant studies program is fully accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA).

The typical student in the physician assistant studies program will spend approximately $3,000-7000 on medical equipment, books, malpractice liability insurance and other program-related fees for both professional-phase years combined. This does not include tuition, housing, food, living expenses, travel costs, health center fees, graduation fees and pre-professional phase book costs. All of these costs, except book costs, are listed elsewhere in the University catalog.

While this is a full-time, day program, the clinical or practical portion may involve some night and weekend hours. Admission criteria, procedures and technical standards are listed in the Physician Assistant Studies Program Information Booklet available from the Office of Admissions and at www.PhilaU.edu.

The professional phase is 25 months of continuous study and includes the didactic level that consists of four semesters of classroom and laboratory work in basic and applied medical science, and the clinical level that consists of ten rotations at a variety of clinical sites such as hospitals and medical offices. Students must complete all didactic-level courses before they can enter the clinical level. The first semester of the professional phase is composed of mandatory foundation courses. The remaining courses in the professional phase are graduate courses.

After successful completion of the fall semester of year four (the first professional-phase semester), students will receive a Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences and be eligible to participate in the May Commencement ceremony. Upon completion of the full five-year program, graduates will receive a Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies, will be eligible to sit for the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination, and will be able to participate in the Commencement ceremony.

Please see the Physician Assistant Studies (M.S.) catalogue listing for a complete description of the professional phase of the program. 

Didactic Education
Students in the professional phase complete 12 months of didactic training spread over 4 semesters beginning in July of their fourth year.  The student will complete significant classroom, laboratory, and small group medical education at the Philadelphia campus of the PA Program.  Students must maintain a 3.0 GPA each semester, a cumulative GPA of 3.0, and obtain no more than one grade below B- to stay in good academic standing in the professional phase of the program.

Clinical Education
Upon successful completion of the didactic level of the professional phase, the PA student proceeds into the clinical education level of the program. The PA student will spend 50 weeks in clinical rotations (ten 5 week blocks) before completing the course of study for physician assistant studies. These experiences most likely will involve night and weekend hours.  The clinical rotations are 5 week blocks in the areas of primary care, hospital medicine, pediatrics, surgery, behavioral health, women’s health and emergency medicine, and are designed to expose the PA student to patient care in a variety of settings. The student is directly involved with the evaluation and management of patients to the extent that the clinical preceptor or supervisor is comfortable with the level of knowledge and skills of the PA student. Typically, the student spends at least 36-60 hours per week in the clinical setting, attending to patients and partaking of continuing medical-education seminars.

During the elective, students can spend more time in one of their rotation specialties or gain experience in other settings such as neonatology, HIV, correctional medicine, urology, orthopedic surgery, cardio­ thoracic surgery and others. Continuity of care and regular feedback from clinical faculty are the hallmarks of these experiences.

PA Program Technical and Professional Standards

For admission to the program, candidates must:

  • Have the academic ability to learn a large volume of technically detailed information and be able to synthesize and use this data to solve complex clinical problems. This information must be acquired in a short and intense period of study, which requires well-developed study skills and a high level of motivation, and may require considerable personal and financial sacrifice.
  • Possess the emotional maturity and stability to approach highly stressful human situations in a calm and rational manner.
  • Have the ability to effectively communicate with ill patients from a wide diversity of cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds in an empathetic and sensitive fashion.
  • Have well-developed oral and written communication skills in the English language.
  • Have comfort with the role of a dependent practitioner operating under the supervision of a licensed physician, while simultaneously feeling comfortable with the large amount of responsibility that goes along with the delivery of patient care in sometimes remote locations.
  • Display strong ethical integrity consistent with working as a health care professional.
  • Have sufficient physical abilities in the areas of sensory function (vision, hearing and touch sensation), hand-eye coordination, and neurologic and muscular coordination and control to competently perform the technical activities that are a critical part of the program and profession, including:
    • Physical examinations of male and female patients, which include visual inspection, listening to heart and lung sounds with a stethoscope, examination by touch to gather information such as skin temperature and texture and other maneuvers.
    • Performance and interpretation of diagnostic studies such as blood tests, EKGs and X-rays.
    • Surgical assisting, which can involve activities such as control of bleeding and suturing (wound closure by placing stitches).
    • Performing common procedures such as applying casts, suturing, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), venipuncture (placing needle into a vein to collect a blood sample) and starting an intravenous access line.

Please see the Physician Assistant Studies (M.S.) catalogue listing for a complete description of the professional phase of the program.