Weber State launches new master's program for future physician assistants
OGDEN, Utah — Weber State University now offers a master’s degree in physician assistant studies, with the first class of students starting coursework in January 2023.
Several years in the making, the newly accredited program offers students an integrated, hands-on curriculum focused on primary care and adult hospital medicine that will help prepare them for careers in healthcare.
“We’re beyond excited for our students and our community,” said Sandra Stennett, program director and chair of the Department of Physician Assistant Medicine.
Stennett said the healthcare industry is facing a primary care physician shortage in the coming years that could threaten patients’ access to care.
“With thousands of hours of intensive medical training, PAs can ultimately help fill that gap and improve healthcare access and quality,” she said.
The new program falls within the Dr. Ezekiel R. Dumke College of Health Professions and is housed in a renovated building on the WSU Ogden campus that offers state-of-the-art classrooms, simulation labs and study spaces.
Graduates from the PA program are eligible for national board certification and, once certified, can apply for a license to practice medicine.
Stennett said the program has already interviewed and selected their first cohort of 20 students from a strong undergraduate pool at Weber State and other schools around the country. An additional 20 students will be admitted in January 2024 for coursework, while the 2023 cohort participates in supervised educational practice experiences throughout the region.
“For several years before this program launched, many Weber State graduates were applying and getting into PA schools around the country,” said Yasmen Simonian, dean of the health professions college. “This prompted us to explore the possibility of having our own PA program to keep those students here.”
Stennett said one of the program’s goals is to be part of the solution to the healthcare workforce shortage by increasing the number of qualified medical providers in the local community. She’s hopeful that graduates of the PA program will stay in Utah.
“People often stay where they’re trained, even if they’re from out of state,” she said.
Faculty in the PA program said they’re also committed to recruiting more students who identify as Hispanic or Latino – a demographic that makes up roughly one-third of Ogden’s population – who can then go on to work as providers in underserved communities.
“I’m so very excited to add the PA program to the rest of our excellent health professions programs,” Simonian said. “It’s going to have such an impact as we graduate more students and get them plugged into the healthcare workforce and help meet the needs of our community.”