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Graduate School » Health Sciences » Physician Assistant Studies (MS)

Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies

The Physician Assistant program is an intense, full-time, 27-month cohort curriculum with a total of 98 credit hours. A Master of Science degree in Physician Assistant Studies is awarded upon completion of the curriculum and fulfillment of University of Saint Francis Graduate School requirements.

You and your cohort will spend the first 15 months primarily in the classroom, obtaining a foundation of medical knowledge in the areas of basic biomedical science and clinical skills.

Problem-based learning techniques are introduced early in the curriculum and used exclusively in the third and fourth semesters in medical diagnosis and therapeutics courses.

During the last 12 months of the program, you will be assigned to clinical rotations, spending a minimum of 40 hours per week working with a preceptor in settings such as physician offices, clinics, extended care facilities and hospitals.

Your entire cohort will complete a core of rotations in areas of family medicine, emergency medicine, internal medicine, general surgery, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, psychiatry, geriatrics/long-term care and an elective. Then, you may choose from a series of rotations in the areas of trauma/surgery subspecialty, hospital-based care, family practice or internal medicine.

For more detailed information please refer to the Graduate Catalog.

Program Outline 

First Summer Semester

  • PAC 510 BIOMEDICAL SCIENCES (6 Credit Hours)
    • Anatomical studies concentrate on an understanding of human neuroanatomy with an emphasis on the peripheral somatic and autonomic nervous systems. Students study the muscles, bones, vessels, organs, and tissues of the body and the nerve paths supplying them. Students study the physiologic control systems of the human body including both nervous and endocrine mechanisms. Medical microbiology is emphasized with the topics of controlling microbial growth, immunology, epidemiology, and infection. Human molecular genetics is studied as it applies to medicine and disease. Prerequisite: enrollment in the PA program
  • PAC 520 FOUNDATIONS OF PA STUDIES (4 Credit Hours)
    • Physician Assistant professional issues are introduced, including history of the PA profession, PA practice rules and regulations, hot topics, and professionalism. Instruction is provided in medical interviewing and documentation including the systemic evaluation and reporting of patient problems. Students will explore diagnostic tests and procedures including basic ECG, radiology and medical laboratory testing.
      Prerequisite: enrollment in the PA program
  • PAC 530 PHARMACOLOGY FOR PAs (2 Credit Hours)
    • Students are introduced to the concepts of pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics. Emphasis is given to the classes of commonly used drugs, general principles of clinical use, drug pathways, effects and side effects of drugs, and the mechanism of action in the body. Prerequisite: enrollment in the PA program

First-Year Fall Semester

  • PAC 540 PHARMACOLOGY II (2 Credit Hours)
    • This course deals with the practical aspects of pharmacology as they relate to the primary care Physician Assistant. Representative generic and brand-name drugs will be discussed as well as their therapeutic indications. Information about prescription writing as well as indications and contraindications for various therapies will be outlined. Prerequisite: PAC 530 Pharmacology for PAs
  • PAC 545 CLINICAL MEDICINE FOR PAs (2 Credit Hours)
    • This course has two principal elements. The first is to introduce the student to the broad concepts of medical care emphasizing health promotion, disease prevention, nutrition, lifestyle, and the psychosocial aspects of disease. The second is to begin surveying the etiology, pathophysiology, diagnosis, and treatment of some common diseases and disorders found in each body system. Prerequisite: PAC 520 Foundations of PA Studies
  • PAC 550 PATHOPHYSIOLOGY (2 Credit Hours)
    • Students will study the biological basis for disease. Emphasis is given to the disruption of homeostasis and how that is manifested in certain disease states. Topics include altered cellular and tissue states; fluid, electrolyte, and acid-base balance; genetic impact on disease; infection and inflammation; and disturbances in cellular proliferation. Prerequisite: PAC 510 Biomedical Sciences
    • This course introduces students to the methods of inductive and deductive reasoning used to solve medical problems. Students learn how to assimilate patient data and ask questions that generate additional significant data. Using the skills of patient history taking and physical examination, differential diagnoses are derived and a medical diagnosis is determined. Treatment and follow-up plans are established based on the diagnosis. Prerequisite: PAC 520 Foundations of PA Studies

First-Year Spring Semester

  • PAC 560 MEDICAL DIAGNOSTICS (6 Credit Hours)
    • This course addresses the clinical problems encountered by the physician assistant and the professional role of the PA in primary care, as well as surgical and specialty care of adults, children, and geriatric populations. The learning method is a problem-oriented approach, which merges critical thinking with clinical skills to arrive at a differential diagnosis. Students consider both acute and chronic cases as well as the prevention of disease through detection, education, and preventive treatment. Community and public health concepts include a model of public healthcare delivery and payment systems, epidemiology, infectious disease control, community health assessment, and community health services. Prerequisite: PAC 555 Clinical Problem Solving 102
  • PAC 565 MEDICAL THERAPEUTICS (6 Credit Hours)
    • This course addresses the clinical problems encountered by the physician assistant and the professional role of the PA in primary care, as well as surgical and specialty care of adults, children, and geriatric populations. The learning method is a problem-oriented approach, which challenges students to seek diverse treatment options for a particular disorder, understand the consequences of each option, and develop an optimal treatment plan. The course allows for extensive study of certain drug therapies as well as physical therapies, psychological therapies, nutritional therapies, and various methods of alternative medicine. Co-requisite: PAC 560 Medical Diagnostics
  • PAC 570 RESEARCH METHODS FOR PAs (1 Credit Hour)
    • This course provides a basis of research that can be done by physician assistants as they practice. There is an overview of the topics and methods relative to the profession. Students learn how to formulate a problem, review the literature on selective topics, design a research project, and plan how a project can be funded and completed. Co-requisites: PAC 560 Medical Diagnostics and PAC 565 Medical Therapeutics

Second Summer Semester

  • PAC 580 MEDICAL DIAGNOSTICS II (5 Credit Hours)
    • Using a problem-oriented approach, this course is a continuation of PAC 560. Prerequisite: PAC 560 Medical Diagnostics
  • PAC 585 MEDICAL THERAPEUTICS II (5 Credit Hours)
    • Using a problem-oriented approach, this course is a continuation of PAC 565. Co-requisite: PAC 580 Medical Diagnostics II
  • PAC 590 MEDICAL ETHICS (1 Credit Hour)
    • This course provides a study of medical issues in relationship to various cultures and belief systems. Discussion involves contemporary medical dilemmas, historical perspective, and societal demands placed upon the healthcare system. Co-requisites: PAC 580 Medical Diagnostics II and PAC 585 Medical Therapeutics II 103
  • PAC 615 MASTER’S PROJECT I (1 Credit Hour)
    • This course provides an opportunity for students to carry out a major project that contributes to their professional development and supplements the body of knowledge within the profession. This involves identification of a problem or question, review of current knowledge and planning for materials and methods used in the research process. The project will be either an application of evidence-based medicine or original research. It is expected that this work continue throughout the entire clinical year. Prerequisite: PAC 570 Research Methods for PAs

Clinical Year Course Descriptions

  • PAC 613 CLINICAL YEAR SEMINAR (2 Credit Hours)
    • This course is designed to continue to enhance problem-solving skills in a clinical setting by presenting problem-oriented cases. It also transitions the PA student into clinical practice with readings and discussions on health policy and professional issues. This course runs concurrently with the clinical experiences. Prerequisite: completion of the PA didactic year curriculum
  • PAC 616 MASTER’S PROJECT II (1 Credit Hour)
    • This course is a continuation of PAC 615 Master’s Project I. Students implement the proposed research method, collect data and begin analysis. Prerequisites: completion of the PA didactic year curriculum and PAC 615 Master’s Project I
  • PAC 617 MASTER’S PROJECT III (1 Credit Hour)
    • This course is the completion of the series of project courses begun in the fall semester. Students complete the analysis of collected data and derive a conclusion and summary. The project is presented to peers, professional groups, and/or submitted for publication. Prerequisites: completion of the PA didactic year curriculum and PAC 616 Master’s Project II
  • PAC 621-629 CLINICAL EXPERIENCE I-IX (5 Credit Hours Each)
    • These clinical experiences are medical rotations in which students are assigned with a physician preceptor or other appropriate preceptor who supervises the clinical experience. Students work with the preceptor for a minimum of 40 hours per week primarily engaging in direct patient care. All students must complete a core of clinical experiences that includes rotations in family medicine, internal medicine, emergency medicine, general surgery, and an elective. Students also must have experiences with a pediatric, an obstetrician/gynecologist, and a psychiatry preceptor in a long-term care setting. Beyond the required core, students may choose to complete one of four clinical tracks in the areas of trauma/surgery subspecialty, internal medicine, family practice, or hospital care. The equivalent of at least one rotation during the clinical year will be with an underserved population. If the mandated experiences are not met satisfactorily during core rotations, students will be assigned supplemental activities during all or part of one or more elective or track rotations to generate the additional experiences.

Clinical Experience

The core rotations for all students are:

  • Family Medicine (5 weeks)
  • Internal Medicine (5 weeks)
  • General Surgery (5 weeks)
  • Emergency Medicine (5 weeks)
  • Elective (5 weeks)
  • Pediatrics (2.5 weeks)
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology (2.5 weeks)
  • Psychiatry (2.5 weeks)
  • Geriatrics/Long-Term Care (2.5 weeks OR incorporated with another experience)

After the core rotations, students will choose two additional experiences in one of the following tracks: Trauma/Surgery Subspecialty, Family Practice, Hospital-Inpatient Care, or Internal Medicine.

Choice of Trauma/Surgery Subspecialty Track Rotations (5 weeks each) may include:

  • Outpatient Clinic/Occupational Medicine
  • Surgery Subspecialties
  • Trauma Emergency Medicine
  • Medical Office Orthopedics
  • Radiology

Choice of Family Practice Track Rotations (5 weeks each) may include:

  • Pediatrics (additional 2.5 weeks)
  • Geriatrics
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology (additional 2.5 weeks)
  • Psychiatry (additional 2.5 weeks)
  • Urgent Care

Choice of Hospital-Inpatient Care Track Rotations (5 weeks each) may include:

  • Cardiology
  • Pulmonology
  • Oncology
  • Intensive Critical Care Unit
  • Neurology
  • Gastroenterology

Choice of Internal Medicine Track Rotations (5 weeks each) may include:

  • Cardiology
  • Pulmonology
  • Neurology
  • Nephrology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Endocrinology
  • Rheumatology

Academic Expectations (Progression Standards)

Each of the following criteria must be met in order for a Physician Assistant student to advance in the program and/or graduate.

  • Completion of all required courses with a grade of “C” or equivalent.
  • Compliance with the PA Program Attendance Policy.
  • Maintenance of a minimum 3.0 GPA.
  • Completion of all 500 level didactic year courses before entry into the clinical year curriculum.
  • Completion of all incomplete grades prior to the conclusion of the next grading period.
  • Satisfactory completion of all clinical rotation objectives.
  • Successful completion of didactic and clinical comprehensive exams.
  • Successful completion of the Didactic Year Summative Evaluation prior to entering the clinical phase of the program.
  • Successful completion of the Clinical Year Summative Evaluation prior to graduation.

Admissions Requirements

To be admitted as a student into the Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies program, you must meet the following requirements.

  • Hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution in the United States
  • Submit scores from the Graduate Record Exam (GRE)
    • Your analytical writing section scores must be at least 4.0.
  • Satisfactorily complete, with a grade of "C" or above, 12 semester hours of credit in chemistry courses, including general chemistry, organic chemistry, and biochemistry.
  • Satisfactorily complete, with a grade of "C" or above, 15 semester hours of credit in biology courses, including two semesters of anatomy/physiology, and microbiology.
  • Satisfactorily complete, with a grade of "C" or above, 6 semester hours of credit in the area of psychology.
  • Have direct patient care experience. The most direct and responsible forms of patient care experience in a compensated position are preferred. Clinical components of the educational experience required for other healthcare professions are considered, but may not totally fulfill this requirement. Volunteer activities and/or appropriate life experience will be considered, but will not totally fulfill this requirement.
  • In order to participate in the clinical requirements for this program, you must also submit a criminal background check and pass a drug test. (More information on this aspect will be provided once you have been accepted into the program.)

Steps to Apply

Applications are accepted from June 1 through December 1 for classes beginning the following May. Acceptance decisions are made as early as mid-September and continue until the class is filled. You are encouraged to apply as early as possible before the class fills.

  • Complete the CASPA application.
  • After we receive your completed CASPA application, you may be contacted to conduct a program interview.

Admissions Process

The most qualified applicants are offered interviews on the University of Saint Francis campus. If you are selected for an interview, you will be expected to provide a written plan to fulfill all entrance requirements that have not been completed to that point.

After the interview, the admissions committee will review all of your application data and materials, including evaluations from the interview. If you are accepted into the PA program, it may be without reservation, or it may be contingent upon completion of all entrance requirements.

We typically accept about 25 students into a class. Up to five seats can be filled via the BS/MS Entry Program. After your interview, you will be notified within two weeks of the interview about the admissions committee's decision. If accepted, your seat is reserved for two weeks, allowing the time to indicate your willingness to attend by submitting a $500 nonrefundable deposit (applied to tuition). This process will continue on a rolling basis until 25 seats are filled. The admissions committee will then build a "wait list." If you are offered a wait-list position, you will be offered a seat in the class if seats become available. An additional $500 nonrefundable deposit, also applied to tuition, will be due one month after acceptance.

Contact Us

If you have questions about getting started in our Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies degree program, please let us know. You are welcome to contact the physician assistant program director or your personal graduate counselor.