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New Physicians Assistant Program Underway

A new Master’s of Science Physician Assistant Program will be launched since approval by the University’s Graduate Studies Committee was granted last month. The hope for the program is for it to be launched in the fall of 2014, said Janet Mahoney, Dean of Nursing and Health Studies.

Physician assistants are trained to aid doctors in varied health and preventative care services. With a master’s degree in this field, students can work in internal and emergency medicine, as well as gynecology, orthopedics and pediatrics among others.

“There is increasing interest among pre-health students in pursuing a career as a P.A.,” said Dr. James Mack, Director of the University’s Pre-Professional Health Advisory Committee. “The job market for a P.A. position is growing explosively.”

The new program would offer students a chance to study for a master’s degree in this field on campus as opposed to the current agreement with Seton Hall University in which six seats are saved each year for University students. Currently, University students must apply before or during their first or second year to be considered for this program.

Even though the program has already been approved, it is still too early for exact details on what the program will include, Mahoney said.

“Based on demand for P.A. at other universities and high applicants/ available seats ratio, it is expected that a large number of qualified students will apply for the [new] program,” Mack said. The program is expected to be competitive, as most schools that offer it only accept about 25 to 30 students per semester. “The P.A. programs are usually highly selective, somewhat similar to M.S. or D.O. programs,” Mack added.

Students can be state and nationally certified after graduating from a Physician Assistant program. For national certification, students must take the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE) and re-certify every five to six years by taking the Physician Assistant National Re-certifying Exam (PANRE). For state certification, regulations vary depending on where the individual wants to practice. In New Jersey, applicants must have verification from The National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistance (NCCPA) which can be received through the PANCE. The NCCPA website can aid students and practicing physician assistants in finding certification information and test locations.

After acquiring a master’s degree in this field, graduates will have their choice of where to work, such as hospitals or private offices. For example, Associates in Cardiovascular Disease in Clark, N.J., a private cardiologist office, currently employs two physician assistants to help doctors with patient overflow and emergencies.

The University also offers two other healthcare programs in affiliation with other schools. Students can pursue a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine Degree from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-School of Osteopathic Medicine (UMDNJ- SOM).

Also, those with a bachelor’s degree who have completed premedical studies at the University can continue their medical education at Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara (UAG) in Guadalajara, Mexico; six seats are saved for qualified University students.