USF Health adds physician’s assistant program

In the last four years, serious talks among faculty in the College of Medicine grew regarding the possibility of adding a physician assistant program to the college, Larry Collins, a physician’s assistant and assistant professor at the Morsani College of Medicine at USF and major contributor to the new P.A. program, said.

Currently, the University of Florida is the only university in the State University System to offer a physician assistant program.

“We have a medical school, a nursing school and a pharmacy school, so the question was ‘Why doesn’t USF have a P.A. program?” Collins said. “There is a physician shortage, especially in Florida. The physician population here is much older which means that they will be retiring sooner. P.A.s can help fill this void.”

At a Board of Trustees meeting this month, the possibility was approved to become a reality.

Unlike a doctor of medicine (MD) or a doctor of osteopathic (DO) program, which takes four years of undergraduate education, another four years of medical school education and then a three-to-five year of residency education, a physician assistant can begin working in six to seven years. Physician assistants are also trained as generalists, and can be exposed to all different types of medicine, Collins said.

Though specific requirements have yet to be made for acceptance into the program, Collins said he thinks that it will be similar to other P.A. program requirements at other medical schools such as having taken heavy science loads and having experience within the healthcare field such as volunteering or EMT experience.

“Our accreditation site visit is already scheduled for early 2014, and once the site visitors come and review the program they will submit it to ARC-PA board,” he said. “Then they will review all programs in December of 2014. So we are looking to start admitting students in the summer of 2015.”

Sean Price, a freshman majoring in biomedical science, said he is excited about the program.

“I’m definitely looking forward to applying to the program,” he said. “It’ll be nice to be able to stay at USF for my physician assistant education knowing that USF has such a good health education system.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been edited from its original version to update the accurate name of the program.