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2016-2017 Undergraduate & Graduate Catalog

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Physician Assistant Studies - Program Description

For additional information about opportunities your college offers, please refer to the College of Health Professions section in this catalog.


Degree Offered: Master's in physician assistant studies

Physician assistants (PAs) are valued members of the health care team. PAs are currently licensed in all 50 of the United States by delegation or regulatory authority. Working under the supervision of doctors of allopathic medicine and/or doctors of osteopathic medicine, PAs obtain medical histories, perform physical examinations, establish diagnoses, treat illnesses, provide patient education, counsel patients, assist in surgery, dictate proper treatment orders, and interpret laboratory/diagnostic studies. In all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia and Guam, laws are in place which authorize PAs to prescribe medication or transmit orders for dispensing medication including controlled substances. Educated in the medical model, PAs have close working relationships with physicians and the other members of the health care team. PAs see many of the same types of patients and perform many of the same tasks as physicians. The responsibilities of PAs depend upon a number of factors, including state laws and regulations, years of experience and training, and the setting in which the PAs practice. These factors all comprise a physician assistant's scope of practice.

Grand Valley Physician Assistant Studies

Grand Valley State University established its physician assistant studies (PAS) program in the 1990s, accepting its first class for entry in 1995 and graduating the inaugural class into the profession in 1998. The program awards the degree Master of Physician Assistant Studies following completion of a 28-month (7 semesters) curriculum of professional studies.

Applicants to the PAS program are those who possess or are in the process of achieving a baccalaureate degree from either GVSU or another institution of higher learning. All applicants must meet the prerequisites and criteria for application to the program, realizing that some bring with them a wealth of life and career experience that enriches the diversity of the program.

Students begin the professional curriculum after they have been admitted into the program (see Application Procedures). During the PAS professional curriculum, students take coursework such as human anatomy, medical physiology, clinical applications, clinical medicine, pathophysiology, practical therapeutics, PA professional issues, and research methods. The curriculum combines traditional classroom sessions with Web-based instruction, case studies, and problem-based learning (PBL) to provide students with the knowledge and clinical acumen to sit for their certification examination and practice medicine competently upon graduation. Students spend the final three semesters completing rotations in various clinical specialties, by working in clinics, emergency departments, and hospitals throughout Michigan, out of state communities, and potentially international communities. As part of the master's curriculum, students must complete a research project, thesis, or in-depth case studies. Students' research has been accepted for presentation at state, national and international venues.

Accreditation Statement

The Grand Valley State University physician assistant program is fully accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). Accreditation means that the GVSU Physician Assistant Studies program has met the standards through a peer review process that includes documentation and site visit evaluation to substantiate compliance with the accreditation standards for PA education. This accreditation allows program graduates to take the National Commission for Certification for Physician Assistant's (N.C.C.P.A.) certification examination after graduation.

The Grand Valley State University physician assistant studies program is a member of the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA), the national organization representing educational programs for physician assistant faculty members.

The American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) and the Michigan Academy of Physician Assistants (MAPA) recognize the Grand Valley State University physician assistant studies program, its students, and its graduates as an official PA program.

Application Procedures

Admission to the PAS program is competitive. Please visit the website at for application material and to apply. Applicant may contact the PAS program at (616) 331-5700 for questions. Students must be in the process of completing all of their preprofessional and undergraduate degree requirements by the month of May before starting the professional program.

High school seniors interested in physician assistant studies must complete an undergraduate application to Grand Valley State University. During their freshman year they will begin their preprofessional studies and declare a major. The most common majors for students admitted to the program from Grand Valley are biomedical sciences (BMS) and allied health sciences (AHS).

Transfer students (from community or four-year colleges) must complete an undergraduate application to Grand Valley State University. We strongly encourage students to transfer to GVSU by the beginning of their junior year to ensure completion of their undergraduate degree and preprofessional requirements. Transfer students are encouraged to consult with an advisor from the Grand Valley College of Health Professions before entering Grand Valley or very soon thereafter, in addition to their assigned undergraduate faculty/advisor based upon the major declared.

Students who have completed or are near completion of a baccalaureate degree fall into one of two categories: (1) those who have not completed all the preprofessional courses but intend to complete them at Grand Valley before applying to the physician assistant program must submit an undergraduate application; and (2) those who have completed the preprofessional coursework and an undergraduate degree must complete a graduate application. Students should meet with a faculty member of the PAS program or an advisor from the College of Health Professions regarding the preprofessional courses.

Students must be in the process of completing all of their preprofessional and undergraduate degree requirements to be considered for admission. All preprofessional requirements and undergraduate degree must be completed by the month of May prior to the start of the professional phase of the curriculum unless a rare extension has been granted by appeal to the PA Studies program director in consultation with the PAS Admissions Committee and faculty. Please see "Admissions to the Masters of Physician Assistant Studies" section below for details. Students who have not completed all prerequisites are encouraged to apply, provided they have a definite plan to complete the preprofessional courses by the month of May prior to fall semester before the start of the professional phase of the curriculum. Application information may be obtained by calling the College of Health Professions Graduate Office at (616) 331-5700. The application deadline is September 15 for the admission cycle of the calendar year preceding the year the student wishes to begin the professional curriculum. All application forms and supplementary materials must be received and dated on or before September 15 for the application to be considered for the class to enter the following August. The Admissions Committee for the program will then review completed applications and grant interviews thereafter. Once interviews are complete, the committee will offer positions in the program to the most qualified applicants.

Admission to the Master of Physician Assistant Studies Program

  • Academic achievement. A minimum grade of "C" must be attained in all prerequisite coursework. Applicants must demonstrate a minimum 3.0 GPA in the prerequisite coursework and in their last 60 hours of coursework to be considered for admission. All prerequisite coursework and a bachelor's degree are required by the month of May prior to fall semester before beginning the process.
  • The following courses must be completed prior to application for Fall 2014: Human Anatomy, Human Physiology, Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry.
  • The following courses must be completed prior to application for Fall 2015: Human Anatomy, Human Physiology, Physics, Organic Chemistry, Biochemistry and Microbiology.
  • The following courses must be less than five years old at the time of application: Human Anatomy, Hyman Physiology, Microbiology and Biochemistry.
  • Two recommendations from health professionals must be submitted. We recommend, but do not require, that at least one letter be from a practicing physician assistant. Separate letters from references are NOT required. Only TWO references are required.
  • Interviews. Satisfactory individual and/or group interviews are required of all final pool applicants.
  • Experience. Applicants should show evidence of 500-plus hours of significant volunteer, work, or observational experience in a health care environment. This experience must be hands on patent care activities and be completed by the time the application is submitted. This information should be documented on the graduate application. A supplemental application will be requested from the program for completed applicant files.
  • Foreign-born applicants should be able to communicate well in English. Minimal scores of TOEFL 600 or equivalent computer-based TOEFL are expected.
  • International students must have at least 30 hours of higher education coursework taken at an established and accredited U.S. institution. USMLE scores and foreign GPA calculations are handled on a case-by-case basis.
  • Transcripts. Applicants must submit official transcripts for all colleges and/or university attended.

Selection Factors

Grand Valley State University is an affirmative action/equal opportunity institution. It encourages diversity and provides equal opportunity in education, employment, all of its programs, and the use of its facilities. Applicants are considered without regard to age, color, disability, familial status, height, marital status, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sex/gender, sexual orientation, veteran status, or weight. Motivational factors, life experiences, patient care experience, maturity, and personal characteristics as assessed in personal interviews and recommendations are important factors in the selection process. An applicant's academic record is important as an indicator of ability to succeed in an intensive and rigorous medical curriculum. Applicants must meet certain health and technical standards that demonstrate their capacity to function as a physician assistant. Copies of these standards may be obtained from the PAS program office or from the PAS website:

Degree Requirements

Demonstration of completion of the 103 credits in the professional curriculum is required for the student to be granted the M.P.A.S. degree. General graduate academic policies and regulations can be found elsewhere in this catalog or in the Grand Valley State University graduate bulletin.

In addition, for each PAS course or a discrete unit of instruction in the professional curriculum, a minimum proficiency level is described in each course syllabus. A minimum of a grade "B" is required for passing all PAS courses, Additionally, the student's overall GPA must never drop below the 3.0 or "B" minimum in any semester or the student may be placed on academic probation or dismissed from the PAS program.

Professional Conduct

The program also subscribes to a belief in continual advancement during the course of professional study in a compilation of abilities. Interpersonal skills, communication skills, responsibility, and professionalism, among others, are identified as being crucial for success in the profession. Advancement in skill and behavior applicable to such abilities is expected during the professional curriculum. A complete copy of these abilities is available from the program and may also be viewed on the program website under core competencies

All students in the program are expected to comply with the ethical principles that embody the practice of medicine and the physician assistant profession. A complete copy of the PA profession's code of ethics and technical standards are available from the program and may also be viewed under the PA profession tab.

Criminal background checks and/or drug screens are required prior to admission into the PA Studies program. After enrollment, certain clinical placements during the second phase of the program, or state licensing requirements after graduation now require criminal background checks and drug screens. Positive findings for either the criminal background check and/or drug screen may negatively impact the educational process at GVSU or future licensure as a physician assistant. The costs of these evaluations or any other required clinical placement evaluations are the responsibility of the applicant or student.

The following program is available:

Master of Physician Assistant Studies

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