The Department of Physician Assistant Studies is located within the College of Health Professions. The program is designed as a full-time 24-month graduate program leading to the degree of Master of Medical Science-Physician Assistant (MMS-PA). Students complete four years of pre-professional coursework at other colleges or universities, and then complete two years of professional education on the Memphis campus of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. Candidates are required to have a baccalaureate degree prior to admission. Students matriculate in the spring term and graduate at the end of the fall term, two years later, after completion of all academic and clinical rotation requirements. Clinical rotation sites are located in Memphis and across Tennessee. Due to the limited number of clinical sites in Memphis and other urban areas, students should anticipate the financial impact of traveling and living out of town for the majority of their clinical rotations. The intent of the clinical rotation is to provide the student with broad exposure to physician assistant practice in a variety of settings and geographic locations.
Mission of the Physician Assistant Program
The mission of the physician assistant program is to prepare a diverse group of highly skilled physician assistant practitioners who are dedicated to improving access and providing high quality primary and/or specialty health care as part of interprofessional teams and who are committed to lifelong learning and to increasing the knowledge base of the profession.
Goals of the Physician Assistant Program
- The PA program will demonstrate a 97% graduation rate for each entering cohort.
- The PA program graduating class will demonstrate at least a 90% first-time pass rate on the national certifying exam annually.
- Each PA program graduating class will demonstrate at least a 95% employment rate within 6 months of graduation.
The ARC-PA has granted Accreditation-Provisional status to the UTHSC Physician Assistant program. Accreditation-Provisional is an accreditation status granted when the plans and resource allocation, if fully implemented as planned, of a proposed program that has not yet enrolled students appear to demonstrate the program’s ability to meet the ARC-PA Standards or when a program holding Accreditation-Provisional status appears to demonstrate continued progress in complying with the Standards as it prepares for the graduation of the first class (cohort) of students. Accreditation-Provisional does not ensure any subsequent accreditation status. It is limited to no more than five years from matriculation of the first class.
To be eligible for consideration for admission, applicants must fulfill the requirements listed below. Meeting the minimum requirements does NOT assure admission to the Master of Medical Science Physician Assistant program.
- A completed application to the Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA) at https://portal.caspaonline.org/ must be received by November 1st for spring admission; however, applications are accepted starting May 1st and the PA program uses a rolling admissions process; therefore, applicants are encouraged to apply early.
- A baccalaureate degree and all prerequisite courses must be completed prior to enrollment, with a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.2 on a 4.00 scale. Candidates for admission must complete all prerequisite courses with a grade of “C” or better.
- If a required course is repeated, both grades are calculated into the cumulative GPA, but the credit hours assigned to the course may be counted only once in fulfilling the required number of hours.
- Credit hours earned for non-theory courses in physical education, music, and military science are not accepted in fulfillment of prerequisite hours or as elective hours.
- Credit for science courses completed more than five years prior to application will be reviewed by the admissions committee on a case-by-case basis and may not be accepted in fulfillment of the required number of hours.
- Transcripts from foreign education institutions are not considered for prerequisite courses.
- A competitive score on the verbal and quantitative sections of the Graduate Record Examination is required. Only official GRE scores are accepted; therefore, scores over 5 years cannot be accepted. A minimum score of 300 is considered competitive.
- Three letters of reference are required, they should be from a professor, from a MD/PA or other health care provider and from an individual, such as an employer, who is unrelated to the applicant. These are to be submitted through the CASPA application.
- Direct patient care experience is required. A minimum of 500 hours of experience gained through volunteer, shadowing or paid experience is acceptable. The experience must consist of patient-oriented clinical care and not in a secretarial role. An Experience Form is to be submitted with the CASPA application.
- ALL application materials, including transcripts, GRE scores, and pre-professional evaluation, must be received by the UTHSC Admissions Committee within four (4) weeks after the CASPA deadline or the applicant will not be considered for admission to the next cohort.
- A personal interview is required for admissions consideration. Not all applicants who meet the minimum criteria for admission will be invited for an interview.
- Applicants must be able to demonstrate all entry-level competencies expected of the physician assistant profession and required to provide quality patient care.
- Applicants who accept a position in the program must declare the ability to fulfill the Technical Standards for Admission to the College of Health Professions, Department of Physician Studies. These standards are provided below and may be found at http://www.uthsc.edu/health-professions/PA.
- Coursework from another physician assistant program may not be transferred to meet the requirements for admission to or graduation from the MMS-PA program. The program does not award advanced standing or accept transfer credit for didactic courses or experiential learning.
- Applicants who have received their undergraduate degree from an international institution must be citizens or permanent residents of the United States at the time of application, have their international transcript audited by World Education Service or comparable organization to show equivalence of undergraduate degree with a traditional BS degree in the United States and all prerequisite courses must be taken in the United States at a regionally accredited institution of higher learning.
- Applicants whose native language is not English must submit results of TOEFL (minimum overall score of 87, reading of 21, speaking of 26, listening of 20 and writing of 20).
- Prior to enrollment, the following courses must be completed with grades of “C” or better
|Biological Sciences (any biology with lab except botany or anatomy & physiology)
|Anatomy and Physiology*
|Chemistry (any chemistry with lab for science majors)
|Mathematics (prefer bio-statistics)
*Must include laboratory experiences-may be one term of comparative or human anatomy and one term of physiology. Online anatomy and physiology lab courses will NOT meet this prerequisite.
Recommended courses: Cell Biology, Molecular Biology, Biochemistry, Organic Chemistry, Genetics
Factors Considered in the Selection of Students
As the state’s flagship health science center, UTHSC aims to improve human health through education, research, clinical care and public service. A variety of professional programs are offered through the six colleges that comprise the health science center: Health Professions, Dentistry, Graduate Health Sciences, Medicine, Nursing, and Pharmacy. These programs prepare skilled and ethical health care professionals to meet the health care needs of the state of Tennessee and surrounding communities. To this end, the campus welcomes applications from women and men of all races, creeds, and cultures, who can pursue their studies in an environment that values intellectual curiosity, the pursuit of knowledge, excellence, compassion and integrity. Admission committees select highly qualified applicants from across Tennessee, seeking to enroll students from all regions of the state and from a variety of backgrounds, so as to provide access to a broad range of students and to serve the needs of the state’s diverse communities for skilled health care providers.
Admission criteria for professional programs continue to emphasize academic excellence. However, in order to serve the needs of the state for health care professional in rural, urban and suburban environments, additional factors are also considered, including applications from individuals who are underrepresented in the health care professions, from non-traditional students and from students who represent the first in their families to pursue higher education.
The physician assistant program admissions committee will conduct a holistic review of the application and may give consideration to the following as well as other factors when granting an interview: academic history and success, extracurricular activities, health care experience, military experience, Tennessee residency, UT alumnus, applicants who increase the diversity in the PA profession, non-traditional students, and those who represent the first in their family to pursue higher education.
Procedure for Admissions Decisions:
- The program faculty will conduct a comprehensive review of the application. Selected applicants will be invited for an interview.
- The Admissions Committee will meet in the summer to make the first round of admissions recommendations and will meet regularly thereafter until the cohort is full and a sufficient number of alternates have been identified.
- The Admissions Committee will submit to the COHP Dean’s Office the recommendations for admission.
- See the COHP website and the UTHSC Admissions website for further information regarding the requirements for criminal background check, immunizations, and health insurance requirements at www.uthsc.edu/admissions/university-level_reqs.php
Students must be able to demonstrate all entry-level competencies expected of the physician assistant profession and required to provide quality patient care. Immunization against Hepatitis B virus is required as well as annual skin test for tuberculosis. Some clinical rotation sites have additional requirements for health screening and/or further immunization. A description of the university’s current health requirements can be accessed at www.uthsc.edu/admissions/university- level_reqs.php
Physician assistant students must have or acquire certain essential skills, functions and professional attitudes and behavior. In addition to the College of Health Professions technical standards (summarized in the college-wide portion of the catalog), each professional program requires additional specific standards. The specific standards for the PA program are listed below.
Technical standards set forth essential functions an applicant must be able to perform with or without reasonable accommodation to qualify for admission into the physician assistant (PA) program. Modern PA education requires that the accumulation of scientific knowledge be accompanied by the simultaneous acquisition of skills and professional attitudes and behavior. Our faculty has the responsibility to graduate the best possible physician assistants; thus, admission to the PA program is offered to those who present the highest qualifications for the study of clinical practice.
Applicants must demonstrate that their senses are sufficiently intact to enable them to perform the activities necessary for PA education and to provide patient care; therefore, candidates for admission to the PA program must meet the following capabilities and skills: critical thinking, sound judgment, emotional stability and maturity, empathy, physical and mental stamina and the ability to learn and function in a wide variety of educational settings. In all phases of physician assistant education, students must use their intellectual ability and must maintain emotional stability, particularly when under stress. Graduates of this physician assistant program must have the knowledge and skills to function in a broad variety of clinical situations and to render a wide spectrum of patient care.
The PA admissions committee maintains that prospective students must meet certain minimum technical standards. Candidates for the Master of Medical Science Physician Assistant degree must be able to demonstrate the following essential functions in order to provide quality patient care: motor skills; sensory and observational skills; communication skills; conceptual, integrative and quantitative skills; and behavioral and social skills and professionalism.
Candidates should have sufficient motor function to elicit information from patients by palpation, auscultation, percussion and other diagnostic maneuvers. Candidates should be able to execute motor functions necessary to provide general care and emergency treatment to patients.
Sensory and Observational Skills:
Candidates must be able to observe demonstrations and participate in experiments as required in the curriculum. They must be able to observe a patient accurately at a distance, as well as, close at hand and be able to obtain a medical history directly from the patient, while observing the patient’s medical condition. This observation necessitates the functional use of the sense of vision, hearing and other sensory modalities.
Candidates must be able to communicate effectively and sensitively in oral and written form with patients. These skills must be performed at times in clinical settings when the time available for communication may be limited.
Conceptual, Integrative and Quantitative Skills:
These skills include measurement, calculation, reasoning, analysis and synthesis. Problem-solving and diagnosis, the critical skills demanded of physicians, require all these intellectual abilities. In addition, candidates must be able to comprehend three-dimensional relationships and to understand the spatial relationships of structures.
Behavioral and Social Skills and Professionalism:
Empathy, integrity, concern for others, interpersonal skills, interest and motivation are all personal qualities that will be assessed during the admissions process and throughout physician assistant education. Candidates must possess the emotional well-being required for the full use of their intellectual abilities; the exercise of sound judgment, the prompt completion of all responsibilities attendant to the diagnosis and care of patients; and the development of mature, sensitive and effective relationships with patients. Candidates must be able to tolerate physically taxing workloads and to function effectively when stressed. They must be able to adapt to changing environments, to display flexibility and to learn to function in the face of uncertainty inherent in the clinical problems of many patients.
In summary, the mission of the physician assistant faculty is to prepare students for the comprehensive practice of medicine under supervision of a physician. The UTHSC Committee on Admissions and the College of Health Professions, in accordance with Section 504 of the 1973 Vocational Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities ACT [ADA] [Public Law 101-336, has established the aforementioned essential functions of physician assistant students and physicians. The PA Admissions Committee will consider for admission, applicants who demonstrate the ability to perform or learn to perform the essential skills listed in this document. The PA program must ensure that patients are not placed in jeopardy by the students or physician assistants with substantially impaired intellectual, physical or emotional functions. Students will be judged not only on their scholastic accomplishments, but also on their physical and emotional capacities to meet the full requirements of the school’s curriculum and to graduate as skilled and effective practitioners of medicine.
Students are required to present a signed physical assessment form from a primary care provider stating they have met the program specific technical standards with or without reasonable accommodation upon admission. Students may contact Student Academic Support Services and Inclusion (SASSI) at 901-448-5056 for questions or assistance.
Tuition and Fees
Information about tuition and fees for the individual programs in the College of Health Professions may be found at http://www.uthsc.edu/finance/bursar/colleges_fee_information.php with additional information regarding estimated cost of attendance at http://www.uthsc.edu/finaid/coa.php.
Students enrolled in the physician assistant program will be required to attend clinical rotations at sites across the state of Tennessee. All costs incurred including housing, transportation and meals are the responsibility of the student.
Fees include an estimate of the costs of medical equipment required. The list of required equipment will be provided to the admitted student before matriculation.
Students may access information regarding financial aid, including information on applying for financial aid, available scholarships, financial literacy counseling, and general student loan information at http://www.uthsc.edu/finaid/.
See the UTHSC CenterScope (http://catalog.uthsc.edu/index.php?catoid=8) for University attendance policies; the college policy is provided in the introduction section for the college in this Catalog. Physician Assistant students are expected to attend all scheduled classes, laboratory sessions and clinical rotations. A complete attendance policy will be provided to students upon admission.
Completion of the PA program requires a full-time year round commitment.
- Students are discouraged from working in any form of employment while enrolled in the UTHSC PA program.
- Outside activities and working are not considered to be valid excuses for poor academic performance or lack of attendance at required PA program activities.
- PA students may not work for the Program and will never substitute for or function as instructional faculty.
- It is especially important during the supervised clinical phase (SCP) of the program that students be available to their preceptors on short notice for special learning opportunities outside of regular office hours. This requirement precludes the ability to work outside jobs. Failure to fully participate in all SCP-related activities is considered abandonment of the SCP and will result in failure of the SCP unless it is an excused absence per program guidelines.
- Students enrolled in the PA program cannot substitute for practicing physician assistants or provide unsupervised services common to a certified PA while at any learning or employment site while enrolled in the program.
- Students are not staff and/or employees of the program while in the role of a learning student and as a result may not earn a stipend/salary for their services as a physician assistant student.
- Students credentialed as other non-PA professionals cannot substitute as staff in their credentialed discipline while in the role of a physician assistant student.
The PA Program utilizes the following grading scale:
A grade of “C”(70) or above is considered passing.
Some courses may be graded on a “Pass/Fail” basis for the purpose of demonstrating competency. Syllabi of those courses describe the criteria for earning a grade of “Pass.” Courses utilizing “pass/fail” grades are not included in calculating a student’s grade point average (GPA).
Information about grading for incompletes and withdrawals is covered in the general college section of the catalog. Students should reference this information about grade assignments in these situations.
PA Program Remediation Policy
The PA program curriculum is designed to develop progressively complex competencies by building on learning from previous courses. Failure to achieve the expected outcomes of any PA course leads to cognitive and psychomotor gaps that interfere with a student’s subsequent academic success and patient care abilities. Remediation is the program’s process for addressing deficiencies in a student’s knowledge and skills, required for successful progression and completion of the academic program.
PA students who fail to earn a satisfactory grade in any course or rotation must remedy the deficiency and earn a passing grade in the course/rotation or face program dismissal. Each course or rotation syllabus will include specific requirements for earning a passing grade. Unsatisfactory student performance will be reviewed by the Committee on Student Progress and Promotion to develop a recommendation that may include a delayed progression plan or other remediation opportunities. Remediation may include repeating a course or series of courses, up to and including an entire semester or year. Remediation recommendations must be approved by the PA Department Chair and Dean, College of Health Professions.
Dropping/Adding a Course
Due to the lock-step and cohort nature of the PA program, students in the PA program are not allowed to drop or add a course.
Student Identification Badges
PA students are required to wear their ID badges at all times during the didactic and clinical year. Additional dress code information will be provided upon admission.
The official method of communication between students and their respective departments, programs or the dean’s office is through the UTHSC email system. Students must check their email at least once per day to avoid missing vital information.
Social Media Policy
Social media guidelines can be found in CenterScope and students should review these guidelines in addition to the requirements stated below.
The PA Program expects that faculty and students will maintain a professional relationship consistent with ethical best practices and discourages students and faculty from being “friends” on social media sites while attending the academic program.
It is the expectation of all students enrolled at the UTHSC to maintain the high ethical and professional standards of the various disciplines of the health professions. Failure to do so may subject a student to suspension or other appropriate remedial action by the University as outlined in CenterScope, Maintenance of Ethical and Professional Standards of the Health Professions (http://catalog.uthsc.edu/index.php?catoid=8).
The standards for the PA profession can be found at: http://www.aapa.org/the_pa_profession.aspx.
If a faculty or staff member identifies serious deficits in any area of the student’s performance, including professionalism, the Committee on Student Progress and Promotion will be contacted. After investigation, the committee may recommend actions ranging from counseling to dismissal. The recommendation may also include non-academic probation.
In addition, the PA program expects all students to:
- Demonstrate behavior with faculty, staff, student colleagues, and patients that is respectful, mature and empathetic
- Demonstrate tolerance for uncertainty and ability to give and receive constructive feedback from faculty, staff, and student colleagues
- Exhibit honesty and integrity by abiding by the Honor Code of the University of Tennessee in all exams, quizzes, and graded assignments.
- Perform responsibly and with accountability by arriving promptly to classes and clinical sites ready to work efficiently and effectively as a team member when assigned.