Stephanie Storgion, M.D. - Department Chair
Kristopher R. Maday, MS, PA-C - Program Director
Kara Caruthers, MSPAS, PA-C - Assistant Program Director
66 N. Pauline, Suite 116
Memphis, TN 38163
The Department of Physician Assistant Studies offers one degree program: the Master of Medical Science-Physician Assistant.
The academic calendar for this program can be found at https://www.uthsc.edu/registrar/academic_calendar.php.
The Department of Physician Assistant Studies is located within the College of Medicine. 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 at 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. Clinical rotations are intended 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 90% 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.
- The PA program is preparing graduates for employment to meet growing primary care needs.
At its January 2017 meeting, the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) placed The University of Tennessee Health Science Center Physician Assistant program sponsored by The University of Tennessee Health Science Center on Accreditation-Probation status until its next review in March 2019. Probation is a temporary status of accreditation conferred when a program does not meet the Standards and when the capability of the program to provide an acceptable educational experience for its students is threatened. Once placed on probation, programs that still fail to comply with accreditation requirements in a timely manner, as specified by the ARC-PA, may be scheduled for a focused site visit and/or risk having their accreditation withdrawn. Specific questions regarding the Program and its plans should be directed to the Program Director and/or the appropriate institutional official(s).
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 September 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 3.0 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 old cannot be accepted. Although there is no required minimal score, the program considers a combined score of 300 to be 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.
- A minimum of 500 direct patient care experience hours is required and be gained through volunteer, shadowing or paid experience. The experience must consist of patient-oriented clinical care and not be 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 evaluations, must be processed by CASPA prior to the UTHSC PA Admissions Committee reviewing the candidate’s application.
- 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 Medicine, Department of Physician Studies. These standards are provided below and may be found at https://www.uthsc.edu/physician-assistant/technical.php
- 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 prerequisite 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)
|Microbiology (lab not required)
*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 applicants satisfying the admissions criteria 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 status, 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 late 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 COM Dean’s Office the recommendations for admission.
- See the COM 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 testing for tuberculosis. Some clinical rotation sites have additional requirements for health screening and/or further immunization. A description of the university’s current immunization requirements can be accessed at https://www.uthsc.edu/univheal/student-services/immunization.php. A description of the university’s current health requirements can be accessed at http://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 Medicine 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 Medicine, 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 Medicine 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 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:
Less than 69.5
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 can be found at http://www.uthsc.edu/physician-assistant/grad.php. Students should reference this information about grade assignments in these situations.
PA Program Remediation and Recycle Policy
Course remediation will only be offered to students who fail a course with a final percentage in the range of 64.5 - 69.4%. These students will receive an “I” (incomplete) for the course, which will be converted to a letter grade upon completion of remediation. Remediation will consist of a comprehensive multiple choice examination administered during the next scheduled Remediation Testing Day following the completion of the failed course. Students who earn a ≥ 69.5% on the remediation examination will receive a “C” grade (and no higher) for the course. Failure to achieve ≥ 69.5% will result in an “F” grade for the course and is not subject to additional remediation.
Students who earn a final course score of < 64.5% will receive an “F” grade for the course with no option for remediation, and, will be referred to the Committee on Student Progress and Promotions for recommendations on future progression.
Only one course per Term may be remediated by students. If a student receives more than one “I” grade or an “F” grade (before or after remediation), the student will be required to withdraw from all classes upon receipt of the second deficient grade and will be referred to the Committee on Student Progress and Promotions for recommendations on future progression.
Students must maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or greater, on a 4.0 scale, in order to progress through the program in good standing. If at any point after the completion of a course, a student’s cumulative GPA falls below 3.0, the student will be placed on academic probation and meet with the Committee on Student Progress and Promotions and academic advisor to discuss strategies and a plan for success.
Once on academic probation, the student will have until the end of the didactic curriculum to raise their cumulative GPA to 3.0 or above. The Committee on Student Progress and Promotions will meet quarterly to track the progress of students on academic probation.
Students will be recommended for dismissal by the Committee on Student Progress and Promotions to the Department Chair of the if:
- A student earns an “F” in any course
- A student does not have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or above at the end of the didactic curriculum
- A student on academic probation does not show sufficient progress, as deemed by the Progress and Promotions Committee
Decisions of dismissal by the Department Chair may be appealed to the Dean and ultimately to the Chancellor.
Students who have been dismissed from the PA program may be given the opportunity to join a future cohort by presenting their case to the Committee on Student Progress and Promotions to address the student’s perceived area of weakness, how this effected the student’s academic performance, and how the student plans on addressing these areas if allowed to Restart. The Committee on Student Progress and Promotions will vote on whether or not to recommend the student to Restart with a future cohort, or be permanently dismissed from the program. If the Committee on Student Progress and Promotions votes to recommend the student to Restart and join a future cohort, the student may be required to satisfactorily complete additional coursework during their hiatus from the program to strengthen any deficiencies and repeat any PA program courses that the Committee judges would improve the student’s chances for success. A Restart is not an alternative path or intended to extend or decelerate the didactic program of instruction.
Restart students will start the new class year on academic probation and must meet regularly with their academic advisor to discuss strategies for success. The Committee on Student Progress and Promotions will also meet regularly to discuss students on academic probation to ensure adequate progression through the program and identify any need for early intervention.
Restart students will be required to retake and pass all previous courses where they earned a grade of “C” or lower and must achieve a cumulative GPA standard of ≥ 3.0 (which includes averaging in all previously earned grades) to progress to the clinical year. Any student who chooses to Restart will be responsible for payment of all tuition and fees for the Restart year. A Restart is available only once and students who are not successful during a Restart will be considered to be ‘uncompetitive’ for any future application.
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.
Professionalism, as part of the academic course of instruction, is extremely important to the UTHSC PA Program and will be assessed in every course throughout the curriculum of the program.
Professionalism will also be considered during each didactic course and 5% of the overall grade will be attributed to professionalism and may include: absences, tardiness, classroom demeanor, and any communication/interaction between faculty, staff, and fellow students. This assessment is up to the discretion of the individual course director..
Any concerns related to professionalism may be considered by the Committee on Student Progress and Promotions which, as part of its academic judgment, may make a recommendation for appropriate action, up to and including dismissal, to the Department Chair. Academic actions, due to professional concerns, may be appealed to the Dean and ultimately, to the Chancellor, through the normal academic appeals process.