University of South Alabama, Office of Public Relations
November 1, 2012
Contact: Cheryl Nicholls, Allied Health, (251) 445-9520

USA Department of Physician Assistant Studies Lands
Nearly $1 Million HHS Grant

The University of South Alabama Department of Physician Assistant Studies was recently awarded nearly $1 million in grant funds by the Department of Health and Human Services to train primary care physician assistants and to aid veterans in their transition from military life to civilian careers as PAs.

Of the 12 colleges or universities that received a portion of the $2.3 million in funding, USA received the largest award, which totaled $995,954 and is 100 percent federally funded.

Administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration at HHS, the five-year grants are part of the administration’s initiative to increase the supply of primary care practitioners in the United States.  Funding priority was given to grantees that encourage strong recruitment, retention, and education programs for veteran applicants and students, including academic recognition of medical training and experience during military service.

PA Studies Department Chair and grant Principal Investigator Dr. Diane Abercrombie, PA-C, said that primary care physician assistants, those providing frontline healthcare services, continue to decrease in numbers.

“As the only primary care PA training program in Alabama, USA is poised to play its part in assuring an adequate healthcare workforce,” she said.

The Department of PA Studies has a plethora of objectives for this project, including: to identify and expand recruitment strategies and the student selection process to further promote the identification and selection of applicants from regional underrepresented minority groups, rural and/or medically underserved communities and veterans; to identify and expand development of rural and medically underserved clinical rotation sites; and, to identify and implement retention systems appropriate to students from minority populations, rural and or medically underserved areas, and veterans so these students remain current with their class work.

About USA Physician Assistant Studies Program

Established in 1996, the USA Physician Assistant Studies program at the University of South Alabama is a Master’s Degree program designed for students who hold a baccalaureate degree in any field.  At the conclusion of the 27 month program students are prepared to sit for the national Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam.

The program provides students with comprehensive medical knowledge, skills, and attitudes enabling them to engage in clinical practice, and it is designed to prepare the student for a variety of clinical practice settings.

What is a Physician Assistant?

Physician Assistants are licensed health care practitioners who provide medical services traditionally performed only by a physician.  Physician Assistants take medical histories, perform physical examinations, and order and analyze diagnostic data such as laboratory tests, electrocardiograms and imaging studies. They also perform therapeutic procedures such as suturing, removal of minor lesions and casting. The Physician Assistant develops and implements a treatment plan and makes appropriate decisions regarding referral and findings, as well as participates in interprofessional, team-based patient-centered care with other health professionals in developing a patient treatment plan. Physician Assistants also prescribe medication.

To perform at this level of responsibility, much of the education of Physician Assistants is provided by physicians in order to assure that the patient-care functions provided by the Physician Assistant are equivalent in quality to those of the physician who delegates them.


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