Physician assistants can care for patients immediately after graduation and choose their preferred medical specialty. They’re also able to begin professional practice after just two years of education—far less time than required for medical school.
This makes a career as a physician assistant increasingly appealing to students interested in providing patient care. But with admission to physician assistant programs highly competitive, strong grades and clinical experience are a must.
To help students increase their qualifications and stand out among applicants for these programs, Keck Graduate Institute (KGI) is introducing the Postbaccalaureate Pre-PA Certificate Program (PPA). The initial group of approximately 10 students will arrive at KGI in the fall and be able to complete the PPA program within 12 to 15 months. Over time, the program will likely grow to 20 to 30 students per year.
“This is an academic enhancement program for aspiring physician assistant students,” says Joon Kim, director of the PPA program as well as KGI’s Postbaccalaureate Premedical Certificate Program (PPC). “The students will have already taken biology, chemistry, and other science requirements but need additional classes and some type of academic enrichment. Students want to put themselves in the best competitive position, and having a higher GPA, clinical experience, and strong interpersonal skills gives them more options.”
The new program features graduate-level courses in the applied life sciences as well as others in areas many physician assistant programs recommend for prospective students, such as human anatomy, human physiology, and medical terminology. The PPA program also provides the ability to complete up to 1,000 clinical hours at leading area healthcare organizations, individualized advising, and support for students during the application process for physician assistant programs. In addition, students will have opportunities to visit and meet professionals from California physician assistant programs.
“The value is in the mentorship and advising, the classes and clinical hours, and the collaborative environment,” says Kim.
The PPA program is modeled on KGI’s successful PPC program, which has seen more than 80 percent of graduates go on to medical school. KGI also consulted with physician assistant programs in Northern and Southern California to ensure the new PPA program incorporates the academic preparation, clinical experience, and level of professionalism students need to become strong candidates for admission.
“We’re the first to offer a single-purpose program specifically designed as preparation for physician assistant programs, and we received a number of endorsements from physician assistant programs that feel our students will be better prepared to succeed,” notes Steven Casper, dean of KGI’s Henry E. Riggs School of Applied Life Sciences. “We’ve had tremendous success with our PPC program, so we have confidence that we can do the same with our new program in this related medical field.”