Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies Program
Physician assistants (PAs) are medical professionals licensed to practice medicine with physician supervision. As part of their comprehensive responsibilities, PAs conduct physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, counsel on preventive health care, assist in surgery and write prescriptions.
While working as dependent practitioners, physician assistants exercise delegated autonomy in medical decision making and provide a broad range of diagnostic and therapeutic services. A PA’s practice may also include education, research and administrative services. PAs are trained using the medical model similar to that of their physician colleagues. This broad training allows them the flexibility to change specialties without requiring further education. Physician assistants are life-long learners who are required to attain continuing medical education in order to incorporate the latest medical advances into their practices.
Des Moines University believes there is a need and a place on the primary health care team for mid-level providers. The utilization of physician assistants over the last 50 years has demonstrated that PAs provide high-quality, cost-effective medical care to patients. Through the availability of PAs, physicians have been able to concentrate on patients with more complex medical problems.
To develop highly competent and compassionate physician assistants who are committed to four core values: prevention of disease, maintenance of health, patient education and treatment of disease.
To be considered for admission into the Physician Assistant program, candidates must hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university, or foreign equivalent. Applicants must submit Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores during the application process. A minimum cumulative GPA of 2.8 or higher is required to be considered for admission. A grade of at least “C“ in the following courses is required for admission:
|Subject||Required Course(s) or Term Hours|
|Biology1,2||16 semester hours|
|Chemistry1,3||16 semester hours|
|English4||6 semester hours|
|Psychology5||9 semester hours|
|Statistics or Biostatistics||1 course|
|Medical Terminology||1 course|
Chemistry and biology prerequisite courses must be completed within five years of matriculation.
A semester each of human anatomy, physiology, microbiology and genetics. Labs are required, when available, for all biology courses. Exercise science and PE courses do not count toward biology prerequisites.
A semester each of inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry and biochemistry. Labs are required, when available, for all chemistry courses.
Including one course of English composition and one course of speech.
Including one course of abnormal psychology.
Applicants must have completed at least 750 hours of direct patient-care experience as an employee or volunteer in a medical office, extended-care facility, hospital, or pre-hospital setting. Shadowing a physician assistant is required. Volunteer and paid experiences may be combined, but all acceptable clinical experiences must involve hands-on care of patients. Application to the PA program prior to completing the patient-care experience hours is allowed; however, a plan for completion of the hours should be included within the application.
Additional information can be found on the PA program webpage.
Program Application Process
Des Moines University participates in the web-based Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA) offered through the Physician Assistant Education Association, which handles online applications.
Detailed information regarding the process can be found on the PA program webpage.
Select candidates will be invited to campus for an interview. Applicants will receive a response to their application after the interview process.
Curriculum Overview and Outline
The Physician Assistant program is 25 months in length. The first year is devoted to classroom and laboratory instruction. The second year is devoted to clinical experiences with the final month allowing for comprehensive examinations and presentation of capstone projects. The academic calendar includes no extended vacation periods, but does provide short breaks in the fall, winter, and spring of the first year; and one to two weeks during the second year.
The didactic curriculum in the Physician Assistant program is designed to meet the needs of students who will be working with physicians in primary care and medical specialties; and will be enhanced by course work in ethics, health systems, epidemiological principles, research methods and a capstone project.
The clinical curriculum begins with first-year clinical experiences starting during the fall term. Clinical experiences offer a break from the rigors of the classroom and let students apply the learned material to the clinical setting. Second-year clinical education is offered through an organized and comprehensive curriculum in which students are assigned to supervised clinical practice experience (SCPE) sites. Required SCPEs include: Family Medicine (12 weeks), Internal Medicine (12 weeks), Emergency Medicine (4 weeks), General Surgery (4 weeks), Psychiatry (4 weeks), Women's Health (2 weeks), and Pediatrics (2 weeks). Students are also required to complete eight weeks of elective SCPEs. Sites are located throughout Iowa, the Midwest, and the United States. Students may also be able to complete one of their clinical experiences internationally through the global health department.
To review the program’s goals and outcome statistics, and how they compare to national averages, please visit the program’s webpage.
Students who satisfactorily complete the requirements for graduation from the Physician Assistant program are eligible to take the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE) given by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). Those earning a passing score on this examination are granted certification, which is one of the requirements to practice as a physician assistant in the United States. Certification is indicated by the designation PA-C behind a physician assistant’s name.
The first-time PANCE pass rate for DMU PA program graduates is 98% over the last five years, compared to 96% for students nationally.
Technical Standards for Admission, Academic Promotion and Graduation
A candidate for the Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies degree must have abilities and skills (referred to as “technical standards”) in seven areas: unimpaired observation; communication; motor/sensory; strength and mobility; visual integration; intellectual, conceptual, integrative and quantitative; and behavioral and social. The University is committed to complying with the terms of the Americans with Disabilities Act, recognizing that certain minimum technical standards must be present in all students seeking a health care degree. Reasonable accommodations will be provided when supported with appropriate documentation, but in all cases, candidates and students must be able to demonstrate performance of these standards in a reasonably independent manner.
- Unimpaired Observation: Candidates and students must have sufficient vision to be able to observe and timely interpret demonstrations, experiments and laboratory exercises in the basic sciences. They must be able to observe a patient accurately for purposes of diagnosis and clinical care.
- Communication: Candidates and students must be able to speak, hear, observe, read and understand the English language in order to elicit information; examine patients; describe changes in mood, activity, and posture; and perceive nonverbal communications. They must be able to communicate effectively and respectfully with patients. Communication includes not only speech but also reading and writing. Candidates and students must also be able to communicate effectively and efficiently in oral and written form with all members of the health care team.
- Motor/sensory: Candidates and students must have sufficient motor and tactile function to execute movements reasonably required to perform basic laboratory tests, perform physical examinations, and provide clinical care, including emergency treatment to patients. Such actions may include but are not limited to palpation, auscultation and percussion, and require coordination of both gross and fine muscular movements, equilibrium and functional use of the senses of touch and vision. Candidates and students must be willing and able to touch and examine members of all genders.
- Strength and Mobility: Students and candidates must demonstrate upright posture, strength, including lower extremity and body strength, and mobility to provide clinical care, attend to emergency codes and to perform such maneuvers as CPR.
- Visual Integration: Consistent with the ability to assess asymmetry, range of motion and tissue texture changes, candidates and students must have adequate visual capabilities for proper evaluation and treatment integration.
- Intellectual, Conceptual, Integrative and Quantitative Abilities: Candidates and students must have the ability to accurately measure, calculate, reason, analyze, synthesize, problem solve and think critically. They must also have the ability to participate and learn through a variety of modalities including but not limited to classroom instruction, small groups, team and collaborative activities. In addition, candidates and students should be able to comprehend three-dimensional relationships and understand the spatial relationships of structures. Candidates and students must be able to concentrate, analyze and timely interpret data and make decisions within areas in which there is a reasonable amount of visual and auditory distraction. They must also perform these functions in a timely manner.
- Behavioral and Social Attributes: Candidates and students must possess the emotional health required for full utilization of their intellectual abilities, the exercise of good judgment, the prompt completion of all responsibilities attendant to the diagnosis and care of patients, and the development of mature, sensitive and effective professional relationships. Candidates and students must be able to work effectively as a member of a health care team; tolerate physically taxing and stressful workloads; adapt to changing environments; display flexibility; learn to function in the face of uncertainties inherent in the clinical problems of many patients; and to be free of impairments due to substance abuse. Compassion, integrity, concern for others, interpersonal skills, interest, and motivation are all personal qualities that will be assessed during the admissions and educational processes. Students must be accepting and non-judgmental when caring for patients whose spiritual beliefs, culture, ethnicity, socioeconomic background or sexual orientation differ from their background.
The University encourages application by qualified individuals with disabilities who meet these technical standards either with or without reasonable accommodations. Requests from candidates and students for reasonable accommodations in meeting the technical standards will be reviewed and considered by the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL). CTL is the University department that reviews requests for student accommodations. For additional information about the process for assessing an applicant’s compliance with the Technical Standards, contact the CTL.
Use of an intermediary may be permissible in performing some physical maneuvers or data gathering, but must not substitute for the candidate or student’s interpretation and judgment. The use of a trained intermediary, a person trained to perform essential skills on behalf of the candidate, or a person used such that a candidate’s judgment must be mediated by someone else’s power of selection and observation, is not permitted.
Technological compensation can be made with respect to certain technical standards, but candidates and students should be able to perform these standards in a reasonably independent manner.
Process for Assessing Compliance with the Technical Standards
Candidates are required to attest at the time they accept an offer to matriculate that they meet the applicable technical standards, and thereafter must attest on an annual basis, as a student, that they continue to meet the standards. These standards are not intended to deter any candidate or student who might be able to complete the requirements of the curriculum with reasonable accommodations.
In addition to the technical standards, candidates and students must possess the general physical health necessary for performing the duties of a health professions student and health care provider in training without endangering the lives of patients and/or colleagues with whom they might have contact. A candidate or student whose performance is impaired by abuse of alcohol or other substances is not suitable for admission, continuation, promotion or graduation.
|Year 1||Credit Hours|
|MSPA 1340||Program to Practice I||1|
|MSPA 1359||Physiology / Pathophysiology||7|
|MSPA 1360||Clinically Oriented Anatomy||7|
|MSPA 1371||Medical Pharmacology||5.5|
|MSPA 1372||Intro to Clinical Medicine (ICM I)||7.5|
|MSPA 1375||Immunology / Microbiology||2.5|
|MSPA 1376A||Clinical Skills I||0.5|
|MSPA 1376B||Clinical Skills II||0.5|
|MSPA 1376C||Clinical Skills III||3.5|
|MSPA 1377||Intro to Clinical Medicine II (ICM II)||11.5|
|MSPA 1378||Medical Genetics||1|
|MSPA 1381||Intro to Health Care Delivery Systems||2|
|MSPA 1382||Introduction to Ethics||1.5|
|MSPA 1384||Physical Diagnosis||4.5|
|MSPA 1389||Clinical Patient Assessment||2.5|
|MSPA 1393A||PA Professional Issues I||1|
|MSPA 1393B||PA Professional Issues II||0.5|
|MSPA 1394||Intro to Clinical Med III (ICM III)||11.5|
|MSPA 1395||Research and Epidemiology||1.5|
|MSPA 1398||Intro to Clinical Med IV (ICM IV)||7|
|MSPA 2302||Psychiatry SCPE||4|
|MSPA 2303||Emergency Medicine SCPE||4|
|MSPA 2309||Elective SCPE||8|
|MSPA 2333||Women's Health SCPE||2|
|MSPA 2334||Pediatric SCPE||2|
|MSPA 2335||General Surgery SCPE||4|
|MSPA 2336||Internal Medicine SCPE||12|
|MSPA 2337||Family Medicine SCPE||12|
|MSPA 2340A||Program to Practice II||1|
|MSPA 2340B||Program to Practice II||1|
|MSPA 2340C||Program to Practice II||0.5|
|MSPA 2340D||Program to Practice II||2.5|
|Total Credit Hours||133.5|
SCPE = Supervised Clinical Practice Experience
All of the above listed courses are required.
There are no required elective hours.
|ANAT 2003||Cranial Nerves - A Case-Based Approach||1|
|ANAT 2026||Problem-Based Anatomy||1|
|ANAT 2031||Human Development||2|
|ANAT 2065||Coronary Circulation||1|
|ANAT 2071||Community Health Immersion Project||1|
|BHVMD 2076||Improv Skills in Health Care Setting||0.5|
|CTL 2078A||Practical Foundations for Medical Educat||1.5|
|CTL 2078B||Application of Practical Found for Med E||1|
|DO 2021||Dying in America: Palliative and End-Of-||1|
|DO 2036A||Rural Medicine Educational Pathway||1|
|DO 2036B||Rural Medicine Educational Pathway||1|
|ELECT 2080||Special Topics Elective||0.5 - 6|
|GLHLT 2020||Beginning Medical Spanish||1|
|GLHLT 2023||Intermediate Medical Spanish||1|
|SPMED 2030||Reproductive and Sexual Health||1|
|SPMED 2032||Healthy Food Preparation||0.5|
The University awards a Master of Science degree in Physician Assistant Studies (MSPA) upon recommendation of the faculty. To graduate, a student must:
- Satisfactorily complete all required courses, activities, and assessments.
- Maintain a cumulative GPA of 2.0 or higher based on a 4.0 scale.
- Have shown the ability to:
- Demonstrate knowledge of basic scientific principles as they relate to evidence-based clinical medicine.
- Take a comprehensive patient history and perform an appropriate physical exam to obtain information needed to formulate an appropriate differential diagnosis for patients across the lifespan, in varying encounter types and settings.
- Recognize the epidemiology, etiology, signs and symptoms, and appropriate diagnostic studies necessary to provide an accurate diagnosis for patients across the lifespan, in varying encounter types and settings.
- Utilize preventive health measures and manage disease in patients across the lifespan, in varying encounter types and settings, using pharmaceutical therapeutics, clinical interventions, and patient education.
- Demonstrate effective communication skills when interacting with patients, families, and other members of the healthcare team.
- Demonstrate sensitivity to the patient’s race, culture, age, socioeconomic background, sexual orientation, gender, and physical and intellectual abilities.
- Self-evaluate behaviors and medical knowledge to recognize personal limitations.
- Document adequate patient information regarding care provided, for medical, legal, quality assurance and financial purposes.
- Analyze and utilize medical literature.
- Exhibit professionalism, respect, compassion, and integrity, with accountability to patients, society, and the profession.
- Satisfactorily discharge all financial obligations to Des Moines University.
- Receive recommendation for graduation by the PA faculty, the Dean of the College of Health Sciences, and the Board of Trustees.