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 gather patient histories, conduct physical exams, order and interpret tests, diagnose and treat illnesses, 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 lateral 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 for mid-level providers on the primary health care team. The utilization of physician assistants over the last 50+ years has demonstrated that PAs provide high-quality and 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 patient-centered care.
Our Core Values Are:
- Teamwork: A collaborative, multidisciplinary approach is key to providing quality healthcare and is the cornerstone on which the PA profession was built.
- Integrity: Honesty, respect, and high ethical standards are important traits of a healthcare provider.
- Professionalism: Standards of professional conduct create role models for others, avoid conflicts of interest, promote cultural competence, and exhibit dedication to quality medical care.
- Empathy: Compassionate and understanding healthcare providers address the concerns of the whole person.
To be considered for admission into the Physician Assistant program, candidates must hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university within the United States. 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. All prerequisite courses must be taken at regionally accredited institutions. No grade lower than a "C" will be accepted for prerequisite coursework. CLEP credits, AP credits, and P/F credits will not be considered for prerequisites.
|Subject||Required Course(s) or Term Hours|
|Biology1,2||16 semester hours|
|Chemistry1,3||15 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 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 (PAEA), 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. The curriculum is 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 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
The purpose of this document is to specify the technical standards the University deems necessary for a student to matriculate, remain in good standing and ultimately achieve all the competencies necessary for graduation within their program. The University, therefore, requires candidates to confirm their ability to comply with these standards, with or without accommodation, as a condition of admission and on an annual basis thereafter.
Fulfilment of the technical standards for graduation does not guarantee that a graduate will be able to fulfill the technical requirements of any specific residency program or employment setting.
A candidate who is seeking a DO, DPM, MSPA, or DPT degree at Des Moines University must be capable of completing core educational requirements and achieving the competencies in the basic and clinical sciences. DMU seeks to develop candidates who have a deep and robust medical knowledge base and outstanding clinical skills, with the ability to appropriately apply them, effectively interpret information, and contribute to decisions across a broad spectrum of medical situations and settings. The critical skills required to be successful are outlined below and include the ability to observe, communicate, perform motor functions, as well as to understand, integrate core knowledge and skills, and to behave appropriately in varied educational and professional situations.
Reasonable accommodations may be required by otherwise qualified individual candidates to meet the technical standards specified below. Requests for University-provided accommodations will be granted if the requests are reasonable, do not cause a fundamental alteration of the medical education program, do not cause an undue hardship, are consistent with the standards of the medical profession, and are recommended by the Accommodations and Educational Support Specialist.
1. Observation: Candidates and students must be able to acquire required information 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.
2. Communication: Candidates and students must be able to demonstrate proficiency in the English language such that they can communicate effectively in oral and written form with all members of the health care team. Candidates and students must be able to communicate with patients in order to elicit and share information. They must have the capacity for comfortable verbal and non-verbal communication and interpersonal skills to enable effective caregiving of patients and collaboration within a multidisciplinary team. In any case where a candidate’s ability to communicate is compromised, the candidate must demonstrate alternative means and/or abilities to communicate with patients and teams.
3. Motor and 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 require coordination of both gross and fine muscular movements, equilibrium, and functional use of the senses of touch. In any case where a candidate’s ability to complete and interpret physical findings using motor skills is compromised, the candidate must demonstrate alternative means and/or abilities to retrieve these physical findings. Candidates and students must be willing and able to touch and examine members of all genders.
4. Strength and Mobility: Candidates and students must demonstrate strength, including lower extremity and body strength, and mobility to provide clinical care, attend to emergency codes, and to perform or direct such maneuvers as CPR.
5. Evaluation and Treatment Integration: Consistent with the ability to assess asymmetry, range of motion and tissue texture changes, candidates and students must perform proper evaluation and treatment integration.
6. 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, timely analyze and interpret data and make decisions within areas in which there is a reasonable amount of visual and auditory distraction.
7. Behavioral Attributes, Social Skills, and Professional Expectation: Candidates and students must be able to effectively utilize their intellectual abilities, exercise good judgment, timely complete all responsibilities attendant to the diagnosis and care of patients, and develop mature, sensitive, and effective relationships with patients and colleagues. Candidates and students must be able to professionally manage heavy workloads, prioritize conflicting demands, and function effectively under stress. They must be able to adapt to changing environments; to display flexibility, to learn to function in the face of uncertainties inherent in the clinical problems of patients, and to not engage in substance abuse. Candidates and students must be able to care for all individuals in a respectful and effective manner regardless of race, color, national origin, ethnicity, creed, religion, age, disability, sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or any other protected status. Professionalism, compassion, integrity, concern for others, interpersonal skills, interest, and motivation are all qualities that are required throughout the educational process.
Des Moines University welcomes qualified candidates and students with disabilities who meet the technical standards of the program, with or without reasonable accommodations. Students with a disability who may need accommodations during their educational career at DMU will be asked to reaffirm their need for accommodations when acknowledging the ability to meet technical standards annually. The student is responsible for requesting accommodations through the Accommodations and Educational Support Specialist in the Center for Educational Enhancement in person, by phone (515-271-4452) or by email (email@example.com). The Accommodations and Educational Support Specialist reviews all requests for accommodations through an individualized, interactive process.
The use of an intermediary may be a reasonable accommodation while performing some non-essential physical maneuvers or non-technical data gathering. However, an intermediary cannot substitute for the candidates’ or student’s interpretation and judgement. Intermediaries may not perform essential skills on behalf of the candidate or student, nor can they replace technical skills related to selection and observation.
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, with or without reasonable accommodation, and annually confirm they continue to meet these 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.
The University will, if requested, provide reasonable accommodations to otherwise qualified students and candidates with disabilities unless: (1) such accommodations impose an undue hardship to the University; or (2) such accommodations result in a direct threat of substantial harm to the health or safety of the student or candidate, or others; or (3) such accommodations fundamentally alter the educational program or academic standards.
A student whose behavior or performance raises questions concerning his or her ability to fulfill these essential functions may be required to obtain evaluation or testing by a health care provider designated by the University, and to provide the results to the Center for Educational Enhancement to be considered as part of the interactive process to determine possible reasonable accommodations.
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.
In addition to the technical standards set forth, candidates and students must possess the general physical health necessary for performing the duties of a student in the health sciences and a health professional in training without endangering the lives of patients and/or colleagues with whom they might have contact. A candidate or student who abuses alcohol or other substances is not qualified 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||.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 in the PA program. A complete list of University electives may be found on the Elective Courses page. Prior to the start of each term, students are provided a list of electives for which PA students are eligible.
The university awards a Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies (MSPAS) degree 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.