Physician Assistant Studies Hybrid Program (MS) Highlights

Become a patient-centered provider at the forefront of health care through the hybrid format of the Physician Assistant Studies Program.

Physician assistant high-fiving a child patient
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82 Credits

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8 Clinical Rotations

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850 Clinical Placement Sites

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24 Months to Complete*

*The estimated time to complete your degree if required credit hours are completed each semester.

Program Overview

Overview

The Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies – Hybrid Program (PAS-Hybrid), delivered through the Department of Physician Assistant Studies at the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, will equip aspiring physician assistants (PAs) with the clinical experience to act and the confidence to lead health care forward. Our program pairs interactive virtual lectures with hands-on immersion opportunities and over 850 exceptional clinical placements in health care settings across the country. Through our two-year program, you will cultivate the competencies and training you need to sit for the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) exam. As a physician assistant, you will practice medicine in collaboration with health care team members and advocate for patient health and well-being.

Individuals from areas with a health professions shortage, underrepresented minorities in medicine, and other minoritized communities are encouraged to apply.

Pitt’s Physician Assistant Studies Hybrid Program sets its goals high. Read our goals and learn how we plan to assess our performance.

Learn more about Pitt’s Physician Assistant Studies Hybrid Program Inclusion Initiative.

Accreditation

The ARC-PA has granted Accreditation-Provisional status to the University of Pittsburgh Physician Assistant Studies Hybrid Program sponsored by University of Pittsburgh. Accreditation-Provisional is an accreditation status granted when the plans and resource allocation, if fully implemented as planned, of a proposed program that has not yet enrolled students appear to demonstrate the program’s ability to meet the ARC-PA Standards or when a program holding Accreditation-Provisional status appears to demonstrate continued progress in complying with the Standards as it prepares for the graduation of the first class (cohort) of students.

Accreditation-Provisional does not ensure any subsequent accreditation status. It is limited to no more than five years from matriculation of the first class.

The program’s accreditation history can be viewed on the ARC-PA website at http://www.arc-pa.org/accreditation-history-university-of-pittsburgh-hybrid/.

Policies and Procedures

See the Policies and Procedures Manual for the defined, published, readily available and consistently applied policies of the PA Studies Hybrid Program.

All Didactic Component courses are sequential and must be successfully completed in order to progress to the next term of the curriculum. Since each course in the program is offered only once during each academic year, any departure from completing a course in its planned sequence (e.g. failure to receive a passing grade of 'C' or better, leave of absence from the program) will result in a delay by retaking the course the following year, as well as delays in completing the program and graduating with the Master of Science degree. Each student must complete the program within five calendar years of their first day of class in their first term (see the PA Studies Hybrid Program Policy and Procedure Manual for additional details).

Courses

Per program policy, prospective and enrolled students are never required to provide or solicit clinical sites or preceptors. The program does allow students to suggest clinical sites or preceptors: The program evaluates such suggestions for educational suitability.

Didactic Component (Year One)

Year One Total Credits: 45

Term 1

This course traces the history, development and current status of the physician assistant profession. Students will explore the role of the physician assistant as part of the health care team. The student will research and investigate the state and national legislation that governs the profession. Topics will include a historical perspective of the profession, current trends and issues of the profession; the PA role in health care delivery, competencies integral to the PA profession; political and legal factors that affect PA practice; importance of biomedical ethics, patient confidentiality and professionalism, in relation to their role as health care providers; content reviewing the professional organizations, program accreditation, graduate certification, certification maintenance, license application, employment issues and professional liability will be discussed.

This course with a lab studies the organization of the human body and the way in which anatomical relationships serve as a basis for function. The medical aspects of the structural and functional organization of the human body are also a focus of attention. The lectures are designed to provide guidance or explain difficult or conceptual material. The major learning experience occurs in the laboratory with cadaveric dissection.

This course introduces the student to how the health care system works. The focus is on basic principles of health policy and system failures. Topics include reimbursement, access to health care, workforce, quality assurance and long-term health care. Other areas of focus include public policy, funding issues, health care disparities, managed care and the medically underserved. The course will conclude with an opportunity to review and discuss moral and ethical issues in health care from the perspective of a physician assistant.

This course introduces the basic concepts, terminology and methodology of quantitative and qualitative research as it applies to medical practice. This course will stress the knowledge and skills necessary for locating, interpreting, evaluating and applying quality medical research to clinical practice and professional development; the ability to appropriately critique medical literature; and the basic comprehension needed for participation in research and the development of research and grant proposals. Assessment of understanding and skills will be conducted during the course as well as throughout the didactic program and clinical rotations.

This course is the first part of an intensive study of human disease processes and disorders in the broad scope of clinical medicine. Students will explore the epidemiology, etiology, pathophysiology, assessment, management and follow up of disease processes and disorders. The course will approach the condition from the perspective of history and physical examination, ordering and interpreting diagnostic studies, generation of a differential diagnoses and the development and implementation of treatment plans and prognosis. Preventative measures to assist in disease prevention will also be discussed. Presented by clinicians from various specialties these lectures provide comprehensive instruction that enables the student to understand the nature and problems experienced by both ambulatory and hospitalized patients. Students will also learn the head-to-toe physical examination. The laboratory component of this course will focus on patient interviewing, patient communication and case-based learning.

This course integrates the specific characteristics and mechanisms of normal and abnormal functioning of tissues and organs of the human body organized in a systems-based approach. This includes principles of cell and organ physiology, and the disruption of normal homeostatic mechanisms that progresses beyond the compensatory capabilities of the human body.

Term 2

This course introduces the student to the understanding of genetic and molecular medicine as it applies to clinical practice. A strong knowledge base of cell structure, genetic variation, inheritance patterns and specific genetic disorders is required. In addition to knowledge, the application of genetic knowledge and molecular medicine involves the development and integration of skills including but not limited to: accurate history taking; creation of precise documentation of and interpretation of the pedigree; integration of genetic understanding into patient assessment; comprehension of the role of genetic testing and counseling; and management and referral of patients with genetic issues. Physician assistant students must be familiar with the most common clinical genetic diseases, as well as the ethical, legal and social issues of genetics. Due to the constantly changing knowledge in this field, PA students must demonstrate the ability to utilize information literacy skills to ensure that as clinicians they are self-directed lifelong learners.

This course is a practical approach to understanding how patients present, learn and change based on the research on theories, models and techniques of: personality and learning styles; how to assess patient knowledge, attitude and readiness to change; and the effects of literacy, health literacy, individual coping mechanisms, ecological barriers and culture on patient comprehension and adherence. The use of validated interpersonal skills improves the clinician/patient relationship, demonstrates respect for the patient’s well-being and individuality, thereby reducing medical errors and lawsuits, and increasing patient adherence. Self-reflection on the student’s own barriers, biases, stereotypes, culture and assumptions is required. Assessment of understanding and skills will be conducted during the course as well as throughout the didactic program and clinical rotations.

This course introduces the student to the basic interviewing, history taking and documentation skills which will include the chief complaint, history of present illness, past medical, surgical, social, allergy and family history, review of systems and medications. Students will learn the clinical significance of the physical examination, the components of the complete physical exam and will be able to perform these examination techniques. Topics in this course will include: a general overview of history taking and physical examination; clinical reasoning; documentation; interviewing skills; the general survey; skin; the head and neck; the lungs; and the abdomen.

This course is the first part of an intensive study of human disease processes and disorders in the broad scope of clinical medicine. As the course progresses students will explore the epidemiology, etiology, pathophysiology, assessment, management and follow up of disease processes and disorders. The course will approach the condition from the perspective of history and physical examination, ordering and interpreting diagnostic studies, generation of a differential diagnoses and the development and implementation of treatment plans and prognosis. Preventative measures to assist in disease prevention will also be discussed. Content includes infectious diseases, dermatology, disorders of the head, eyes, ears, nose and throat, cardiopulmonary disorders and endocrinopathies. Presented by physicians from various practice specialties these lectures provide comprehensive instruction that enables the student to understand the nature and problems experienced by both ambulatory and hospitalized patients. The laboratory component of this course focuses on case-based learning.

This course provides a foundation of clinical skills and diagnostic procedures that are commonly performed in patient care. Instruction for selected procedures and diagnostic tools will be presented to the student by various methods including theory discussion, rationale for procedure, identification of necessary equipment, principles of appropriate skill technique, demonstration of skill when applicable, skill practice time, identification of special clinical considerations and precautions, documentation aspects and recommended elements of patient education. Opportunities to observe certain procedures and diagnostic tools will be correlated when possible. Topics include methods of wound care and closure, burns, hyper/hypothermia, assessment of pulmonary function, arterial blood gases, ENT procedures, bioterrorism, and radiology. The laboratory component of this course will allow the student to practice the skills and procedures common to PA practice.

This course presents a study of drugs and their interactions with and within living tissue. This course introduces the student to general drug classifications and medicinal agents most likely encountered in primary care settings and the pharmacological principles, dosing, patient education, pharmacodynamics, and therapeutic parameters and indications about commonly prescribed drugs. Areas covered include drug receptor theory, mechanisms of action, pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, antimicrobial therapy, cardiovascular medications, and drugs affecting the autonomic nervous system, complementary medicines. Each of these topics will be explored through lecture, class discussions and case presentations.

Term 3

This course introduces the student to the interviewing, history taking and documentation skills which will include the chief complaint, history of present illness, past medical, surgical, social, allergy and family history, review of systems and medications as they pertain to the specific organ systems presented. The students will learn the clinical significance of the physical examination, the components of the physical exam and will be able to perform these examination techniques for the material introduced in this course. Topics in this course will include: a general overview of history taking and physical examination as it pertains to course content; clinical reasoning; documentation; interviewing skills; and the cardiovascular, female/male genitalia, musculoskeletal, neurological, and psychiatric systems; and assessment of the pregnant patient.

This course is a continuation of Clinical Medicine I and is an intensive study of human disease processes and disorders in the broad scope of clinical medicine. As the course progresses students will explore the epidemiology, etiology, pathophysiology, assessment, management and follow up of disease processes and disorders. The course will approach the condition from the perspective of history and physical examination, ordering and interpreting diagnostic studies, generation of a differential diagnoses and the development and implementation of treatment plans and prognosis. Preventative measures to assist in disease prevention will also be discussed. Content includes disorders of the GI system, obstetrics and gynecology, nephrology, disorders of the urinary tract, musculoskeletal diseases, neurology, behavioral medicine, and hematology/oncology. Presented by physicians from various practice specialties these lectures provide comprehensive instruction that enables the student to understand the nature and problems experienced by both ambulatory and hospitalized patients. The laboratory component of this course focuses on case-based learning.

This course provides a foundation of clinical skills and diagnostic procedures that are commonly performed in patient care. Instruction for selected procedures and diagnostic tools will be presented to the student by various methods including theory discussion, rationale for procedure, identification of necessary equipment, principles of appropriate skill technique, demonstration of skill when applicable, skill practice time, identification of special clinical considerations and precautions, documentation aspects and recommended elements of patient education. Opportunities to observe certain procedures and diagnostic tools will be correlated when possible. Topics include GI procedures, NG tube placement, intravenous placement, central line monitoring, bladder catheterization, musculoskeletal procedures, immobilization, joint injection, lumbar puncture, electrocardiography and transfusion medicine. The laboratory component of this course will allow the student to practice the skills and procedures common to PA practice.

This course introduces the student to general drug classifications and medicinal agents most likely encountered in primary care settings and the pharmacological principles, dosing, patient education, pharmacodynamics, and therapeutic parameters and indications about commonly prescribed drugs. Topics include drugs used in gastroenterology, obstetrics and gynecology, immunology, complementary medicine, psychotropic medications, opioid and non-opioid analgesia, chemotherapeutic agents. Each of these topics will be explored through lecture, class discussions and case presentations.

This course introduces the physician assistant student to diseases, exam findings and diagnostic evaluations, and treatments common to the pediatric and geriatric populations. Course content will be introduced using a variety of teaching techniques including both traditional lectures as well as cooperative and collaborative group work. Case studies will be presented to reinforce course content and form the discussion in class.

A series of lectures introduces fundamental principles of perioperative medicine, procedure-oriented patient evaluations, preoperative assessment, prevention of post-operative complications, surgical instrumentation, operative techniques, anesthesia, pre- and post-operative management of patients, post-operative complications, comorbid states, and documentation. The history of the physician assistant in surgery, including surgical reimbursement issues will be discussed. Selected topics will include the most commonly performed surgical procedures as well as issues relevant to various surgical subspecialties.

Clinical Component (Year Two)

The order in which a student completes all of the below clinical courses may vary, so course numbers are not listed. Each student must complete the PAS 2429 Transition to PA Certification and Practice (5 credits) course within the final four months of the program.

Year Two Total Credits: 37

Supervised Clinical Practice Experiences are required to be in the following disciplines:

A five-week clinical rotation focuses on the evaluation and management of the ambulatory and hospitalized patient on an inpatient medicine service. Students learn how to take an accurate and pertinent history, conduct a physical examination, recognize patterns of illness, and acquire approaches to disease management. The student participates in the full range of inpatient care, formulating a problem list, taking part in daily rounds, performing technical skills, participating in the management of patient problems, and planning for discharge and follow-up care.

A five-week clinical rotation focuses on the evaluation and management of the ambulatory patient in an outpatient care setting. The student participates in the full range of outpatient care through the life span, including collecting pertinent patient data and the information from diagnostic studies, developing a differential diagnosis, oral and written case presentations, and formulating management plans including patient education, appropriate referral and follow-up care. This clinical rotation encompasses the comprehensive and longitudinal care of patients with a special emphasis on care of individuals in the context of families and communities.

A five-week clinical rotation focuses on the evaluation and management of patients in the emergency department setting. The student participates in the appropriate triage, stabilization, diagnosis and management of patients with urgent and emergent problems and develops skills in working with the pre-hospital emergency medical team and secondary referral systems.

A five-week rotation focuses on the evaluation and care of infants and children in an ambulatory setting. The student participates in well-child preventative care, the evaluation and management of common pediatric problems, and the patient education of children and their caregivers.

The purpose of the surgery clerkship is to provide the student a wide breadth of practical clinical experience in the evaluation and management of the surgical patient. This experience is designed to augment, strengthen and refine the student’s surgical skills, as well as their ability to perform pre-operative, intra-operative and post-operative care. The student is expected to gain awareness of the contributions of other health professions in the overall delivery of surgical care as well as for the role a PA may play in its delivery.

A five-week rotation focuses on the evaluation and management of patients with psychiatric and behavioral health problems in ambulatory and/or inpatient settings. The student participates in psychiatric evaluations, monitoring of therapy, and appropriate referral to other health care professionals and facilities.

This 5-week rotation provides the PA student with practical clinical experience in evaluation and management of normal and abnormal conditions in OB/GYN. In addition, students will learn to provide prenatal and postpartum care, gynecologic care, family planning, health education, and counseling.

A five-week clinical rotation that is designed to provide the Physician Assistant student with an elective opportunity in any of the previous rotation specialties or a rotation designed by the student, in conjunction with a faculty member, to enhance the students’ knowledge or skill in a specific elective.

Term 1

  • Supervised Clinical Practice Experience 1
  • Supervised Clinical Practice Experience 2
  • Supervised Clinical Practice Experience 3

Term 2

  • Supervised Clinical Practice Experience 4
  • Supervised Clinical Practice Experience 5
  • Supervised Clinical Practice Experience 6

Term 3

  • Supervised Clinical Practice Experience 7
  • Supervised Clinical Practice Experience 8
  • PAS 2429 – Transition to Professional Practice
    • A five-week course that combines instruction on practical issues as they relate to the practicing physician assistant, especially the new graduates, with evaluation instruments that measure if and verify that the learner has met the learning outcomes of the program and has the knowledge, interpersonal skills, clinical and technical skills, professional behaviors, clinical reasoning and problem-solving abilities required for physician assistant practice.

Each student must complete the program within five calendar years of their first day of class in their first term (see the PA Studies Hybrid Program Policy and Procedure Manual for additional details).

Regarding Clinical Education: The program works to build and maintain a strong pool of clinical sites and preceptors across the United States, including accepting suggestions from prospective and enrolled students. The program evaluates clinical sites and preceptors for educational suitability, among other important considerations.

Please note the following:

  • Students who are not located in an area near available clinical sites may need to relocate in order to complete the program. Keep in mind the program clinical education team works with students to avoid or minimize this to the best of our ability.
  • Per program policy, prospective and enrolled students are never required to provide or solicit clinical sites or preceptors.
  • All clinical rotations require screening measures. Learn more about Background Checks and Other Screening Requirements.

At this time, the University of Pittsburgh School of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences has made the determination that because of regulatory requirements it will not place students in clinical sites in Colorado. Students based in Colorado who enroll in the PAS-Hybrid Program will complete their clinical placements outside of the state. Please reach out to your enrollment advisor for additional details.

Program Competencies

At Pitt, we prepare the next generation of providers willing to push the envelope and adapt to industry changes. The Physician Assistant Studies Hybrid Program curriculum is consistent with the Core Competencies for New Physician Assistant Graduates established by the Physician Assistant Education Association. At the completion of the program, PAS-Hybrid graduates will be able to demonstrate and perform competencies in the following areas:

Patient-Centered Practice Knowledge

Gather clinical information, formulate differential diagnoses, order and interpret laboratory and imaging, perform necessary core duty procedures, and diagnose, prevent, treat and manage illness among acute, chronic, and emerging disease states.

Integrate into practice appropriate literature to make evidence-based decisions on patient care.

Society and Population Health

Integrate into practice the cultural norms, needs, influences, and socioeconomic, environmental, physiological and other population-level determinants affecting the health of the individual and community being served.

Integrate into practice the interventions that diminish health disparities involving race or ethnicity, sex, sexual identity, age, disability, socioeconomic status, and geographic location involving the individual patient and the community being served.

Integrate into practice basic principles of public health including epidemiology, disease prevention, surveillance, reporting and intervention. Provide appropriate referrals involving the public health system to ensure patient advocacy and in the maintenance of population health.

Health Literacy and Communication

Communicate effectively and respectfully with patients, families, and other health care professionals.

Interprofessional Collaborative Practice and Leadership

Coordinate care to optimize the health of patients and populations.

Professional and Legal Aspects of Health Care

Provide standard-of-care practice while demonstrating respect for the dignity and privacy of patients.

Incorporate a personal wellness plan to prevent impairment and burnout.

Demonstrate professional accountability.

Health Care Finance and Systems

Differentiate the types of health care systems and health insurance coverage, including Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Practice health care informed by an understanding of the financial implications to patients, organizations and society.

Recognize personal limitations and incorporate a quality improvement process designed to maximize patient safety, prevention of medical errors and incorporation of risk management.

Program Learning Outcomes

Graduate Performance on the Physician Assistant National Certification Exam® (PANCE)

Once available, our Program will publish the most current annual NCCPA PANCE Exam Performance Summary Report (Last 5 Years) for all takers and first-time takers provided by the NCCPA through its program portal, no later than April 1 of each year (the link to this report will be found here).

Student Attrition and Graduation Rates

Once available, our Program will publish the most current annual student attrition information, on the table provided by the ARC-PA, no later than April 1 of each year (the link to this information will be found here).

Meet our Program Director, Principal Faculty, and Medical Director

At the University of Pittsburgh, our top-tier faculty set our programs apart. As a PAS-Hybrid student, you will learn from award-winning instructors with decades of experience as certified physician assistants. Outside of the classroom, Department of Physician Assistant Studies faculty are innovators committed to moving health care forward and passionate providers with a focus on excellence in patient care.

David Beck, EdD, MPAS, PA-C, DFAAPA

David Beck, EdD, MPAS, PA-C, DFAAPA

Associate Dean for Interprofessional Studies, SHRS; Chair, Department of Physician Assistant Studies; Director and Associate Professor, PA Studies Hybrid Program

dbeck@pitt.edu
(412) 624-6717

Wei-Neng Chuang, MS, PT

Wei-Neng Chuang, MS, PT

Instructor

wec12@pitt.edu
(412) 320-3829

Christina Davis, MPAS, PA-C, MBA

Christina Davis, MPAS, PA-C, MBA

Director of Curriculum and Assistant Professor, PA Studies Hybrid Program

cmd180@pitt.edu
(412) 624-6743

Ashley Firm, PharmD

Ashley Firm, PharmD

Director of Student and Alumni Engagement; Director of Student Affairs for the PA Studies Hybrid Program; and Assistant Professor, Department of Physician Assistant Studies

alf158@pitt.edu
(412) 624-6743

Susan Graff, MS, PA-C

Susan Graff, MS, PA-C

Director of Medical Technology Education; Director of Assessment for the PA Studies Hybrid Program; and Assistant Professor, Department of Physician Assistant Studies

sgg16@pitt.edu
(412) 624-6743

L. Carlos Gutierrez, EdD, MMS, PA-C

L. Carlos Gutierrez, EdD, MMS, PA-C

Adjunct Assistant Professor

lcg32@pitt.edu
(412) 624-6743

Karthik Hariharan, PT, MS

Karthik Hariharan, PT, MS

SHRS Director of Anatomy, Director of Mentoring for the PA Studies Hybrid Program, and Assistant Professor

kvh4@pitt.edu
(412) 383-6645

Tara McSwigan, MPAS, PA-C

Tara McSwigan, MPAS, PA-C

Director of Admissions for the PA Studies Hybrid Program and Assistant Professor

tmm142@pitt.edu
(412) 624-6743

Hayden Mulligan

Hayden Mulligan

Assistant Professor

fhm4@pitt.edu
(412) 624-6743

Paul Phrampus, MD, FACEP

Paul Phrampus, MD, FACEP

Medical Director for the PA Studies Hybrid Program and Professor

phrampuspe@upmc.edu
(412) 648-6073

Kathryn Reed, MS, PA-C, EMT-P, RYT

Kathryn Reed, MS, PA-C, EMT-P, RYT

Vice Chair for Equity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement and Assistant Professor, Department of PA Studies

kjr34@pitt.edu
(412) 624-6743

Christine Rodgers, MPAS, PA-C, MPH

Christine Rodgers, MPAS, PA-C, MPH

Associate Director and Director of Clinical Education for the Physician Assistant Studies Hybrid Program and Assistant Professor

cer51@pitt.edu
(412) 383-0895

Lauren Taylor, MPAS, PA-C

Lauren Taylor, MPAS, PA-C

Assistant Professor

lmt65@pitt.edu
(412) 624-6743

Daniel Tolomeo, MS, PA-C

Daniel Tolomeo, MS, PA-C

Assistant Professor

dvt11@pitt.edu
(412) 624-6743

A Career Path That Moves Health Care Forward

Certified physician assistants are in demand, and the need for qualified care team members is expected to grow. Job openings for physician assistants are projected to grow over 30% by 2029, much faster than the average industry (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021). Graduates of the Physician Assistant Studies Program who become certified physician assistants can work in any of the following settings and have the flexibility to move between areas:

Primary Care

Family Medicine
General Internal Medicine
General Pediatrics
Emergency Medicine
General Surgery
Pediatric Subspecialties
Public Health
Radiation Oncology
Radiology
Urgent Care
Others

Internal Medicine Specialties and Subspecialties

Cardiology
Critical Care
Endocrinology
Gastroenterology
Hematology and Oncology
Infectious Disease
Nephrology
Neurology
Pulmonology
Rheumatology

Surgical Specialties and Subspecialties

Bariatric Surgery
Cardiovascular/Cardiothoracic Surgery
Colon and Rectal Surgery
Neurosurgery
Oncology Surgery
Orthopaedic Surgery
Otolaryngology
Pediatric Surgery
Plastic Surgery
Thoracic Surgery
Transplant Surgery
Trauma Surgery
Urology
Vascular Surgery
Other Surgical Subspecialties