May 23, 2012 | 10:40 a.m.
By Suzanne McInroy, Director of Communications
The Graduate School at Bethel University has announced that it will launch a physician assistant program, making it only the third program offered in the state. The Master of Science in Physician Assistant (P.A.) program will begin in May 2013, pending accreditation approval.
The P.A. degree at Bethel will be a 28-month, full-time master's program designed to give physician assistants a foundational, generalist training that prepares them for all areas of medicine. Through coursework, lab sessions, and clinical rotations, the program will train students to diagnose patients, treat diseases, prescribe medications, and assist with preventive care.
“Our goal is that P.A. graduates will leave Bethel prepared to work alongside physicians, treating illnesses and serving their patients with compassion,” says Wallace Boeve, director of the new program. “Our facilities offer low- and high-fidelity simulation equipment that provides hands-on experience right in the classroom. Plus, rotations in several specialty areas will give our students the chance to apply what they’re learning in class to a variety of real-world settings.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the physician assistant profession will grow 30% by the year 2020 due to a number of factors, including an aging population that will put increasing pressure on healthcare providers.
Adding the P.A. program at the Graduate School is part of a larger university strategic plan to expand Bethel’s presence in health sciences. The university already has a long-standing tradition of solid health science and nursing programs in the College of Arts & Sciences as well as the M.S. in Nursing at the Graduate School.
Before starting at Bethel this spring, Boeve was the director of the physician assistant program at Grand Valley State University in Michigan where he worked for nearly 12 years. He also has years of experience working as a physician assistant in rural family practice and most recently, inpatient psychiatry. Along with a recently hired part-time medical director, Dr. Daniel Leafblad, Boeve is developing the P.A. program at Bethel by hiring new faculty members, working with area doctors and hospitals to establish clinical sites for the students, and working on accreditation requirements.
Boeve adds, “Bethel University’s distinctive Christian mission to be world-changers, as well as salt and light in the world, is what drew me and my family here. We are excited to be only one of three P.A. programs in the United States with a specific Christian focus to educate students to become physician assistants who are competent and ethical practitioners, as well as possess integrity and be compassionate reconcilers.”
The M.S. in Physician Assistant program is scheduled for a provisional accreditation visit from the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) in December 2012. Notification from ARC-PA about program approval is expected in April 2013. Additionally, the program will apply for appropriate Higher Learning Commission accreditation status, as well as Minnesota Department of Education requirements. If ARC-PA does not award provisional accreditation, the first class will not be accepted into the program for May 2013.