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Physician Assistant Program Gains Recognition

The first cohort of PA students will graduate in August.

This spring, students from Bethel’s physician assistant (PA) program won the Minnesota Academy of Physician Assistants medical quiz bowl. The annual event is an opportunity for students in Minnesota’s four physician assistant programs to compete in answering medical-related questions, with multiple teams from each school competing for the coveted “Gold Stethoscope.”  At the end of the evening, three students from the inaugural class of Bethel’s program—Ariel Schibilla, David Johnston, and Lisa Milbrandt—took home the gold. They were also awarded national board review texts to help with their preparation for national board exams after graduation in August.

The summer commencement will mark the graduation of the PA program’s first cohort, which began with the program’s launch in June 2013. The group of 31 students already participated in the inaugural Pinning Ceremony in July 2014, which celebrated their transition from successful completion of the didactic (classroom) phase of their PA education to the start of the clinical (rotation) phase. In this ceremony, the students receive an honorary Bethel PA pin for the lapel of their white clinical jackets. The event will be held again this July for the second PA cohort. The first graduating class will celebrate the inaugural White Coat Ceremony on August 1, 2015, in which a long white lab coat is placed on each student as they graduate and begin their PA career. The ceremony was funded through a grant from the Arnold P Gold Foundation.

“We could not have asked for a better inaugural cohort,” says Wallace Boeve, PA program director. “They have done very well in the didactic phase of the program and have received many accolades from physicians and PAs in the community on their preparedness while on rotations. We look ahead with great excitement to the excellent patient care they will bring worldwide as representatives of a Bethel PA education.”

In addition to the Pinning Ceremony, White Coat Ceremony, and graduation, this summer will bring an esteemed guest lecturer to PA course offerings. Jane Runzheimer, MD, co-author of Medical Ethics for Dummies, will introduce the topic of medical ethics to students as they begin class in June. Runzheimer is a family physician who has served on the Ethics Committee of Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. Her book is a practical guide to the moral and ethical standards of healthcare, and provides aspiring medical professionals with the philosophical and practical foundation for advancing in a field where critical ethical and moral decisions need to be made rapidly and convincingly. “Dr. Runzheimer brings an experienced perspective to this topic,” says Jeanne Szarzynski, assistant professor in the PA program. “She has been confronted with many situations that require applying not only good healthcare, but also good ethics.”

The Master of Science in Physician Assistant (PA) program is a 27-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 trains students to diagnose diseases, treat patients, prescribe medications, and assist with preventive care. It is one of just three physician assistant programs in the United States with a specific Christian focus, says Boeve, “to educate students to become leaders who are competent, compassionate, and confident as physician assistants.”

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