Physician Assistant Studies

What is a Physician Assistant?

Physician Assistants (PAs) are health professionals licensed to practice medicine with physician supervision.

  • PAs are qualified by graduation from an accredited physician assistant educational program and certified by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA).
  • Within the physician/PA relationship, PAs exercise autonomy in medical decision-making and provide a broad range of diagnostic and therapeutic services.
  • The clinical role of PAs includes primary and specialty care in medical and surgical practice settings in rural and urban areas.
  • PA practice is centered on patient care and may include educational, research, and administrative activities.

 

Visit the Department of Physician Assistant Studies Page

Program Type

Major

Degree

Master's

Duration

5-year

Required Credit Hours

Pre-Professional Phase: 91 credits Accredited Phase: 89 credits

Physician Assistant Studies Faculty

The faculty of the Duquesne University Physician Assistant Studies Program possess clinical expertise in a variety of specialties and subspecialties, including internal medicine and family practice, women's health, surgery, orthopedics, urgent care, infectious disease, oncology, hematology, physical medicine and rehabilitation, HIV/AIDS, transplant medicine, and pediatrics. With many years of experience educating PA students and other healthcare professionals, the faculty serves as mentors and resources for students throughout their college careers. They work closely with students to ensure the development of their professional skills to the highest level.

Dr. Bridget Calhoun, DrPH, PA-C

Dr. Bridget Calhoun, DrPH, PA-C

Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Research and Associate Professor

Kristin D'Acunto, MPA, PA-C

Kristin D'Acunto, MPA, PA-C

Department Chair and Assistant Professor

Courtney Hartman, MHPE, MPAS, PA-C

Courtney Hartman, MHPE, MPAS, PA-C

Director of Clinical Education

Kristyn Lowery, MPA, PA-C

Kristyn Lowery, MPA, PA-C

Assistant Professor

Allison Morgan, MPA, PA-C

Allison Morgan, MPA, PA-C

Assistant Professor

Ashley Snopko, MPA, PA-C

Ashley Snopko, MPA, PA-C

Assistant Professor

Jenifer Blasinsky, Pharm.D.

Jenifer Blasinsky, Pharm.D.

Adjunct Faculty

Charles Karnack, Pharm.D.

Charles Karnack, Pharm.D.

Adjunct Faculty

Program Learning Outcomes & Core Competencies

In 2003, the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) initiated an effort to define PA competencies in response to similar efforts being conducted within other health care professions and growing demand for accountability and assessment in clinical practice. The following year, representatives from three other national PA organizations, each bringing a unique perspective and valuable insights, joined NCCPA in that effort. Those organizations were the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA), the body that accredits PA educational programs; the Association of Physician Assistant Programs (APAP), the membership association for PA educators and program directors; and the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA), the only national membership association representing all PAs. Professional competencies for physician assistants include the effective and appropriate application of medical knowledge, interpersonal and communication skills, patient care, professionalism, practice-based learning and improvement, and systems-based practice. The mission of the PA department is to prepare physician assistant students to become highly competent and qualified physician assistants who practice collaboratively in a professional and inclusive manner. Upon completion of the Duquesne University PA Program, each student will meet the following Learning Outcomes and Core Competencies.

Students will perform an accurate, problem-focused and/or comprehensive history and physical examination in patients of ages across the lifespan.
Students will be able to communicate with patients, patients' families and other members of the healthcare team in a supportive and effective manner
Students will document relevant patient data using various formats including written, oral and electronic modalities while being mindful of legal ramifications and overall patient safety.
Students will be able to order and interpret pertinent diagnostic studies to develop an appropriate, prioritized differential diagnosis.
Students will accurately integrate medical knowledge to implement treatment plans in order to comprehensively manage both medical and surgical patients.
Students will competently perform both diagnostic and therapeutic procedures across the lifespan in various disciplines of medicine.
Students will compassionately provide education and counseling while serving as a patient advocate.
Students will maintain an understanding and respect for the patients' culture and provide inclusive care for all patients.
Students will work collaboratively with all members of the healthcare team to provide safe and exceptional patient care.
Students will engage in ethical and professional behavior with the patient, patient families and other members of the healthcare team.
Students will analyze and interpret current, evidence-based medical literature and contribute via scholarly work to benefit the profession and society as a whole.
Students will develop the skills necessary to become lifelong learners and demonstrate commitment to stay current with medical knowledge.
Students will participate in scholarly activities to further the profession and provide service to the communities at large.

The Physician Assistant National Certification Examination (PANCE) is the qualifying examination administered by the National Commission on the Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) for physician assistant graduates. Following successful completion of the PANCE, a physician assistant is "certified" to practice and can use the initials "PA-C." The examination is a comprehensive assessment of an individual's clinical knowledge.

Here are the Duquesne University Board Exam Pass Rates for each class.

Here is the Duquesne University Exam Performance Summary Report for classes 2002-2021.

For more information on the exam or the NCCPA, visit www.nccpa.net

Program Mission and Goals

Program Mission

The program's overall purpose is to provide the highest quality of academic and clinical training that prepares graduates to be certified and licensed to practice competently and reliably as extenders of physicians.

The mission of the Duquesne University Department of Physician Assistant Studies is to:

  1. Prepare trainees with the necessary knowledge and skills to reliably perform the role of a physician assistant beyond the typical classroom settings by utilizing simulation, clinical immersion, telemedicine, electronic medical record, and other current technologies,
  2. Promote lifelong responsibility for ongoing learning and active participation in the evolving practice of medicine and changing healthcare environments. Students will benefit from examples of leadership and strategies to deliver quality care in collaboration with other health-care professionals to achieve optimal patient outcomes,
  3. Instill a professional and ethical identity in each student based on the education for the mind, heart, and spirit that is achieved at Duquesne while embracing broadly defined diversity and inclusion in patient care,
  4. Recruit and retain faculty who share a goal for delivering a comprehensive curriculum, serve as role models and mentors, and are willing to contribute to the profession via service and scholarship.


Duquesne University provides an environment in which we can enrich the mind and the life of the spirit by providing the highest quality of educational and clinical professionalism and maintaining an atmosphere of inclusion, tolerance, and the free exchange of ideas that fosters critical thinking and problem-solving. The faculty work with the students in a values-laden environment to achieve this end. The Rangos School, through the Department of Physician Assistant Studies, encourages students to examine the moral and ethical foundations of their thoughts and actions and to develop their values and ethical commitment as it relates to the provision and delivery of healthcare services.

As stated above, the Program's overall purpose is to provide the highest quality of academic and clinical training that will prepare our graduates to become certified and licensed to practice as extenders of physicians in a competent and reliable manner. To fulfill this purpose, six overarching goals guide the Program. The specific goals and evidence of how these goals have been met are outlined on this page.

Goal #1: To provide opportunities for an innovative and stimulating course of study through an integrative set of educational experiences in the didactic year that prepare students for the clinical phase of their education.

RATIONALE: Physician assistant students participate in a challenging and integrated curriculum throughout the didactic year to ensure success throughout the clinical year. The didactic curriculum must be of sufficient depth and breadth and meet the expectations of instructional faculty used as clinical preceptors.

OUTCOME MEASURES:
a. Complete History and Physical Examination - At the end of the History and Physical Examination course series, all students are required to complete a capstone project that requires the integration of information from all three courses (PHYA 403 History and Physical Examination I, PHYA 412 History and Physical Examination II and PHYA 421 History and Physical Examination III) This complete history and physical examination reflects what students are required to do throughout the clinical phase of the program.

Program Benchmark: At least 80% of students will earn a 90% or higher on their first attempt at performing a complete history and physical exam on a healthy patient.

The table below demonstrates the program's success in meeting this aspect of goal #1:

Cohort % Students who passed on their first attempt

Cohort % of Students who Passed on their First Attempt
Class of 2022 80%
Class of 2021 100%
Class of 2020 85%
Class of 2019 78%
Class of 2018 85%

b. Critical Thinking Skills -Throughout the didactic phase, students are provided with adequate opportunities to become critical thinkers who can apply the concepts of medical decision-making and problem-solving. At the end of the 14-month didactic phase, students complete a survey about their didactic phase experience. Question 23 of that survey asks, " Students are provided with adequate opportunities to become critical thinkers who can apply the concepts of medical decision-making and problem-solving.".

Program Benchmark: Using a 5-point Likert scale, aggregate responses will be at or exceed 3.5/5.

The table below demonstrates the program's success in meeting this aspect of goal #1:

Cohort Didactic Phase Survey
Class of 2022 4.31/5
Class of 2021 4.25/5
Class of 2020 4.22/5
Class of 2019 4.24/5
Class of 2018 4.06/5

Goal #2: To provide high-quality clinical, educational experiences that ensure all graduates possess the skills and knowledge required for entry-level practice as a physician assistant.

RATIONALE: The 12 months of clinical education provides the framework for our students to successfully complete programmatic requirements for entry-level practice as a physician assistant. Students identify the case in the first 2-weeks of each rotation and submit the case at the end of the week

OUTCOME MEASURES:
a. End of rotation written case score- During each of the 8 required rotations, students must write up and submit a case they were involved in. Grading for each written case includes history, physical examination, differential diagnosis, diagnostic plan, treatment plan, and standards of care.

Benchmark: At least 85% of students in each cohort will earn an 85% or higher on each required written case.

The table below demonstrates the program's success in meeting this aspect of goal #2:

Cohort % of Students
Class of 2022 95%
Class of 2021 92%
Class of 2020 95%
Class of 2019 86%
Class of 2018 88%

b. End of rotation oral case presentation score- End of rotation oral case score. During each of the 8 required rotations, students must orally present a case they were involved in. The audience for this presentation includes faculty, classmates, and students in the didactic phase of the program. Grading for each oral case includes history, physical examination, differential diagnosis, diagnostic plan, treatment plan, and standards of care.

Program Benchmark: 85% of students in each cohort will earn an 85% or higher on each required oral case.

The table below demonstrates the program's success in meeting this aspect of goal #2:

Cohort % of Students
Class of 2022 100%
Class of 2021 99%
Class of 2020 99%
Class of 2019 98%
Class of 2018 99%

c. Summative evaluations- Students are to complete a summative evaluation to demonstrate clinical and technical skills, clinical reasoning and problem-solving abilities, interpersonal skills, medical knowledge, and professional behaviors necessary to enter entry-level practice as a physician assistant. The summative evaluations are administered afterSCPP 6, within 4 months of graduation.

Program Benchmark: At least 75% of students in each cohort will pass at least 8 of 9 components of summative evaluations on their first attempt.

The table below demonstrates the program's success in meeting this aspect of goal #2:

Cohort % of Students
Class of 2022 77%
Class of 2021 80%
Class of 2020 91%
Class of 2019 84%
Class of 2018 93%

*The PAEA End of Curriculum exam was utilized as a component of the summative evaluations beginning this year.

d. Graduate expectation survey- It is an electronic, self-administered, 23- item survey that records each graduating student's experiences during the clinical year and expectations for starting their career as a physician assistant. It also explains that our students frequently interact and work with students from several other medical disciplines throughout their clinical training since we utilize many academic teaching facilities.

Program Benchmark: At least 70% of graduating students will report knowing the same as, more than, or much more than students in other medical disciplines.

The table below demonstrates the program's success in meeting this aspect of goal #2:

Cohort Q12: During my rotations I found I knew ____ of other PA students (benchmark = same as, more than, or much more than) Q13: During my rotations I found i knew ____ of other NP students if applicable (benchmark = same as, more than, or much more than) Q13: During my rotations I found i knew ____ of other medical students (benchmark = same as, more than, or much more than)
Class of 2022 100% 100% 96%
Class of 2021 98% 97.6% 83%
Class of 2020 98% 100% 93%
Class of 2019 77.2% 81.8% 93%
Class of 2018 100% 100% 72%

Goal #3: To graduate physician assistants who consistently demonstrate professionalism, including exemplary interpersonal and interprofessional collaboration skills.

RATIONALE: Professionalism is a priority for the Duquesne University PA program. Students demonstrate that they are continuously evaluated on professionalism and interpersonal skills throughout the accredited phase of the program. In addition, faculty, standardized patients, and clinical preceptors assess professional behaviors.

a. Preceptors' Assessment of Cohort Preparedness of Students- Clinical preceptors complete a survey at the end of each clinical year assessing students in the following areas: Professionalism, Reliability, and Dependability, Relating to Colleagues, Relating to Patients

Benchmark: 95% of preceptors agree that their assigned students demonstrate professionalism, reliability and dependability, and relatability to colleagues and patients.

The table below demonstrates the program's success in meeting this aspect of goal #3:

Cohort Preceptors Assessment
Class of 2022 100%
Class of 2021 100%
Class of 2020 100%
Class of 2019 100%
Class of 2018 100%

b. Interprofessional Education Grand Rounds- The IPE Grand Rounds Workshop is an interactive experience that brings students from the Rangos School of Health Sciences, the Mylan School of Pharmacy, the School of Nursing, and the Mary Pappert School of Music together into small groups, interdisciplinary teams to address the healthcare, medical and psychosocial needs of a patient. Students work together to learn more about each profession and formulate a treatment plan for the live simulated patient after hearing the details of the case and their unique needs. The grand rounds occur 3 times a semester, and physician assistant students participate during the didactic phase.

Benchmark: All physician assistant students will participate in the IPE Grand Rounds

The table below demonstrates the program's success in meeting this aspect of goal #3:

Cohort % of Students
Class of 2022 100%
Class of 2021 100%
Class of 2020 100%
Class of 2019 100%
Class of 2018 100%

c. Standardized patient evaluations on Complete History and Complete History and Physical Exam- one component of the grade for this required exercise is that the standardized patients complete a 5- item assessment of each student, which includes an evaluation of their professionalism and verbal communication (and all others). The table below reflects the comprehensive assessment as completed by the simulated/professional patients.

Program Benchmark: 100% of students earn 8 out of 10

The table below demonstrates the program's success in meeting this aspect of goal #3

Graduating Class Percent of Students Earning an 8 or above on simulated patient evaluation of a complete H&P capstone project
Class of 2022 100%
Class of 2021 100%
Class of 2020 100%
Class of 2019 100%
Class of 2018 100%

d. Professional and Behavioral Evaluations- Faculty annually evaluate students on personal accountability and responsibility, attendance, professionalism, punctuality, verbal skill/class participation, writing skills, and communication with faculty and staff.

Program Benchmark: All students meet with their designated PA Faculty Advisors at least once a semester to discuss their professional and behavioral evaluations done by PA faculty.

The table below demonstrates the program's success in meeting this aspect of goal #3:

Cohort % of Students
Class of 2022 100%
Class of 2021 100%
Class of 2020 100%
Class of 2019 100%
Class of 2018 100%

e. Student Preparedness Survey- This survey is completed by the students at the completion of the program during exit interviews and reflects how well students feel prepared in these areas.

Program Benchmark: 90% or higher of the cohort feels prepared.

The table below demonstrates the program's success in meeting this aspect of goal #3:

Cohort Q24 I feel prepared with attitudes and skills necessary for the personal growth and development of self and profession. Q25 I feel prepared with interpersonal and communication skills resulting in the effective exchange of information and collaboration with patients, families, and other healthcare professionals.
Class of 2022 92.7% 97%
Class of 2021 98.4% 100%
Class of 2020 100% 100%
Class of 2019 100% 100%
Class of 2018 100% 100%

Goal #4: To admit students with exceptional academic credentials while paired with faculty for mentorship.

RATIONALE: The Duquesne University 5-year, entry-level PA program strives to identify and recruit highly qualified applicants that are likely to excel in both the pre-accredited and accredited phases of the program. To ensure successful graduation for each student, Duquesne University PA Program faculty work diligently to provide students with the instruction and academic support necessary to complete all requirements for graduation.

OUTCOME MEASURES:

a. GPA and SAT/ACT scores of admitted students- The Department of Physician Assistant Studies super scores applicants' SAT and ACT scores on the math and verbal components. Beginning in 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Program offered a test-optional opportunity for applicants.

Program Benchmark: The GPAs, ACT (if submitted), and SAT scores (if submitted) of the freshmen physician assistant cohort will be 10% above the average of all first year students enrolled at Duquesne University. Data collected on April 2022 demonstrated the average GPA was 3.87, and the average test scores of those submitted were 1218 SAT and 27 ACT.

The table below demonstrates the program's success in meeting this aspect of goal #4:

Freshmen Enrollment Year Average SAT Score Average ACT Score Average GPA
2022 1285 27 4.19
2021 1304 29 4.29
2020 1307 28 4.28
2019 1334 26 4.22
2018 1320 27 4.25

b. Graduation rate

Benchmark: Greater than the national average of 93.6% from the PAEA Program Report 35, data from the 2019 Program Survey.

The table below demonstrates the program's success in meeting this aspect of goal #4:

Benchmarks Graduated Class of 2020 Graduated Class of 2021 Graduated Class of 2022
Maximum entering class size (as approved by ARC-PA) 40 40 40
Entering class size 57 70 37
Graduates 55 66 35
*Attrition rate 3.51% 5.71% 5.40%
**Graduation rate 96.49 94.29 94.60

*Attrition rate calculation: Number of students who attritted from the cohort divided by the entering class size.
**Graduation rate: Number of cohort graduates divided by the entering class size.
The PA Program works extremely hard to support those students admitted to the program to succeed and graduate. An indicator of this is that over the last five years, greater than 95% of all enrolled students graduated from the program. This compares better than the national average of 92.9% from the PAEA Program Report #34. This demonstrates that the program selects students that will perform well in this educational program.

c. Mentor/Advising of students in years 1-5 - Faculty meet with their designated advisee's at a minimum annually to discuss academics, goals, and reflections on their progress. This way, faculty get to know students and understand their unique needs.

Benchmark: All students meet with their designated PA Faculty Advisors a minimum of once a semester to discuss academic challenges and successes.

The table below demonstrates the program's success in meeting this aspect of goal #4:

Cohort % of Students
Class of 2022 100%
Class of 2021 100%
Class of 2020 100%
Class of 2019 100%
Class of 2018 100%

Goal #5: To maintain first-time taker pass rates at or above the national average for the initial certification examination for physician assistants.

RATIONALE: The program expectation for first-time test takers pass performance on PANCE is 90% or higher. This expectation exceeds the ARC-PA's <85% alert value, which requires mandatory program action. The program also uses the national mean for first-time test takers as a benchmark for student success.

OUTCOME MEASURES:
a. Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination Five-Year First-Time Taker Summary Report

Program Benchmark: Students will earn a 90% or higher on the initial certification examination for physician assistants.

The table below demonstrates the program's success in meeting this aspect of goal #5:

PANCE Five Year First Time Taker Summary Report

b. Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination Exam Performance Summary Report

Program Benchmark: 100% of students will ultimately pass the initial certification examination for physician assistants.

The table below demonstrates the program's success in meeting this aspect of goal #5

Exam Performance Summary Report

Gaol #6: To prepare graduates to provide care for diverse populations and diverse communities.

RATIONALE: Consistent with the mission of Duquesne University, Serving God by serving students through profound concern for moral and spiritual values while maintaining an ecumenical atmosphere open to diversity, students are exposed to multiple settings and are encouraged to seek out opportunities to care for diverse patient populations while strengthening their values and ethical commitment.

OUTCOME MEASURES:
a. Study abroad and Disparities in Healthcare course- These experiences provide unique opportunities for professional growth and development by immersing students in diverse cultures and engaging them in cultural themes of health, illness, and health care by critically reviewing existing social inequalities and cultural perceptions. Students will also appreciate differences in the quality of healthcare delivered to racial/ethnic groups will be explored to explain why health disparities exist in the United States.

Benchmark: PA students will either study abroad for a semester or enroll in the 3-credit Disparities in Healthcare course.

The table below demonstrates the program's success in meeting this aspect of goal #6:

Cohort % of Students who Studied Abroad % of Students Enrolled in Disparities in Healthcare Total
Class of 2022 56% 44% 100%
Class of 2021 37% 63% 100%
Class of 2020 32% 68% 100%
Class of 2019 40% 60% 100%
Class of 2018 27% 73% 100%

b. Student Preparedness Survey- This survey is completed by the students at the completion of the program during exit interviews and reflects how well students feel prepared in this area.

Benchmark: 100% of students will feel prepared in maintaining an understanding and respect for the patient's culture and provide inclusive care for all patients.

The table below demonstrates the program's success in meeting this aspect of goal #6:

Cohort Student Preparedness Survey
Class of 2022 N/A - This question was added to the survey to begin for the class of 2022
Class of 2021 N/A - This question was added to the survey to begin for the class of 2022
Class of 2020 N/A - This question was added to the survey to begin for the class of 2022
Class of 2019 N/A - This question was added to the survey to begin for the class of 2022
Class of 2018 N/A - This question was added to the survey to begin for the class of 2022

Accreditation for the Physician Assistant Studies Program

The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc. (ARC-PA) has granted Accreditation-Continued status to the Duquesne University Physician Assistant Program sponsored by Duquesne University. Accreditation-Continued is an accreditation status granted when a currently accredited program is in compliance with the ARC-PA Standard

Accreditation remains in effect until the program closes or withdraws from the accreditation process or until accreditation is withdrawn for failure to comply with the Standards. The approximate date for the next validation review of the program by the ARC-PA will be September 2032. The review date is contingent upon continued compliance with the Accreditation Standards and ARC-PA policy.

The program's accreditation history can be viewed on the ARC-PA website at https://www.arc-pa.org/accreditation-history-duquesne-university/

View the Physician Assistant Program Cost of Attendance

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Terri Critchfield

Administrative Assistant II

Donna Gobble

Administrative Assistant I