Georgia Regents and Albany State universities will meet with Department of Defense officials in Washington today to pitch a model for increasing diversity in health care and for helping military medics use their experience to become physician assistants.
Georgia Regents and Albany State have joined to potentially create a program allowing medics better opportunities to gain entrance to the master of physician assistant program at GRU, where there were 348 applications for 40 positions in the 2012 class and 397 applicants for 44 slots in this year’s class.
“Actually getting into a PA program is a tremendously competitive process,” said Dr. Andrew Balas, the dean of the College of Allied Health Sciences.
Traditionally, that admission process has focused on academics, but the new approach would seek to include more real-world experience many medics and other military health care providers have, he said.
“I think that is an aspect where academia can do better and more by appropriately weighing the practical experience of these people,” Balas said. “Some of them have very, very significant practical experience that is highly relevant to the PA profession. We should definitely consider that in the admissions process.”
Albany State, a historically black university, was approached about increasing diversity in the PA community in general and sees the program as a way to meet a greater need nationally and locally, said Dr. Everette J. Freeman, the president of Albany State.
“The nation benefits because under Obamacare we simply will not have a sufficient supply of physicians to meet the needs for health care delivery and health care services,” he said. “This is a logical next step in our efforts to be helpful in rural southwest Georgia in meeting the health needs of the population.
“It’s one of those opportunities where Georgia Regents appreciates and understands the need not only to have more PAs but more PAs reflective of the population of the state and of southwest Georgia.”
Freeman said he could foresee the program as a satellite of GRU at Albany State with about 40 students per class, with half the slots devoted to medics and half to those from the area.
Balas said that is one option but all options are being explored. The key is to get greater resources that would allow the PA program to be expanded in Georgia, he said.
“We have many, many applicants to our program that we just cannot accept because of the limitation of resources,” Balas said.
It is also an opportunity to provide a new approach, Freeman said.
“It certainly is something that does not exist in the country,” he said. “So we would be preparing and presenting we believe a model for how to prepare the needed physician assistants for the work that has to be done in this country.”