Physician Assistant Program to Welcome First Class In January

The College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences will welcome the 26 members of its inaugural class of the Physician Assistant Program with a White Coat ceremony at 2 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 11, in the Cecil B. Day Auditorium, on the University’s Atlanta campus. Charles W. Wickliffe, M.D., vice chairman of the Fuqua Heart Center, will be the featured speaker, with Ben Taylor, Ph.D., PA-C, president of the Georgia Association of Physician Assistants, bringing remarks. A reception, along with tours of the program’s newly designed clinical and classroom areas, in the Davis Building will follow the ceremony.

Through the White Coat Ceremony, students gain a sense of the College’s core values that focus on professionalism, respect, integrity and caring. By donning the white coat, students show their dedication to health care and the physician assistant profession.

“The Physician Assistant is the first of several health sciences programs we will offer through the College over the next decade,” said Dean H.W. “Ted” Matthews. “The men and women enrolled in this initial class bring outstanding academic credentials to the program. We have established a strong foundation on which to build this needed health care program.”

In early fall, the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant Inc. awarded the College provisional accreditation, enabling the program to begin in mid-January. The initial class has 20 women and six men, with ages ranging from early twenties to late thirties, which reflect the profession’s national demographics.

Mercer’s 28-month program will eventually enroll up to 50 graduate candidates per year. “The initial class of 26 students will be followed by a slow growth over the next four years,” said Brad Schwarz, M.S., PA-C, the director of the College’s Physician Assistant Program.

The east wing of second floor of the Davis Building has been renovated to accommodate the needed labs and classrooms. Students will complete 13 months of initial classroom instruction training, followed by 15 months of professional didactic and clinical rotations.

Mercer’s program is one of only four in Georgia and only two in Atlanta. Among its application requirements, the full-time graduate program requires applicants to have at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university and a minimum of 1000 hours of clinical experience demonstrating direct patient care. The next class will begin in January 2009.


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