PA Program Popular Around MU

MaryKate Smith, Reporter

Dr. Scott Massey, founding chair of the new physician assistant program, said small class sizes, innovative learning opportunities, and top notch resources–including a cadaver lab–will make the new program rank among the best.

Massey brings over twenty years’ experience in medical education to his new role. Twenty-one graduate students and25 undergraduate students are enrolled and Massey said student numbers will increase.

“For the class coming in next fall we already have 175 applications,” he said. “And we expect that to grow to probably close to 500, so there’s a lot of interest in the graduate program.”

Students enter the program in two ways.  One is for students to enter as freshmen and complete the first three years as medical science majors.

“And then if they meet all the grade requirements, then they will enter the program as seniors,”  Massey said. “And the program then would be two years, you know, 24 solid months.”

Freshman Danielle Olenginski is taking this path and said the five year program provides a jump start to a career.

“Becoming a PA takes less time than medical school,” Olenginski said. “But I like that I get to do everything a doctor does, just under the supervision of a physician.”

The second route  is for postgraduate students who have already completed undergraduate degrees.

“That’s what happened with our first class that just started this week,” Dr. Massey said. “We have 21 students, and they all have baccalaureate degrees, and met all the requirements.”

The students come from many different universities, including King’s College, Penn State, Villanova, Rutgers, Bloomsburg, Kutztown, and Salisbury Universities.  There are also six Misericordia graduates.

Massey plans to maintain small class sizes for a more individualized learning experience, which is what Massey said initially attracted him to the university.

He had been the department head and dean of a very large PA program in Massachusetts when he began to help Misericordia with the accreditation process.

“I was coming from the context of very large class sizes, you know, kind of a real business-model type of atmosphere,” Massey said about his previous position.

He said Misericordia provided a ripe environment for the program.

“I thought it was a unique and perfect atmosphere for a program because it would be relatively small and would be a perfect opportunity to provide some real innovative learning opportunities for the students versus just lecturing to them,” he explained. “We could do a lot more cases, a lot more real-life kind of learning experiences with the students.”

Massey believes faculty will help make the program stand out.  “Myself and the medical director, we have many years of experience in medical education, so I think that helps.”

Massey also appreciates the contribution of newer faculty. “We’ve got excellent young faculty that we’ve brought in as well, that are cutting edge in the critical field,” he says.

He also credits the faculty in the basic sciences, such as Dr. Serino and Dr. Asirvatham, with helping the program to succeed.  The high quality of teachers is what drew Maria LoBrutto to the PA program.

“The professors here have all the qualities necessary to become a PA,” LoBrutto said. “They’re compassionate and intelligent, and they have a drive to always go further.”

The program’s  facilities are also first rate, said Massey.

“The cadaver lab is a huge strength,” he said. “And I think that the reputation of the institution, having already provided a quality health science education, also has helped.”

Massey understands it’s going to take time, but he firmly believes the new program will make a positive difference in the health care field. “It [the PA program] is going to have a big impact, you know, as we go forward and start graduating students.”

But before then, Dr. Massey wants students in the PA program to make a difference in the Misericordia community.

“While they’re students, I’d like to get them involved with the university as much as possible,” he said. “I hope that there’s going to be some community service opportunities that the program can participate in as well.”