In recognition of National Physician Assistants Week, Oct. 6-12, University of the Sciences hosted Larry Herman, president of the American Academy of Physician Assistants
, on Thursday, Oct. 10. More than 100 students and faculty from the University and surrounding institutions attended, and heard firsthand how the physician assistant profession is greatly impacting the healthcare industry. They also had the opportunity to ask Herman questions about the profession.
A recent survey found that one in three Americans has little to no idea how the Affordable Care Act will affect them. However, Herman said one thing is for certain – expansion of healthcare will push 30 million more people into the system and create a higher demand for physicians. With a shortage of physicians, mid-level providers – such as physician assistants – are in greater demand because they play many roles, from conducting physical exams, diagnosing and treating illnesses, to writing prescriptions and counseling patients. In rural areas, they are oftentimes the only healthcare providers for hundreds of miles.
According to the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants
, 40,469 physician assistants were practicing in 2000. That number has more than doubled and it continues to increase dramatically each year. Now in its inaugural year, the graduate physician assistant program at University of the Sciences is already expected to double its size next fall as students realize this demand will translate into jobs after graduation.
Twenty students are currently enrolled in the graduate program
, and the University has already received more than 700 graduate applications for next fall, when 40 students will be accepted into the program. Students currently enrolled in the graduate program represent 11 different states, including California, Colorado, Texas, and Utah. More than half of the students are between the ages of 20-25, eight are between the ages of 26-40, and one student is over the age of 55. This shows that students of all ages and healthcare backgrounds are returning to school to become physician assistants.