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Cohort of Physician Assistant Students Finds Success in Virtual Labs, Classrooms

By Nicole Carrera

Published on March 15, 2021

While some programs at USciences had to undergo extensive adaptations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Samson College’s Department of Physician Assistant Studies (PA) welcomed students to campus one day per week for in-person lab work. While the majority of the semester was held virtually, labs and classes that are integral to the program were conducted in person.

SECTRA TableDeborah Summers, DMSc, PA-C, Vice Chair of the Department of Physician Assistant Studies, said the program was able to adapt anatomy courses thanks to new technology. Typically, students would take part in a cadaver lab, but due to the pandemic all of the cadaver labs were closed. The program had already arranged to purchase two, state-of-the-art, SECTRA Anatomy Tables from Touch of Life Technologies (TolTech).

“During the anatomy lab online, we would use the VH Dissector Pro as a tool to study anatomy. The VH Dissector displays a real-life cadaver on the screen and allows you to dissect the cadaver yourself virtually,” explained Tyler Millhouse, PA’22.

“Our anatomy professor, Dr. Curci, would use the program with us on Zoom and dissect the cadaver as if we were in the lab real time,” shared Krista Chiccarine, PA’22. “It was a pretty cool program and I believe I learned just as much in the virtual cadaver lab.”

Adjunct professor Joseph Curci, MD, a retired vascular surgeon and anatomist from the University of Pennsylvania, taught the course, and received rave reviews from students. So much so that they invited him to attend their White Coat Ceremony.

In addition to labs, classes in the PA program were successful online. Allison Williams, MS PA-C, Director of Academic Education in the Physician Assistant Studies Department at USciences, shared praise particularly for faculty who taught Pharmacology.

PA Student“With regard to utilizing an online format, I really enjoyed the Pharmacology course that was taught by Cathy Poon, PharmD, Islam Ghazi, PharmD, BCPS, BCACP, Katherine Koffer, PharmD, and Tyan Thomas, PharmD,” said Williams. “They created materials and lecture recordings in an asynchronous format in the beginning of the week, and then held synchronous sessions with the class at the end of each week.”

This format allowed students to be actively engaged with the material and arrive at the synchronous sessions prepared to apply what they had learned and ask questions as needed.

“The PA program faculty has been amazing with the amount of support and guidance they have given us,” said Millhouse. “They work so hard to ensure we are learning every day and working toward our goals to become successful physician assistants.”

Overall, students found success in the online format and were able to navigate any challenges that arose.

“[The students] completed the semester meeting all of the learning objectives and competencies that were planned before having to transition to a mostly virtual format,” said Williams. “I am amazed at their adaptability and grit. They are a fantastic group of students. We are lucky to have them.”

Categories: News, Samson College of Health Sciences, Department of Physician Assistant Studies, Physician Assistant Studies, Faculty, Students, Coronavirus