Valparaiso University’s new five-year physician assistant studies program is in the advanced stages of the provisional accreditation process from the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA), pending final vote at the March 2018 ARC-PA meeting.

All new physician assistant programs are required to undergo a robust, multi-year provisional accreditation process to be eligible for continuing accreditation. Valpo tendered its formal written request for entry into the provisional accreditation pathway in 2013. In July 2017, the University supplied the ARC-PA with its completed application, a more than 600-page document consisting of hundreds of details about the program — personnel, facilities, resources, policies, course curriculum, and self-assessment, to name a few.

This October, three site visitors from the ARC-PA visited campus to determine if Valpo’s program complies with the more than 100 ARC-PA Standards and is thus ready to matriculate students. In a week’s time, the University was presented with a report from the ARC-PA listing “observations” on just two out of the multitude of standards. Perhaps most significantly, these same observations have been received by numerous other institutions, even those with well-established programs, signifying an increased level of scrutiny in these particular areas.

“From our organization to our attention to detail to our hospitality, the reviewers had many compliments,” says Joseph Zaweski, MPAS, PA-C, assistant dean and program director for the physician assistant program. “While quite intensive, it was an excellent visit overall, and we believe our program is on a solid path toward accreditation.”

Valpo’s accelerated physician assistant program consists of a three-year pre-professional phase (undergraduate) followed by a two-year professional program (graduate) divided into a 12-month didactic phase and a 12-month clinical education phase. The bachelor’s in health science, the beginning three-year phase of the program, enrolled its first class fall 2015, increasing in size with each additional student cohort. The master of science in physician assistant studies, the two-year culminating phase of the program, is the portion of the program seeking provisional accreditation in anticipation of enrolling its first class in August 2018.

“What drew me to Valpo is part of the University ethos, ‘we seek truth,’ which is at the core of what we seek to do in medicine, Assistant Dean Zaweski says. “We are fortunate to begin this program exactly how we envision it — a modular integrated curriculum delivered in a newly designed, adult-centered active learning environment. This is an exciting time.”

Valparaiso University is the first institution in Northwest Indiana to offer a physician assistant program, with broad-based training in seven core areas — family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, women’s health, behavioral health, general surgery, and emergency medicine. The College of Nursing and Health Professions is uniquely situated to administer the physician assistant curriculum in a team-centric manner, providing opportunities to work with nursing, health care leadership, and health administration students.

Physician assistant jobs are in demand. U.S. News & World Report ranked physician assistants third in its list of best jobs of 2017, and they were seventh on Glassdoor’s list of 25 highest-paying jobs in America.