Suwanee medical school starting PA program

The Georgia campus of Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine has been approved to launch a physician assistant program.

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The two-year master’s degree program will begin next June, with 20 students in the first class. The Georgia campus of PCOM is in Suwanee, a northeastern suburb of Atlanta.

Physician assistants practice medicine with supervision by licensed physicians, delivering a range of medical services in a variety of settings.

The number of PAs in Georgia has increased by 67 percent over the past 10 years, now surpassing 3,000. Still, experts say there’s a shortage of them in the state.

The  high demand for more PAs, both in Georgia and nationally, stems from several factors, including the growth in outpatient clinics, the shortage of primary care physicians, and the added emphasis on cost-effective, team-based medical care.

More than 75 percent of recently graduated PAs have multiple job offers, according to the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants, the organization that certifies all the nation’s 102,000 PAs and is based in Johns Creek, a suburb of Atlanta.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says the PA profession will grow 30 percent by 2020.

Georgia PCOM faculty members for the PA program (from left) Carrie Smith, Nancy McLaughlin, Rebekah Thomas and Tia Solh.
Georgia PCOM faculty members for the PA program (from left): Carrie Smith, Nancy McLaughlin,
Rebekah Thomas and Tia Solh.

Georgia currently has four PA schools – at Emory in Atlanta, Mercer in Atlanta, Georgia Regents University in Augusta and South University in Savannah.

The PCOM campus is already helping to fill in the medical professional shortage in the state, graduating physicians with Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) degrees.

“The faculty and staff are very excited to gain accreditation and soon welcome students,” Nancy McLaughlin, the director of the new PA school, said in a statement. “Georgia is an amazing state in which to practice due to the strong practice laws.  It is a privilege to start educating PA students and to help make an impact on health care in our state.”