The University hopes over the next several years to offer a physician assistant graduate program, in response to a growing national demand for health care professionals.
Officials have undertaken a three-year process – that began in fall 2014 with the hiring of Michael Estrada, associate professor of health – which they hope will end with an accredited program in place by 2017.
“The physician assistant program in itself was voted to be one of the top professions for the next coming years,” Estrada said. “There’s still a lot of disparity (in health care) in terms of helping to provide to certain populations that don’t receive the type of health care that they truly deserve.”
The physician assistant program, which would reside in the College of Arts and Sciences, must receive accreditation before students can enroll.
In fall 2013 Provost Jonathan Reed, who was the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the time, commissioned Associate Professor of Kinesiology Brian Clocksin to look into starting a physician assistant program at the request of the Board of Trustees.
“Thinking about (the University’s) strategic plan, one of the initiatives put forward was health,” Clocksin said.
Clocksin, along with other faculty, was on a search committee to find a director for the program. Estrada was brought in August 2014.
Clocksin said the program would be a good fit for undergraduate students at the University, especially those studying kinesiology.
“We have an opportunity as undergrad faculty to think about how do we get our students ready for not only a P.A. program here at La Verne, but for a P.A. program elsewhere, or (if they) choose to go to a physical therapy or occupational therapy program,” he said.
Clocksin and Estrada believe that a physician assistant program is in line with the University’s mission and strategic vision.
“We are enthusiastic about the physician assistant program at the University of La Verne,” said President Devorah Lieberman in an emailed statement. “It is well aligned with our 2020 Vision and the strategic initiative to enhance our health care professional programs. This program will provide further opportunities for our students, and helps the University better serve the needs of our region both today and in the future.”
The physician assistant program is a two-year, 120 unit program for which the first year consists of pre-clinical classes and the next year requires students to obtain experience in clinical and hospital settings.
Not everyone is enthusiastic about the pending program. College of Arts and Sciences faculty, especially within the natural sciences, are concerned with the current lack of lab space. They are concerned the new program would tax already maxed-out resources.
“What we all feel in the sciences is that we’ve been hamstrung for laboratory space for a half century and we have been ignored,” said Jay Jones, professor of biology and biochemistry.
Jones and other faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences have been advocating for a new academic building, but current building plans do not include such a building before the prospective start date of the physician assistant program.
As of now, with no designated building available, the program would share space with kinesiology in the Sports Sciences and Athletics Pavillion.
Kristina Bugante can be reached at email@example.com.