Physician assistant program receives accreditation

Christian Shepherd
Staff Writer

The University of La Verne’s physician assistant program has received provisional accreditation through the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant. 

“The ARC-PA is one of the most difficult accreditations for universities to receive,” Provost Jonathan Reed said. “It is an extremely difficult and thorough process, and the evaluation is very strict.”

The first cohort of the graduate level program will include 22 students and is set to begin studies Aug. 27. 

After a three-year period, there will be an evaluation by ARC-PA, who will then determine the status of the program’s accreditation moving forward. 

“Our graduates will be equipped to work in hospitals, private practice, and community clinics, and they will be trained in a range of specialties such as women’s health, pediatrics, behavioral and mental health, and emergency and family medicine,” President Devorah Lieberman said in an announcement sent to the ULV community. “They will also have a focus on cultural competence and community engagement.” 

The efforts to begin a physician assistant program began in 2014, when the University hired Michael Estrada as director of the physician assistant program and associate professor of health.

The physician assistant program was developed in line with the University’s 2020 Strategic Vision, which looks to focus on health science educational programs. 

“In 2014, the faculty, administration and the board of trustees did a survey to try to really identify – if we were going to go in the health sciences direction – what made sense for the University of La Verne,” said Lawrence Potter, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “Given that we are where we are, we have Western University of Health Sciences, we have USC, UCLA; we were not going to start a medical school here. In order to be a player in that field, physician assistant made the most sense for the University of La Verne.”

The provisional accreditation comes just one year after La Verne initially withdrew its application in 2017. The University made the decision to withdraw after they had received notice from ARC-PA that eight of the 115 accreditation standards had received citations. 

The citations mainly involved areas of student learning outcomes and competencies during the second year of the program, which serves as a clinical year for students. 

According to Reed, over 1,000 applications were received for the program the year that the university withdrew its application, and many of the students who will be part of the initial cohort are previously accepted students who have deferred their enrollment until provisional accreditation was received. 

As of now, the program currently has over 100 medical sites that students will be rotating through during their clinical year. 

Typically, an institution is required to wait two years after an unsuccessful attempt before it is allowed to reapply for accreditation, but ARC-PA allowed ULV to reapply one year following its withdrawal. 

According to the health care search firm Merritt Hawkins, the demand for physician assistants increased by more than 300 percent from 2011 to 2013. 

As of 2016, there were more than 106,000 physician assistants nationwide. 

As with all new academic programs, the physician assistant program was required to go through a substantial process of faculty approval, including a college-level curricular committee and a university-wide Undergraduate Academic Policies committee, as well the Faculty Senate and the Faculty Assembly. As a graduate program, an additional approval from a Graduate Council was also required. 

“The PA program went through the correct faculty governance process during the 2015-2016 academic year and was approved at all levels,” said Sean Bernard, president of the faculty senate and creative writing professor, in an emailed interview. “By all accounts, it’s well-situated to be successful, and, via future graduates, it should make a positive impact on the populations surrounding La Verne.” 

The university is considering undertaking additional graduate level programs that require accreditation. 

Reed believes that there have been many lessons from past accreditation attempts, such as the College of Law American Bar Association accreditation process, which will help the university in gaining full accreditation for the PA program. 

“The lesson of the College of Law is: we shouldn’t focus on chasing national reputation and trying to be like other more elite schools, but rather we need to focus on student success, we need to focus on faculty mentoring students, and the more we focus on that, the better chances our graduates have,” Reed said. 

Christian Shepherd can be reached at

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