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Physician assistant program appeals accreditation loss

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Ryan Konrad
Staff Writer

The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant has recommended that provisional accreditation of the University of La Verne’s physician assistant program be withdrawn. The University administration has appealed the decision and must submit that appeal by today.

As a result of the commission’s decision, which was sent in March, the University has decided not to admit students into the program for fall 2021, citing its efforts to appeal and regain good standing. Current students in the program may continue.

La Verne’s PA program, established in 2017, was given provisional accreditation on the condition of routine visits by the commission over three years to monitor progress before being granted full accreditation, a common practice for new programs. 

The commission issued 29 citations against the program, which could be clustered into three areas: poor oversight and accountability in program leadership, administrative errors and issues surrounding clinical rotations.

The decision to withdraw accreditation came after the commission’s third and final visit in November 2020, to the disappointment of University administrators. 

“It was a surprise to me,” said University President Devorah Lieberman. “I think it was a surprise to our campus. It was a surprise to the Board of Trustees,” 

The University sent a notice of appeal to the commission on April 3, and was given 20 days to submit the appeal. 

The University will contest all 29 citations in the appeal, officials said.

“Some of those concerns (are) related to the program director organization, understanding the accreditation process… on how we adapted during COVID-19, and in placing students in clinical rotations,” said Brian Clocksin, interim vice provost for strategic health initiatives. 

Clocksin said that receiving citations is normal and should be used to help improve a program. 

“We went from accreditation in good status, good standing provisional accreditation, straight to withdraw accreditation,” Clocksin added.

“We disagree with what ARC-PA’s findings are,” said University Provost Kerop Janoyan.  

Janoyan said that the program was impacted by COVID-19, but was unsure if it had an effect on the commission’s findings.  

“We understand that there’s areas where it’s not as black and white, as well,” Janoyan said. 

In terms of the outcome, Clocksin said he believes probation is likely. 

“That would then likely mean another site visit in the fall and then a board meeting again in March of ’22,” Clocksin said.  

If the University fails in its appeal, the program will teach out its remaining students.  

“The students that are in their didactic year would finish that didactic year in December,” Clocksin said. “And then we would work with those students and other PA programs to help them transfer into a new program to finish their clinical year,” said Clocksin.

For some undergrads, the issue brings concern.  

“I do feel it will make me hesitant to apply, but I will still apply,” said Amel Hilo, a sophomore psychology major. “I have a few people who are worried but we are hopeful.”

“I wouldn’t be appealing if I didn’t think we had a good case,” Lieberman added.

Ryan Konrad can be reached at ryan.konrad@laverne.edu.

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