Saint Louis University

Physician Assistant Program

Department History

The Department has a long and distinguished history in Physician Assistant Education. Founded in 1971, it was among the first dozen PA Programs in the nation. The program operated originally as the St. Louis Inter-Institutional Physician Assistant Program under the auspices of the School of Nursing and Allied Health Professions at Saint Louis University, in conjunction with the St. Louis Veteran's Administration Hospitals, the St. Louis Community Colleges and Washington University School of Medicine. Eight students (seven male and one female) with prior education and experience in the healthcare field were selected to begin training in the first Physician Assistant Program in the Midwest in August of 1971.

During its pilot year, the Program operated out of the existing administrative structure within the St. Louis Veteran's Administration Hospitals Division of Research and Education and was funded predominantly by this federal institution. Beginning with its second year the Program sought and received federal funding under the Health Manpower Training Act of 1972. It was under this authority that PA Programs began to flourish within medical centers and universities across the United States. Since that time, the participation of the University's School of Medicine and other area institutions, private practices, physicians, PAs, nurse practitioners and others providing instructional faculty and clinical training sites, has allowed the Program to increase class size from eight matriculants in 1971 to its present 34 students per class.

In the early days, graduates received a certificate of completion; however in 1981, the program transitioned to a degree-granting program. Graduates earned a certificate and, if qualified, could also earn a Bachelor of Medical Science degree. The School of Allied Health Professions became Doisy College of Health Sciences in 2006 and now houses the Department of Physician Assistant Education as well as six other departments.

In 1996, the option of a master's degree was established for qualified students and in 1997 the Physician Assistant Program awarded the Master of Medical Science degree to its first three graduate students. In each subsequent year, the Program increased the number of class positions available for graduate students. The undergraduate program was slowly phased out and in 2004 the Program graduated its first class in which all graduates earned the Master of Medical Science degree.

Today, the program combines an intense progressive didactic curriculum (Phase I) with a thorough, wide-ranging clinical curriculum (Phase II). Over the years, SLU PA students have continued to impress their preceptors and other members of the health care team with their fund of knowledge, clinical skills, dedication, compassion and patient rapport. By the end of 2015, the program graduated over 1,000 physician assistants since it began in 1971. The Program has maintained full accreditation since its inception and has gained a national reputation for excellence in physician assistant education. SLU PA Program alumni are recognized throughout the United States as valued members and leaders of the health care team.

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