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Physician Assistant Department

Steeping in History, Committed to the Future

While our program is one of the oldest in the nation, we are continually looking forward to cutting-edge research and advancements within this exciting field so that our graduates excel in the quickly growing PA job sector.

Physician Assistant Department

The Physician Assistant Department’s PA program, one of the nation’s oldest and largest, is pledged to providing students with the most current and finest preparatory training available. Employing continuous curricular analysis, assessment of the best clinical practices, and utilization of state-of-the art in educational technologies, program graduates are eminently prepared to undertake their roles as professional health care practitioners.
The Physician Assistant profession is one of the fastest growing and highly regarded professions in the country. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has consistently ranked the profession among the 30 fastest growing occupations. We are committed to providing the education and training needed to enter this exciting job sector.
We offer a Physician Assistant Master’s (PA) Program and a PA Post-Professional Master’s Program. Please explore our web pages for a wealth of information about our programs, students, faculty, research and clinical practice.

Programs

Master of Health Science - Physician Assistant
As a PA, you will complement the practice style of the supervising physician or physicians.

The PA Post-Professional Master's Program
Receive personalized professional development through an adult learner model.

Post-Master's Certificate in Geriatrics
Designed to enhance the knowledge and skills of Physician Assistants in clinical geriatrics.

Physician Assistant Faculty

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History of Physician Assistant Program

News & Events

 

10/31/17

To say that medicine is in physician assistant (PA) student Hope Johnston Cline’s genes is a gross understatement. Her grandparents are doctors. Her mom is a physician assistant from Drexel’s class of 1983. Her dad, two brothers and most of her aunts, uncles and cousins are doctors. Wouldn’t it be fascinating to study their deoxyribonucleic acid!

Physician assistant student and her mom, Lavonne Johnston at a ceremonyOf course, Cline knew science was it for her. Being like her family members, very compassionate caregivers, was important to her. What they did and how they did it made a career in healthcare appealing to her. “I debated between veterinary, PA and medical school, but eventually I chose PA because I really love the flexibility it allows,” she offered. Less time in school and fewer loans were also enticing. But the biggest draw of being a physician assistant is practicing primary care. For her, it’s the depth of getting to know your patients and its well-roundedness. “I love when a patient comes in with all types of issues. I like how you can dig into their lives a little bit by following up with them. You see them more than one time, get a good relationship with them. I can make a difference in their overall health—not like a specialty when you're focusing on just one area,” Cline revealed. She and her brothers often talk about medicine and what both binds and separates them as doctors and PA. Where she feels that doctors have opportunities to do research and that their education dives much deeper into microbiology, chemistry and histology, she feels that physician assistants look specifically at what is presented by the patient immediately. “PAs go straight for the meat: What is it? What medication should be prescribed and what is the follow-up,” Cline said. “My brothers and I would say we have a similar approach in managing an illness—what to do right then and there for the patient right in front of us. But if you want to know more about rare diseases or very specific pathophysiology, they’re the ones to ask. Their training is more extensive, she added.

Starting her undergraduate career with a pre-vet stint as she called it, Cline ended up choosing nutrition as a major. She became familiar with gastroenterology while a medical assistant and found that she really like learning about the GI system. Despite the fact that she continued debating between medical and PA school, nutrition would give her a different perspective on health while providing a solid base no matter which she picked. Once she chose to become a physician assistant, she immediately started looking for programs in Philadelphia and quickly zeroed in on Drexel. “I thought that it would be so cool to go to the same school my mom went to,” Cline admitted. She recognized, too, that CNHP had one of the oldest and most well-established programs in the country. “I knew they had great curriculum and really knew what they were doing.” Drexel was her first choice.Hope Cline with fellow physician assistant students in scrubs

The small number of spots in Drexel’s PA program are highly coveted despite its rigor. Cline acknowledged how challenging it was to balance the volume of content with expectations simultaneously avowing how much she loved it. “I thought it was awful sometimes, but I really liked being pushed like that and seeing how much I could do. But there were definitely some moments where I just wanted to curl up in a ball and die because it's so much,” she laughed. Even with this, Cline was able to recite a litany of things she loved about the program starting with its focus on social justice and service of others. There are many reasons for healthcare disparity including cultural bias, sexual orientation, racism and stigmas around mental health, but CNHP’s PA program looks at all those issues to build an understanding of how these attitudes affect what is available to whom and how. This is something at really appealed to her. She remembered her first project starting with reading a book about cultural differences affecting care. Another thing Cline expressed was her appreciation for Megan Schneider, her favorite professor. Schneider, a clinical instructor in the PA program, was Cline’s advisor on her graduate project, a paper about the implications of race in diagnosing mental health. “I really look up to her. She does everything with excellence,” enthused Cline. “She was very encouraging and knowledgeable. She’s taught me a lot,” she explained.

PA student Hope Cline on a mountainIt's hard to believe, but Cline has a life outside of school. She and her husband Stephen Cline, an engineer, will be moving to Oregon in January where she hopes to find a job working with underserved populations. If she can find five minutes when she’s not studying, working or on rotation, you will find her somewhere enjoying the great outdoors—probably running on at trail with her husband. She finds great enjoyment riding horses though she hasn’t had much time to do that recently. Maybe once she’s finished her last rotation finds a job and gets settled in Oregon, she’ll find a little more time for some of the other thing she loves alongside developing her niche in primary care.

Things I like or would recommend:

Book: State of Wonder by Ann Patchett  The author is flipping my mind, but it’s incredible.

TV Show or Movie: Oh, man! This is hard. I think everyone should be watching Downton Abbey.

Podcast: I’m not interested in any currently, but I am listening to Harry Potter. I’m a little embarrassed because I’ve never used this media type.

 

Written by Roberta S. Perry

10/30/17

Physician Assistant Clinical Instructor Clare Pisoni, MPAS, PA-C and student prepping for classThe College of Nursing and Health Professions has been educating physician assistants for 45 years, only five years less than the 50 years the profession has been in existence. Thirty years ago, Clare Pisoni decided to pursue an education at Hahnemann for a career as a physician assistant because of her father, a World War II veteran. “My father was stationed in the South Pacific in the medical corps which was actually how the PA profession started in the late 60s when people were returning from Vietnam,” shared Pisoni. “When I was in my 20s trying to figure out what the heck I wanted to do with my life then heard of this profession, I feel like it was really meant for me,” she added. Today, she has a unique distinction: Pisoni is an alumna of the same program in which she teaches. She received her bachelor’s degree from the physician assistant program in 1989 and became a clinical instructor at Drexel in 2014 and can easily speak to the evolution of the program.

Pisoni, who’s been a practicing physician assistant for 28 years, feels like the growth in career opportunities and general awareness is partially due to studies published in 2003 that led to capping medical residents’ work week. “Cutting the hours for the residents put advanced practitioners in their roles, claimed Pisoni. “We're really taking the place of the residents because they can't stay there that long. And that's definitely been a big change—the field has opened up because of this moratorium on the residents' hours,” she added. Pisoni notes that while more people know about physician assistants, they don’t know how old the profession actually is or that, as a whole, what’s involved in their schooling.

PAs are broadly educated using a physician model. While they need to complete more than 2,000 hours of clinical rotations in family medicine, internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, general surgery, emergency medicine and psychiatry, some would argue that PAs are taught to seek or build more of a connection with their patients than doctors. It is often heard from people who receive their primary care from physician assistants how much time they spend together looking at them as a whole and that all their questions are answered.  In fact, one of the first courses PAs take in CNHP is patient communication where students learn about patient-provider collaboration and counseling techniques for education and health promotion. Further into the program, CNHP’s PA students look at the biopsychosocial model of patient care. When one looks at the curriculum and pairs it with the mission of the program, it’s clear that serving patients and delivering quality healthcare, especially in underserved areas are at the heart of this program.

Pisoni, in her role as a clinical instructor, does students’ clinical assessment lab, ethics and clinical reasoning seminar. She also serves as the surgery clinicalClare Pisoni, MPAS, PA-C and students at an information table coordinator for the surgery rotation. “I make sure everybody’s doing okay on the rotation. I go see students and see how they do, but I'm also going to the preceptors and learning a little bit about them,” said Pisoni. One of the things that really impresses her about Drexel’s program is the diversity in students it attracts. She commented that she doesn’t see that as much in other PA programs. “We have people from Africa, people from Utah, some in their early 20s and some people that are already in the 50s,” she acknowledged. This is an important strength of the program because it encourages students learning from each other. They all have vastly different experiences to share whether it’s cultural, professional, communal or academic. Diversity isn’t restricted to students. CNHP’s faculty offers an exceptional mix of professional and medical knowledge. She made a point of mentioning the how available faculty advisors are for students. “I have an open-door policy with my advisees and cultivate a special connection with them. I want them to come to me anytime they need or want to talk,” she remarked. This sentiment is prevalent throughout.

Another aspect Pisoni feels is an asset is its history. The mission of the program that co-founders Wilbur Oaks, MD and David Major, MD portends outstanding preparation of its students and improvement in healthcare delivery. Faculty achieve this through consistent and recurrent assessment. None of its constituents is comfortable with resting on their laurels. Courses are regularly evaluated to make sure they are still the best they could be—tweaked if found otherwise—and student reviews are taken seriously with the goal of improving the program.

Pisoni is an active member of both the Pennsylvania Society of Physician Assistants and the Physician Assistant Education Association. Her career speaks to the versatility of the profession. “I have worked in surgery, on the cardiac floor, in the ICU and I've worked in the outpatient arena,” she mentioned. “I say that our students do primary care, however, we do send them to surgery rotation because I think it's important they know what the signs and symptoms are of appendicitis. I went to see a patient on a site visit, and her preceptor said she diagnosed appendicitis in the office and then sent him to the emergency room,” she furthered. In addition to her position at Drexel, she lectures at Salus University and for Pennsylvania Society of Physician Assistants and also doing per diem work at a Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania where she does ICU medicine and procedures. Even with all this, she still has time to spend with her 16- and 19-year old children, read and check out the arts.

Things I like or would recommend:

Book: Anatomy of an Illness: As Perceived by the Patient by Norman Cousins 

Pisoni thinks the point is to try to concentrate on the good things rather than bad things that are happening and try practicing mindfulness. 

TV Show or Movie: I love The Walking Dead and I just binge-watched Ray Donovan which I think has a good cast of characters.

 

Written by Roberta S. Perry

10/30/17

45th Anniversary of Physician Assistant ProgramThe physician assistant program at the College of Nursing and Health Professions celebrated a big milestone; its 45th Anniversary. Interim Dean Sue Smth, PhD, PT greeted all attendees welcoming them to the 45th anniversary celebration of the Hahnemann/Drexel Physician Assistant Program. Smith, in her comments, noted that the College of Nursing and Health Professions takes pride in its program faculty who collectively have over 120 years of teaching experience and remain committed to the mission: Educate qualified primary care PAs. Improve healthcare deliver in rural and urban medically underserve areas. Promote the PA Profession. The history of the program below was written by clinical professor and its current department chair, Pat Auth, PhD, PA-C '85 and shared at a celebration that attracted more than 100 people over Alumni Weekend last May.

The program was established in 1971 at the Hahnemann Medical College and Hospital. It is among the oldest in the country, matriculates one of the largest classes each year, and has a long history of innovation in primary care education for physician assistants while addressing its mission to improve healthcare in rural and urban underserved communities.

The PA Program has graduated thousands of physician assistants, with 40 percent practicing in primary-care settings and the remainder practicing within a range of medical and surgical disciplines and sub-disciplines. Additionally, 25 percent of graduates practice in either urban or rural medically underserved communities across the United States and foreign countries. More than 20 percent of the graduates are members of minority groups acknowledged to be underrepresented in the healthcare profession.

Each entering class is chosen from a national and international applicant pool with students from across the United States and other countries. Representation of recognized minorities is among the highest in the nation. The program's selection of students includes a widely diverse group in relation to age, ethnicity, prior education, healthcare experience, and people-oriented activities. 

The Physician Assistant Program is now part of Drexel University, a leader in innovative, technologically advanced higher education and home to one of the largest private medical schools—Drexel College of Medicine—in the country. The program is located on the university's Health Sciences Campus adjacent to the Hahnemann University Hospital in Center City, Philadelphia. Additional clinical affiliation sites available to PA students are located throughout the greater Philadelphia region, the entire East Coast, and numerous other locales across the country.

Student Edward Suppan, president of the Physician Assistant Class of 2018 speaking at eventDuring the spring event, Edward Suppan, the president of PA Class of 2018, thanked all of the alumni for their dedication to the CNHP's PA Program. Auth thanked Nate Alston for his long history of service to the PA profession, especially for his dedication to promoting the physician assistant profession in Pennsylvania and 

Evelyn Eskin, MAB and David Major, MD, a co-founder of the program, were given an award named after Sherry Stolberg, PA-C, one of the longest standing directors to lead the mission of the program and the education of its wonderful students. Major and Wilbur Oaks, MD, co-founded a program to train the best primary care physician assistants which Eskin directed. Stolberg grew the program during her tenure always keeping the focus on students. “As Pat and I always say, our compass as directors of PA programs has always been the students—it's all about the students,” she wrote in a note because she couldn’t be there in person. To Eskin and Major, she wrote that she couldn’t think of two more deserving people to receive the award.

Below are Eskin’s thoughts on the evolution of the PA program which appeared in a piece she wrote for PSPA News recently.

My introduction to the PA program came in the fall of 1970 in the form of two bulging shopping bags. Dave, a brand new faculty member in the department of medicine at what was then called Hahnemann Medical College, arrived home one evening with these two gigantic shopping bags overflowing with all kinds of paper. It seemed that Bill Oaks, the legendary and visionary chairman of the Department of Medicine, had an idea to create the third PA program in the country. To announce this program, he did what people did before there were social media -he put an ad in the Philadelphia Inquirer. The bags contained the responses to "if you are interested, reply to....".  There was no curriculum, no application process, no faculty -just dozens of people who were interested in being PAs. Dave, as the junior faculty member, was asked to make some sense out of it.

To say that Dave had no time for this is an understatement. I said I'd give it a shot. Thus the first application form was developed, admission criteria were established, an interview process evolved, and the first class of ten PA students arrived nine months later. I was given the title of admissions director. In the intervening months, the curriculum was developed by Bill and Dave during several late night and weekend meetings, and the faculty were recruited from among the physicians at Hahnemann.

As the program began, there was a part-time program director and no dedicated staff. I continued as the admissions director and was itching to do more.Evelyn Eskin, MAB and David Major, MD at Physician Assistant program 45th anniversary celebration Bill said that he had confidence that I could do the job of program director, but he couldn't hire me without a graduate degree.

I got a graduate degree, and, in 1977, I got the job!

Our years in the PA program were among the most gratifying and fulfilling of our careers. There was always a sense of adventure, the encouragement to dream, and a can-do attitude. The students were amazing - smart, motivated, and endlessly interesting. It was a wonderful ride and a magical time.

The PA Program at Hahnemann/ Drexel has always had a big heart and soul. The faculty are unusually devoted and capable. The stability of the leadership is indeed impressive; I had the shortest tenure at seven years. Sherry Stolberg succeeded me in 1984, and Pat Auth followed her 20 years later. Both are graduates of the program, and totally committed to its quality and continued success. Sherry was a wonderful student, friend, leader and a role model for faculty and students, and it is an honor for us to receive this award named for her.

The commitment of faculty, staff, alumni and students to the profession is evident through the stories and experiences shared that night. The esteem of CNHP’s program is well known throughout the country and it all due to the founders and those who carry on their legacy.

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