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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.

Physician Assistant Faculty

View Profiles

History of Physician Assistant Program

News & Events

 

05/10/16

Kathryn Conallen (RN, ‘78; BSN, ‘89), senior vice president and CEO of Mercy Health System Acute Operations in Philadelphia, was highlighted in the Philadelphia Business Journal’s list of "Women Hospital and Health System Executives: Why Philadelphia Is Ahead of the Curve" about the women who serve as top executives at one-third of the area’s hospitals and health systems. 
 
Klaudia Cwiekala-Lewis (MSN, ‘14), president and CEO of Translate Nursing in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, was appointed by the American Red Cross as the volunteer regional nurse leader for the Central Pennsylvania Region, which covers 22 counties in Central Pennsylvania from the New York to Maryland borders. 
 
Gabrielle M. Gorzelnik (MHS, ‘05), a licensed certified physician assistant, was hired by SkinSmart Dermatology in Sarasota, Florida. 

04/18/16

When Jenny Retig entered a routine simulation experience back in the fall she had no idea she’d detect a serious health condition previously overlooked by licensed health care providers.
 
Retig, a second year physician assistant student, detected a nodule on the neck of one of Drexel’s standardized patient actors during a simulated physical exam – a standard requirement of the curriculum. As a result of Retig’s findings, the standardized patient actor, BA Bigham, was diagnosed and prescribed surgery to have the potentially life-threatening nodule removed.
 
“I’ve worked with standardized patient actors, including Ms. Bigham, before but didn’t think it was going to end this way,” said Retig. Standardized patients are professional actors that faculty hire and train to enhance the development of interpersonal, clinical and assessment skills in undergraduate and graduate students. Standardized patients exhibit specific symptoms during scripted sessions, and are a cornerstone of the College of Nursing and Health Profession’s approach to health care education.
 
“I’ve been a standardized patient since 2007 and at Drexel since 2011, and this is the first time anyone has found something medically wrong with me,” said Bigham. “I’m really grateful that she [Retig] had the self-confidence to disclose this information and cared enough to share it.”
 
Prior to the simulation both Retig and Bigham were given specific prompts and objectives. It was Retig’s responsibility to solicit key information, record a medical history and administer exams based on the information Bigham was required to share.
 
When Retig examined Bigham’s neck she noticed an unusually large mass on one side – something she was not expecting to find and not part of the patient profile for the simulation. Startled by her discovery, Retig asked to repeat the exam to confirm the mass on Bigham’s neck. 
 
“My objective was to collect her medical history and tailor my exam to that information,” said Retig, “but they usually don’t have or experience the symptoms they’re disclosing.” After realizing there was something medically wrong with Bigham, Retig reported the information to faculty then made a judgment call on how best to proceed.
 
“Since we are students we’re not supposed to advise what we think patients should do medically,” said Retig. “I didn’t want to make her nervous if there wasn’t anything to worry about, but I also didn’t want to ignore the mass in case it was a serious medical condition.”
 
After reporting the information to simulation faculty and Rosalie Coppola, the supervising instructor, Bigham was advised to return to her primary care physician for additional testing. Another physical exam – followed by an ultrasound and CT scan – confirmed that Bigham did, in fact, have an abnormally large nodule on her thyroid, and that it was encroaching on her trachea. 
 
A biopsy revealed that the nodule was benign, but that it needed to be removed based on its size, position and potential threat to Bigham’s trachea and carotid artery. Bigham underwent surgery in late March to have the nodule removed and is currently in recovery.
“The diagnosis was startling to me since I’m a healthy person – this came completely out of the blue,” said Bigham. “I’ve never felt any symptoms, and the tests administered by my health care team never indicated there were issues with my thyroid.”
 
Despite Bigham’s positive attitude, her experience raises significant concerns about the effectiveness of primary care treatment many patients receive. For Rosalie Coppola, Retig’s instructor and Associate Clinical Professor in the Physician Assistant Department, Bigham’s experience is representative of a shift in primary care that can result in missed diagnoses.
 
In Coppola’s opinion, many health care providers tend to recommend lab work and testing over physical exams, and prescribe treatment plans based on questions rather than actual exams.
 
“Physical exam skills are so important, especially at a time when they’re becoming ancient history,” said Coppola. “If you don’t look, feel and touch you won’t find anything.”
 
“What makes PAs so important as part of a patient’s health care team is our ability to take a detailed medical history and implement a thorough physical exam. We’re able to find things because we know where to look for them,” said Coppola. 
 
With over 24 years of experience in physician assistant education, Coppola knows what’s needed to equip physician assistants with essential skills and core competencies to make them successful practitioners.
 
“We train our students to err on the side of caution and trust their instincts enough to consult with their supervising physician if they think something is wrong,” said Coppola. In Bigham’s situation Retig did just that, despite there being universally accepted policies regarding a student diagnosis during simulation.
 
“There aren’t clearly defined rules, but as an education and health care provider, I felt it was ethically the right thing to do,” said Coppola regarding Retig’s discovery. “I believe she followed all the right steps in reporting what she found.”
 
Given such an ambiguous situation, Retig was concerned about the appropriate chain of command to follow. “It wasn’t a question of whether or not I was going to say something, but I wanted to make sure that what and who I reported to was correct.” At the end of the day, Retig made the right call.
 
Despite the abnormal and threatening details of the simulation, Retig, Coppola and Bigham are all able to find a silver lining.
 
“As a student you feel intimidated and may lack confidence, but I feel more confident in my abilities and capacity to enter the provide role,” said Retig. Coppola agrees, and is proud that a student was able to address the situation with such maturity and poise.
 
And Bigham?
 
Well, she believes that Retig needs to be recognized as a student that takes her education very seriously and demonstrates a caring demeanor.
 
“I can’t tell you how thankful and grateful I am for this young lady. It’s possible she could have saved my life.”
 
Update: Ms. Bigham’s surgery was successful. She is currently in recovery and is not experiencing any pain. She fully intends to return to Drexel as a standardized patient, and continues to express gratitude for Retig, Coppola and the Physician Assistant Department.
 

04/18/16

Florence Gelo, DMIN, associate professor in the College of Medicine, and Girija Kaimal, EdD ’01, an associate professor in the College of Nursing and Health Professions, recently received a $25,000 grant from the Foundation for Spirituality and Medicine to conduct research on arts based approaches to palliative care. 

Satwika Rahapsari, a graduate student from Indonesia who is currently studying in the Dance/Movement Therapy and Counseling M.A. Program on a student Fulbright Foundation grant, recently presented her research on "Finding the Self in Bedhaya Dance: Jungian Depth Psychology Analysis of the Javenese Sacred Dance" at the 18th Annual Southeast Asia Graduate Student Conference at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y

Maureen Vita, MA ‘09, art therapist for Drexel Cancer Care and a supervisor for interns in the MA in Art Therapy & Counseling program, recently received the 2015 Outstanding Supervisor Award from the Delaware Valley Art Therapy Association. The award honors an association member who has demonstrated outstanding mentorship, encouragement of professional development and leadership in the field.

• Three associates in the Physician Assistant Program were published in the Journal of the American Association of Physician Assistants (JAAPA), including two Program alumni.

o Post-ICU Syndrome: Rescuing the Undiagnosed, an article co-authored by Elizabeth A. Myers, PA ‘15, was published. It was written with help from her co- authors as while Myers was a student as part of her graduate project.

o A Rare Cause of Acute Abdominal Pain, an article co-authored by alumna, Abigail Gonnella,PA ‘14 was published. Gonnella also wrote a case for the Journal’s“ADifficult Diagnosis” section.

o Efficient Evidence: Strategies for Accessing and Using Medical Evidence Efficiently, an article co-authored by Gary Childs ‘01, Drexel librarian, and Adrian Banning, assistant clinical professor in the Physician Assistant Department, was also published.

The Division of CNE received the maximum four years ANCC-COA Reaccreditation

Samira Islam, a graduating student in the Master of Health Administration program, was just accepted as an Administrative Fellow at Geisinger Health System. This is a two-year fellowship and only three are selected per year in the health system.

The following Nutrition Sciences students matched with a Dietetic Internship of their choice during the first round of the match.  82% of them matched with their first choice internship. Congratulations!

Danielle Aran, Oregon State University
Ashley Bannister, Medical University of South Carolina
Debra Bateman, Inspira Health Network
Abby Brooks, Duke University Hospital
Maggie Buell, University of Alabama, Montgomery
Erin Sheridan, Sodexo Allentown
Samantha Diamond, Virginia Commonwealth University
Zainub Halawani, Inspira Health Network
Brianna Higgins, Sodexo Philadelphia, pediatric emphasis
Elizabeth Keegan, Florida Department of Agriculture, Tallahassee
Heather Krick, Sodexo Philadelphia
Elizabeth McManus, Minneapolis VA
Sarah Mencia, University of California at San Francisco
Samantha Mogil, Yale New Haven Hospital
Kellsey Odonnell, Ohio State University
Laila Ouldibbat, Sodexo New York, pediatric emphasis
Harley Rogers, Napa State Hospital
Leslee Sholomskas, Yale New Haven Hospital
Joe Stanzione, Sodexo New York
Nicole Stein, Virginia Commonwealth University
Kim Thoman, Sodexo Allentown
Emily Werner, University of Michigan, School of Public Health

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