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Drexel University Helping to Develop Physician Assistant Field Abroad

July 30, 2015

The Drexel University Physician Assistant (PA) program was recently approached with a very exciting opportunity to partner with the University of Worcester, in Worcester, England, whose PA program is only in its second year.    

Physician assistant is a relatively new profession in the UK, though there they are called Physician Associates. “In England, they are starting off on the right foot in that they’re identifying their profession so that it reflects the scope of care of the PAs,” said Patrick Auth, PhD, clinical professor and chair of the Drexel Physician Assistant Department.  

Though the partnership is still in its early stages, the two institutions have already created a research agenda, established work groups, and have discussed possible collaborations regarding clinical rotations, how each pursues teaching evidence-based medicine, patient simulation and graduate projects.  They are also planning a faculty exchange program.  “We’re going to try to send two to three people over in the next nine months, and then two to three people are going to come over from England soon after that,” said Auth.   Faculty would stay abroad for 10-14 days as guest lecturers, though in the years to come, they may stay for an entire term. 

Eventually the programs hope to exchange students; however “rotations and experiences for students are a lot more complicated to set up than a faculty going to visit, which just requires a passport.  A rotation requires legal agreements between the two facilities where the students are going to be, malpractice insurance coverage, housing sites, it’s a lot more of a logistical concern.  Are their educational needs going to be met?  So it’s something that the faculty could initially be assessing,” said Adrian Banning, assistant clinical professor in the Physician Assistant Department.  

Another concern to be addressed before students can be exchanged is accreditation.  “My sense is that their education is going to be similar, but I don’t think England has set up an infrastructure to accredit PA programs just yet.  Interestingly, the PA role might be different in England, based on their medical model.  They have to set up their own accrediting body and their own medical oversight,” said Auth.    

The ultimate goal of the partnership is not to promote one program or the other, but to promote each other.  “We can mentor them as they develop their curriculum, and they can mentor us in innovation and creative solutions.  It’s the beginning of what we think is going to be a very fruitful relationship,” said Auth.