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Expansion of Yale's PA Program

March 10, 2015
Photo by Terry Dagradi

After receiving their White Coats, students in the Class of 2013 recite the Yale Physician Associate Program Professional Oath at their White Coat Ceremony. The ceremony marks the start of medical training for every Yale Physician Associate class. Photo: Terry Dagradi

Continuing our tradition of innovation, the School of Medicine's PA Program is planning a new pathway for physician associates.

After six months of thorough study, the school has approved adding a new pathway for earning a Yale PA degree by blending innovative online coursework with on-site clinical experiences. Approval from the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) is pending.

Importantly, in creating this opportunity, the Yale PA Program would help meet the growing need for qualified physician associates/assistants in primary care across the country and in medically underserved areas.

When James Van Rhee, MS, PA-C, director of the PA Program, shared with us his interest in pursuing this endeavor, I called on a committee of faculty and senior administrators to evaluate the Program. The group was chaired by Arthur Broadus, MD, PhD, Ensign Professor Emeritus, and included Leo Cooney Jr., MD, Humana Foundation Professor of Medicine; Alexandria Garino, PA, MS, assistant professor in the PA Program; Patrick O’Connor, MD, MPH, professor of medicine and chief of the Section of General Medicine; Nancy Ruddle, PhD, professor emeritus of epidemiology; and Richard Belitsky, MD, deputy dean for education. They laid out a number of important considerations that have guided the final design of the Program as it has been articulated.

The same rigorous admissions standards would apply, and the curriculum would be the same as that offered to those studying in New Haven. The new Program, both in coursework and clinical placements, would provide educational experiences that meet the same high-quality standards of our current Program.

The blended format would feature collaborative, live classes during which students build meaningful relationships with peers and faculty in a face-to-face online setting, as well as high-quality, interactive course work developed by Yale faculty. Groups of students would meet online and go through real clinical cases and discuss medical ethics or trends in PA practice. The Program also would feature in-person immersive experiences that allow students to collaborate with classmates and professors on-site at Yale’s campus in New Haven.

The curriculum would include hands-on clinical experience at field sites selected by School of Medicine faculty and chosen with each student’s location and career goals in mind. In the past, Yale PA students have conducted their clinical clerkships in areas as diverse as Kentucky and Maine, and those opportunities provided valuable learning experiences that helped shape this new Program.

The Program has the support of Yale University and the School of Medicine, and includes 2U, Inc. as our technology and administrative partner. 2U has had very successful collaborations with the University of Southern California, the University of North Carolina, and Washington University in St. Louis, among many other professional schools.

Our on-campus Program will, of course, continue without interruption. Our students in New Haven would benefit as well, since they would have full access to the new technology platform and to the new interactive course videos and materials.

I’d like to extend my warm thanks to members of the Review Committee; James Van Rhee; Vice President for Global and Strategic Initiatives Linda Koch Lorimer, JD; Lucas Swineford, executive director of the Office of Online Education and Digital Dissemination; Sheree Carter-Galvan, JD, senior associate general counsel; David Florin, JD, deputy general counsel for health affairs, and the many others who have been instrumental in the new Program’s creation and design.

Dean Robert Alpern: 333 Cedar Street

333 Cedar Street is a letter from Dean Robert J. Alpern, MD, Ensign Professor of Medicine, on topics of interest to the Yale School of Medicine community. Write to Dean Alpern at