2021 NC PA Program Update | University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
by Elise Kidder, PA-S, UNC-Chapel Hill
The second year students partook in a Public Health Elective where they learned about the epidemiology, pathophysiology, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of COVID 19. Additionally, they were able to deliver much needed COVID-19 vaccines to the local community.
In January of 2016, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, School of Medicine, offered their inaugural Physician Assistant class as an intensive two-year master’s program with a goal to promote and provide high-quality, accessible, patient-centered health care. Now, five years later, the program’s mission remains committed to the health care and workforce needs of North Carolinians and uses an inter-professional approach to prepare skilled and compassionate health care practitioners across the continuum of life.
The UNC Physician Assistant program is structured as a graduate program awarding a Master’s of Health Science from the UNC School of Medicine’s Department of Allied Sciences. We are committed to diversity in the student body and in the PA workforce, admitting persons from all socioeconomic, racial/ethnic, and religious backgrounds. Admitted students are comprised from non-traditional pathways to health careers, with special attention to North Carolina residents and military veterans. With that in mind, our program is currently unlike any other in that part of our mission driven focus is tailored to include U.S. Armed Forces veterans. With prior medical capacity service, these particular individuals provide a valuable perspective in our program.
UNC-CH PA students receive rich interprofessional experiences (IPE) in both their preclinical and clinical phases. During the preclinical year, students interact in courses with students from the Schools of Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, and Pharmacy, as well as with other Allied Health students from Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, and Audiology. During their preclinical and clinical years, UNC-PA students are mentored and guided by educators from 19 different departments and professional schools at UNC-Chapel Hill. By working with healthcare professionals from diverse backgrounds, students develop a strong foundation for future practice on healthcare teams.
IPE experiences for the PA program: Students collaborate in curricular components designed to foster inter-professionalism with multiple health profession students.
● PANCE 5 Year National First Time Taker Average: 92%
● 100% Alumni employment one year post graduation, practicing in various areas of medicine.
● 29% of our Alumni self-report currently practicing in an underserved area or population of NC or beyond
● 76% of admitted students are North Carolina Residents, with 14% representing 19 other US states
PA Student Life & Learning
This past spring semester, the second-year students transitioned to frontline work by administering upward of 850 COVID-19 vaccines a day to the local community before embarking on their clinical rotations throughout the entire state. Back on campus, twenty new and excited students completed program orientation and began their didactic-year studies. In clinical medicine, these first-year students learned about hematology, cardiology, and finished the semester studying pulmonology. They then took their education to the next level by participating in simulated virtual telehealth encounters alongside medical, nursing, social work, and dentistry students. Incorporating the theme of allied health partnerships, the UNC Orthopedic Physical Therapy Residents recently taught these first-year learners how to assess shoulder and knee joint range of motion. Besides improving their musculoskeletal exam technique, the PA-S1’s honed their upper extremity, abdominal, and cardiothoracic POCUS skills.
PA-S First Years practicing cardiology skills as part of their History & Physical Examination course
Honored To Be Involved in Our Community
In February, the UNC-CH PA Student Society representatives continued monthly allied health presentations to local high schools and assisted in the Allied Health “Showcase for a Cause”, which raised funds for the Hunger and Health Coalition of NC. Additionally, the first years attended their initial “Town Hall” meeting, hosted by the Graduate and Professional Student Federation, where they learned about available academic resources, campus and community graduate student advocation, and upcoming pertinent legislature. Furthermore, the JEDI (Justice, Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion) Committee was established as a UNC PA Student Society sub-committee dedicated to discussion and awareness of justice, equality, diversity and inclusion in the medical community.
Other opportunities for community student involvement:
- UNC Student Health Action Coalition (SHAC): Each week, UNC PA students partner with the Student Health Action Coalition to provide free healthcare services to uninsured and underinsured individuals in the Triangle community.
- Community-Wide Blood Drive: UNC PA Student Society plans and hosts a blood drive each fall for members of the Chapel Hill community.
- NCAPA Challenge Bowl: Students from each PA program across the state have the opportunity to participate in the NCAPA Challenge Bowl to test their PA knowledge.
- AAPA Conference: This national conference hosts the “Yes I Scan” competition as a way for students to showcase their ultrasound skills. UNC-CH PA students participated in the most recent 2021 competition; we are very proud of our peers who represented our program at the national level!
- HEELS 2 Transition (H2T): supports young adults with intellectual disabilities (ID). Through year-round program offerings, H2T aims to equip individuals with skills and support to achieve a self-determined, community engaged adult life.
- Remote Access Medicine: UNC-CH PA students travel to Wise, Virginia and volunteer through Remote Access Medicine to provide healthcare to underserved and uninsured populations. Students are excited to work alongside peers and seasoned professionals to fulfill UNC PA’s goal of providing care to the uninsured and underserved.
More information on the program can be found at: https://www.med.unc.edu/ahs/unc-pa
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