NC PA Program Highlight | East Carolina University
by Carolina Anzola-Riegel, PA-S
East Carolina University’s Department of Physician Assistant Studies was accredited over 20 years ago and is one of only two public PA programs in North Carolina. ECU’s PA program provides each student with affordable, high quality education that becomes the foundation on which future PAs build careers of service. The program’s core mission is to “provide educational experiences which prepare physician assistant graduates to enhance access to primary medical care, with a hope to increase care for the citizens of rural and medically-underserved Eastern North Carolina and beyond”.
The ECU PA program is independent of, but collaborative with, the medical school, sharing a core curriculum. No more than 40 students are admitted annually to the 27-month program, which includes 15 months of coursework followed by 12 months of clinical rotations. Ten full time faculty provide both didactic education and clinical practice supervision at the Allied Health Campus, which is just a short walk from the Brody School of Medicine. In addition, several expert adjunct faculty provide specialized instruction on various areas of medicine. Upon completion of the program, students graduate with a Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies. With seven years of 100% first time PANCE pass rate, and a 100% employment rate for the class of 2018, ECU surpasses national averages.
True to its mission, the ECU Department of Physician Assistant Studies includes required community outreach to under-served areas of Pitt County and surrounding counties. Students complete a minimum of 8 hours of volunteer work during the first two semesters with organizations of their choice, such as subsidized after school programs, food pantries, facilities for care of children and adults with special needs, and post hurricane clean up projects. Students also have opportunities to volunteer at the Pitt County Care Clinic where they can collaborate with medical and other allied health students and local health care professionals in treating the local community. During clinical rotations, all students are perform one or more rotations in under-served rural areas and/or those experiencing a shortage of health professionals. Yellow circles in the graphics below represent the areas where most core rotations are locate:
Graduates are expected to demonstrate professionalism with patients and other members of the health care team. Students participate in the College Interprofessional Education Collaboration and work with students from the Departments of Addiction & Rehabilitation Studies, Clinical Laboratory Science, Communication Science & Disorders, Health Services & Information Management, Nutrition Science, Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy, learning to integrate knowledge of each profession into future team-based collaboration among health care professionals.
Within the past few years, ECU PA students have demonstrated their desire to think globally through the organization of both didactic and clinical experiences abroad. This past March, eighteen Allied Health students from the PA, OT and NP programs participated in a PA student-organized and led medical brigade to Taulabé, Honduras. Along with two other international rotations in Belize and Kenya, a new collaboration with CerviCusco, comprised of a free women’s health clinic and community outreach non-profit in Peru, is available for students seeking international clinical experience.
Over a dozen students from the Class of 2019 are traveling out of the country for their women’s health rotation this year, and 19 students from the Class of 2020 plan to do the same during their final year. PA students also host organized and student-taught medical Spanish classes open to both students and faculty from all departments of the College of Allied Health.
In the coming weeks, students will participate in a free to the public fall risk assessment available to the surrounding community, along with the Departments of Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy. In the coming months, we look forward to welcoming our incoming Class of 2021.
ECU PA students graduate confident in their skills, inspired to be life-long learners, and proud to be Pirate PAs. For more information on the ECU PA program, visit http://www.ecu.edu/cs-dhs/pa/.
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