NC PA Program Highlight | Methodist University
by Eric Rutland, PA-S, Methodist University
Methodist University Physician Assistant Program | https://youtu.be/RqN2KuNbXmU
The Methodist University Physician Assistant Program (MUPAP) was established in 1996 as a Bachelor of Science program. Throughout the years, the program has grown into a 27-month Master of Physician Assistant Studies program with 40 enrolled students in each cohort. Since that first class in 1998, the program has graduated over 500 qualified physician assistants and continues to positively impact rural communities in rural southeastern North Carolina by producing competent and quality healthcare providers each year. Overall, a large majority of program graduates are currently practicing Physician Assistants in North Carolina. MUPAP will celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2021. Over the past 5 years, the program has maintained a 98% PANCE pass rate among its graduates.
Over the course of the 27-month program, students are immersed in 3.5 semesters of didactic courses, followed by 3.5 semesters of clinical rotations in multiple specialties of the healthcare field. Through instruction by full-time faculty and numerous adjunct professors, students are guided through the realm of evidence-based medicine and practice, gaining knowledge in core areas and experience with clinical skills that they will carry throughout their rotations and into their future clinical settings.
New Faculty Additions
In February of 2020, the MUPAP welcomed a new addition to the program faculty, Ms. Jamie Heitzinger, MPAS, PA-C. A native of Minnesota, Ms. Heitzinger has worked as a PA in both primary care and emergency medicine for 8 years, and has been an educator in different capacities for 6 years. Her most recent position was held at a trauma center in Honolulu, Hawaii, where she was the lead provider for two medical campuses. She is excited to begin her teaching career at MUPAP and is looking forward to what this opportunity has in store for her. She is dedicated to the profession and carries a passion for health disparities, diversity and inclusion, and helping prepare PA students for their futures as competent clinicians.
Ms. Jamie Heitzinger, MPAS, PA-C
MUPAP is proudly dedicated to increasing diversity and inclusion within the healthcare field. Over the years, the program has worked diligently to diversify each cohort and continues to increase the number of underrepresented minority (URM) students and/or students from disadvantaged backgrounds each year. The program has a standing affiliation with the University of North Carolina at Pembroke to reserve 2 seats in the program for qualified UNCP graduates who are identified as American Indians, beginning with the class of 2023. Additionally, beginning with student officers for the class of 2020, the program added a Diversity Representative position to be filled annually by one of its students. The student serving in this position works hand-in-hand with the other class officers to increase awareness of the program in communities throughout southeastern North Carolina, increasing awareness of diversity and inclusion among the student members of their cohort, and connecting the program with historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) in North Carolina to schedule presentations and recruiting activities. The class of 2021 student representative currently sits as the student co-chair for the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force within the NCAPA.
Serving the Community
Community involvement is an important aspect of being healthcare providers, and MUPAP students and faculty enjoy volunteering their time to serve the community of Fayetteville and the surrounding areas. Students volunteer their time annually at the local nursing home and at multiple events held on campus. One such activity is the Play4Kay 5K event hosted each February by the MUPAP on the Methodist campus. The program organizes and runs the event and 100% of the proceeds are donated directly to the Kay Yow Cancer Fund and Cape Fear Valley’s Friends of the Cancer Center.
The class of 2021 volunteered their time this past January to play basketball with children with disabilities in the Fayetteville area. The basketball buddies program pairs local volunteers with a special needs child while they play basketball at one of the local gyms in town. The students enjoyed the opportunity to get out into the community and connect with some of the local families who have children with special needs and get a little exercise in the process.
Last December, MUPAP students and faculty participated in the Salvation Army Christmas Angel program. A Christmas tree was placed in the lobby of the Medical Lecture Hall on campus for students and faculty to choose to sponsor as many children and/or elderly individuals as they like. Each “Angel” had gifts purchased and donated to them through the Salvation Army by members of each cohort, as well as the faculty of MUPAP. The hope for the future is to continue this new tradition for years to come.
The program also holds multiple blood drives each year, with one being held annually during PA week. Students from each cohort and volunteers recruited by the students gather on campus to donate blood to the American Red Cross.
MUPAP students strive to develop strong and lasting relationships with one another throughout their time at Methodist University. Although this year has been a challenging one with Covid-19 as a major barrier to learning and socializing with one another, the cohorts have continued to exhibit exceptional resilience and flexibility in their education and have remained a cohesive unit despite the additional challenges that this year has produced.
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