by Jamaica Sykes, PA-S, Methodist University
The Methodist University Physician Assistant Program (MUPAP) began as a Bachelor of Science program in 1996 with only 4 students. It is now a 27-month master’s program that enrolls 40 students per cohort. Since the graduation of our inaugural class in 1998, MUPAP has graduated more than 500 qualified physician assistants and continues to make a significant impact to offset the shortage of primary care providers in the rural southeastern parts of North Carolina. Based on the North Carolina Department of Commerce Tier designation, over 76 percent of our graduates are currently practicing in Tier 1 counties (40 most-distressed counties in the state).
In the Fall of 2010, the program opened up a new medical lecture hall and a state-of-the-art anatomy lab which affords the PA students the opportunity to dissect cadavers and learn about the human anatomy. In 2016, the program celebrated its 20th anniversary. For the past 3 years, the program has maintained a 100% PANCE pass rate.
Class of 2018, during PA Week
On September 28th, 2010, the Methodist University PA Program was awarded $1.18 million over 5 years through the Heath Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Expansion of Physician Assistant Training Program (EPAT). EPAT is a five-year initiative that invested over $32 million in training for primary care PAs.
In July 2016, The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) selected the MUPAP to be a recipient of a $1.59 million grant as a part of the Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students. A total of 32 students from the classes of 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021 have received $30,000-$60,000 in tuition assistance.
Class of 2019
With the demand to increase diversity in health professions programs, MUPAP embraced the challenge several years ago to diversify the program as much as possible, while maintaining the quality of our students. By diversifying our cohorts, the program feels it has enhanced the academic experience for all students and feels that underrepresented minority (URM) students have a strong desire to return to their communities as providers and mentors. Since 2012, the program’s emphasis on recruiting students who are URM and/or who are from disadvantaged backgrounds has helped build stronger relationships with universities with an American Indian affiliation and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). This year the program began an affiliation with the University of North Carolina Pembroke to encourage diversity in health professions by reserving 2 seats in the program for qualified UNCP graduates who are identified as American Indians, beginning with the Class of 2023.
Lastly, beginning with the class of 2020, a Diversity Representative was added as a class officer position. The person who serves in the position helps with reaching out to HBCUs to do presentations, and assists with other admissions/recruiting events.
Class of 2020
The MUPAP encourages participation in PA organizations at the local, state, and national levels. Not only does the program designate an NCAPA and AAPA representative from each cohort, but have added a Sandhills Association of PAs (SAPA) student representative and Outreach position as a part of our class officer positions.
Serving the Community
When time allows, the MUPAP family enjoys participating in volunteer opportunities to serve and give back to the community. The program volunteers at the local nursing home, foodbanks, and on campus.
- Play4Kay: Every February the program participates in the Play4Kay event that is organized by the Athletic Department. The program organizes a 5K run where 100% of proceeds are donated to the campus-wide event. All proceeds from the event go to the Kay Yow Cancer Fund and Cape Fear Valley’s Friends of the Cancer Center. By keeping half of the proceeds local, we are able to provide screenings for uninsured women. Over three years, the program has raised $7,000 for the cause. Additionally, beginning in the spring of 2019, current didactic students and faculty present a breast cancer awareness talk for undergraduate, residential students. Our next presentation will take place during PA week on 10/8.
- Diabetes Olympics: Last year the program and faculty volunteered at the first annual Diabetes Olympics, an event that serves to honor children with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.
- PA Week 2019: This year for PA week the program is hosting a blood drive on 10/7 and a breast cancer awareness presentation to undergraduate, residential students on the campus of Methodist University on 10/8.
Class of 2021
MUPAP students make an effort to develop strong relationships with each other. The students partake in many activities outside of school including hiking, beach trips, intramural sports, cookouts, and potlucks.