Artboard 1 apply Artboard 1 copy 2 Mount_Logo_Primary_RGB Mount_Logo_Primary_RGB give Artboard 1 copy 3 info link Mount_Logo_Primary_RGB Artboard 1 Artboard 2 Artboard 1 visit

MHEC Approves Mount Graduate-Level Physician Assistant Program

Donna Klinger

Mary Jackson

Physician Assistant Program Director Mary Jackson, MMS, PA-C, CAQ-EM is a 2005 graduate of Mount St. Mary’s.

The Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC) approved Mount St. Mary’s University’s proposal for a comprehensive two-year graduate physician assistant (PA) program that would help close the health care provider deficit in Maryland.

“The Master’s in physician assistant studies program will deliver on the Mount’s mission to live significantly through a curriculum that emphasizes faith and values-based education in the Catholic Intellectual Tradition,” said President Timothy E. Trainor, Ph.D. “As they study medicine, students will develop their stance as future healthcare leaders with experiences in medical ethics, contemplative practice, volunteer events and clinical experiences in underserved communities.”

The university, which has begun the process of application for provisional accreditation through the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, hopes to seat cohorts of 40 students, potentially beginning in the fall of 2024. This program, along with a Master’s in applied behavior analysis which began in August 2021, are foundational graduate degree programs within the Mount’s School of Health Professions that is under development.

The demand for PAs is on the rise. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national job outlook for physician assistants is highly favorable, with projected 31% growth between 2019-2029—the seventh fastest-growing profession in the country. Additional programs currently in conceptual development include master’s degrees in specialty nursing fields.

PAs diagnose illnesses, develop and manage treatment plans, prescribe medications, and serve as principal healthcare providers, which makes these professionals especially important in the mitigation of a projected physician shortage over the next decade. Maryland is forecasted to require a 23% increase in primary care providers to maintain current healthcare services by 2033.

Maryland currently has four operational PA programs and one in development. Combining average annual growth and replacement needs, the state is projected to have 340 annual PA job openings. The current programs will graduate 166 students per year, leaving an unmet need of 174 vacancies.

The Mount plans to address critical workforce shortages while creating new ways to live out the university’s mission by graduating healthcare providers who possess the desire to provide care to all while maintaining joy and compassion. Mount St. Mary’s hopes to retain talented undergraduates on a pre-PA track.  Qualified Mount undergraduate students who meet eligibility criteria will be given preferential consideration in application to the new PA graduate program.

“We seek to educate students to be not only knowledgeable scholars, but also ethical leaders who live lives of significance in service to God and others,” stated Physician Assistant Program Director Mary Jackson, MMS, PA-C, CAQ-EM and a 2005 graduate of Mount St. Mary’s. “…Our commitment to our mission and our Catholic identity is what calls us to train the healthcare leaders of tomorrow. With a focus on equitable and compassionate care, respecting the dignity of each patient, we will strive to graduate physician assistants ready to serve all patients.”

At the core of the PA curriculum developed by Jackson are two unique elements that are central to the School of Health Professions: the Center for Holistic Wellness and the Care for America program. The Center for Contemplative Practices will aid program graduates in combating burnout by providing them with wellness tools, coping strategies, meditation techniques and more. “Our graduates will be especially desirable to employers because they will be resilient, adaptable and mindful providers who are better able to thrive in challenging environments,” Jackson said. Program graduates also will be able to share these wellness tools with their patients.

In partnership with the Daughters of Charity, Care for America will inculcate openness to care for underserved patients by incorporating a focus on awareness, service and volunteerism in the curriculum. Students will participate in volunteer events, have a minimum number of clinical rotations caring for underserved patients and develop a skill set to maximize resourcing, funding, advocacy and adaptability.

The Care for America model will provide a number of full-tuition scholarships, through the Daughters of Charity and other supporting organizations, to improve access to graduate education for students with financial barriers who commit to working with underserved patients following graduation. The Daughters also have pledged to provide an in-kind donation to locate the School of Health Professions in a facility on the campus of the National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton at 339 S. Seton Avenue, approximately two miles from the Mount’s Emmitsburg campus. Renovations to create a state-of-the-art facility to support health profession education are anticipated to begin next year.

Donna Klinger