ODU Physician Assistant Students Aspire to Serve Central Ohio

Physician Assistant

2013-12-11

The United States is facing an unprecedented shortage of physicians. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the nation will experience a shortage of approximately 90,000 doctors by 2020, and 130,000 by 2025. Ohio Dominican University recognized this potential health care crisis, and launched Central Ohio’s only Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies program in 2012. 

“ODU’s PA program graduates will enable the physician assistant profession to grow and meet the increased demand placed on health care providers to improve patient access to excellent medical care,” ODU PA Program Director Shonna Riedlinger said. 

The demand for physician assistants is great. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of PAs is expected to increase 30 percent from 2010-20. 

“The need for more physician assistants in the community, along with the job security afforded by a growing profession, was a factor in my decision to pursue a career as a PA,” said student Lauren Krebs from East Palestine, Ohio. 

In July of 2013, ODU welcomed its second cohort of 54 PA students, joining its first class of 45 students. ODU’s 27-month program is designed to educate, train and prepare future PAs so they can begin practice immediately upon graduation. Approximately 84 percent of students in ODU’s first PA cohort are from Ohio, and a majority of ODU’s alumni choose to remain in Ohio after graduation. 

Throughout the program, substantial emphasis is placed on gaining real-world experience. In fact, to be considered for ODU’s PA program, a student must have already completed at least 250 hours of documented direct patient-care experience. Once accepted into the program, their experience is enhanced significantly through a 12-month clinical rotation and 15-month didactic phase, during which students learn basic medical and clinical skills in classroom and laboratory settings. 

“ODU’s PA program fosters that attitude that one must learn the basics and then continue to develop knowledge through clinical experience and education,” said student Kami Perdue from Lancaster, Ohio. 

“Being the only master’s in PA program in Central Ohio allows for us to have first choice in partnerships with area hospital networks,” said student Keith Kriesberg from Troy, Ohio. “This offers us the best experiences with our rotations and puts our program first in line for job opportunities upon graduation.” 

ODU’s students’ experiences are further enhanced through their involvement in and leadership of community health care initiatives offered throughout the year, including wellness clinics, blood drives, wellness fairs and health screenings for at-risk individuals. 

“I have had opportunities to volunteer at English Lutheran Church and Columbus Public Health, which has allowed me to become more aware of individuals of all different backgrounds,” said student Zach Clouse from Uhrichsville, Ohio. “This exposure to different communities ultimately will help my own interaction with patients in the years to come.” 

“These volunteer experiences have helped prepare me professionally by allowing me to fully understand the difficulties and characteristics for the populations of this community that I hope to serve,” Kriesberg said. 

ODU also offers students newly renovated facilities in which to study, including a state-of-the-art cadaver lab – a feature that is unique to a PA program of ODU’s size. Many PA students say they consider the human cadaver to be their first patient. 

“The cadaver lab is invaluable,” Perdue said. “No two patients are the same, so exploration of human anatomy is crucial to understanding many diseases.” 

ODU also will soon prepare highly trained physicians through a new partnership with the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine. Announced by the universities in August of 2013, the ODU-to-OU Med School Early Acceptance Program offers accomplished high school seniors an opportunity to be automatically admitted into OU-HCOM immediately upon the completion of their undergraduate studies as long as they meet and maintain the program’s rigorous academic standards.  

ODU announced a similar early acceptance program for highly qualified undergraduate students into its own PA program in October of 2013, and is recruiting now for the first class that will begin in the fall of 2014. 

“This unique program offers outstanding and motivated students a direct path to become highly trained and well-equipped physician assistants who will use their knowledge and experience to serve those in our community,” said ODU President Peter Cimbolic, Ph.D.