The Master of Physician Assistant Practice (MPAP) is a broad degree attesting to general knowledge in all fields of medicine and the basic skills required for PA practice. Essential characteristics and abilities required for completion of the MPAP degree consist of certain minimum physical and cognitive abilities, and sufficient mental stability to provide reasonable assurance that candidates can complete the entire course of study and participate fully in all aspects of medical training.

The Primary Care Physician Assistant Program at USC expects its graduates to become fully competent Physician Assistants capable of completing a graduate education, passing licensing exams, and obtaining Physician Assistant licenses. The program will provide reasonable accommodation to prepare its students.

The program has an ethical responsibility for the safety of patients with whom the candidates will come into contact both before and after graduation. Therefore, patient safety is a major factor in establishing requirements for physical, cognitive, and emotional capabilities of candidates for admission, promotion and graduation.

All PA students must possess those intellectual, ethical, physical, and emotional capabilities necessary to undertake and achieve levels of competence in the full curriculum required by the faculty. An avowed intention to practice only a narrow part of clinical medicine does not alter the requirement that all students take and achieve full competence in the full curriculum.

Essential characteristics and abilities prescribed here are a prerequisite for admission, promotion and graduation from the program. All matriculates, students and graduates must meet all prescribed essential characteristics and abilities.

  • After reasonable training and experience, the candidate must be able to observe and participate in demonstrations and experiments in the basic sciences, including but not limited to dissection of cadavers, examination of gross specimens in gross anatomy and pathology laboratories, preparation of microbiologic cultures, and microscopic studies of microorganisms and tissues in normal and pathologic states (e.g., streak plates, perform gram stains and use a microscope) necessary for such studies. Observation of gross and microscopic structures necessitates the functional use of the senses of vision and touch and is enhanced by the functional sense of smell.

    After reasonable training and experience, the candidate must be capable of performing a complete physical examination, including observation, palpation and percussion and auscultation. The candidate must be capable of using instruments such as, but not limited to, a stethoscope, an ophthalmoscope, an otoscope, and a sphygmomanometer. The candidate must be capable of performing clinical procedures such as, but not limited to, the following: pelvic examination, digital rectal examination, drawing blood from veins and arteries and giving intravenous injections, basic cardiopulmonary life support, spinal puncture, and simple obstetrical procedures.

    The candidate must be capable of performing basic laboratory tests, using a calculator and a computer, reading an EKG, and interpreting common imaging tests. The applicant must be able to move in the clinical setting so as to act quickly in emergencies. At the conclusion of the didactic phase, the student should demonstrate proficiency in the skills described above. By the conclusion of the clinical clerkships, the student should achieve full competence in the skills described above including the ability to synthesize and organize these skills.

  • A candidate must be able to communicate with, to receive communication from, and to observe patients in order to elicit information, describe changes in mood, activity and posture, and perceive nonverbal affective and gesture communication. These communication skills also must enable the candidate to obtain a medical history in a timely fashion from a wide variety of patients, and to communicate effectively, efficiently and sensitively with all members of the health care team, other professionals, patients and their families. Communication includes speech and writing.

    The student must be able to produce a written write-up in the clinical rotations, which includes patient history, physical exam and assessment. Also, the candidate must be able to comprehend written material sufficiently well to understand accurately common medical records, laboratory reports, and pharmacological prescriptions.

  • A candidate must have sufficient cognitive (mental) capacities to assimilate the technically detailed and complex information presented in formal lectures, small group discussions, medical literature and individual teaching settings and in clinical settings. A candidate must be able to measure, calculate, reason, analyze and synthesize information across modalities, appreciate three-dimensional spatial relationships among structures and logical sequential relationships among events, and form and test hypotheses in order to enable effective and timely problem-solving in diagnosis and treatment of patients.

  • A candidate must possess the emotional health, maturity and self-discipline required for full use of one’s intellectual and judgmental ability and for successful participation in, and completion of, the course of study leading to the MPAP degree. These include but are not limited to attendance, integrity, honesty, conscientiousness in work, teamwork and other attributes described in Standards, Policies, and Procedures of the Primary Care Physician Assistant Program at USC and the USC SCAMPUS. The candidate must accept responsibility for learning, exercise good judgment, and promptly complete all responsibilities necessary for sensitive and effective relationships with patients and others. Candidates must be capable of interactions with patients and health care personnel in a caring and professional manner. The candidate must be able to tolerate physically taxing workloads, to function effectively under stress, to adapt to changing environments, and to display flexibility.

  • The Primary Care Physician Assistant Program at USC has responsibility to consider the safety and welfare of patients and others. Should a candidate have a condition that would place patients or others at significant risk, that condition may be the basis for denial of admission or dismissal from school. An otherwise qualified individual shall not be excluded from admission, or participation in educational programs and activities solely by reason of his/her physical handicap, or medical condition. Students must adhere to universal precaution measures. Students must be able to comply with all school requirements working in a clinic environment and with hazardous materials.

  • The program may require that an accepted student undergo an evaluation at the school’s expense for the purpose of determining whether an accepted applicant or student meets these essential characteristics and abilities.

    The program does not discriminate against otherwise qualified individuals who apply for admission to the MPAP degree program or who are enrolled as students. The designated disabilities coordinator for enrolled Physician Assistant students with disabilities is the Coordinator of Disabled Issues who may be contacted through the Office of Student Affairs of the Keck School of Medicine of USC. Reasonable accommodations will be granted upon request and documentation of disability; requests should be directed to the appropriate disabilities coordinator.

  • In 2020, California became the fifth state to prohibit the use of criminal background checks in admissions considerations for graduate schools when the California Education Code 66024p was updated following the passage of the Ban the Box bill. While this legislation prohibits schools from considering criminal backgrounds in the admissions process it does not prohibit criminal background checks for matriculated students. These background checks are required to work with minors and to participate in clinical training activities with health care partners throughout the state. Students who matriculate with a history of a criminal conviction may not be able to successfully complete the curriculum due to these requirements and therefore should check with the program prior to matriculation. In addition, criminal background checks including LiveScan are required for state licensure in California and a history of a criminal conviction may be considered by the California Physician Assistant Board as well as other state medical boards and the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants in the licensure application. Applicants/matriculants should consult with these entities prior to matriculation to ensure they will be eligible for licensure upon completion of their degree.