The Primary Care Physician Assistant Program at USC is dedicated to the advancement of physician assistant education and emphasizes service to the medically underserved. The program is committed to preparing students from diverse backgrounds to practice medicine with physician supervision. Emphasis is placed upon understanding and appreciating diversity. The program aims to prepare its graduates to practice and promote primary health care of the highest quality as part of an interprofessional team.
- Quality Education: Promote excellence in education through carefully considered admissions policies, a well-prepared faculty, and a strong primary care instruction.
- Diversity: Emphasize diversity in the selection of students, faculty and staff, and throughout the curriculum.
- Service: Encourage service to the medically underserved.
- Leadership: Mentor, model, and teach leadership including advocacy.
Indicators of Success in Achieving These Goals
1) Quality Education
The curriculum is designed with a primary care focus. Oversight of the development of this curriculum is provided by the Curriculum Committee. The curriculum, under the oversight of the Curriculum Committee, is focused on primary care and embraces the Competencies for the PA Profession as designated by the four professional organizations (American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA); Accreditation Review Commission of the Physician Assistant Education (ARC-PA); National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA); and the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA), utilizing their “blueprint” as a guideline in developing curriculum content. Professional development is offered throughout the curriculum and its success is measured by clerkship evaluations and faculty assessments of students. Faculty are well-prepared as evidenced by 100% attainment of advanced degrees and well-over 250 years of collective clinical experience. Success in promoting a primary care instruction is measured by the percent of graduates indicating a desire to seek primary care positions. Over 59% of the Class of 2018 indicated a desire to seek primary care positions (family and internal medicine, pediatrics and women’s health). Successful delivery of primary care education is evidenced by a 96% five-year passing rate for first-time test takers with the NCCPA’s Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE).
Demographics of the 60 students in our incoming first-year class (class of 2021) are: Black or African American (7%), White (33%), Asian or Pacific Islander (28%), Hispanic (23%), Native American (2%), N/A (7%), Gender: female (82%), male (18%). Diversity among appointed faculty and staff include 21 women and 8 men, with African-American, Asian, Caucasian, Native-American and Hispanic race and ethnicities represented; instructional faculty are similarly diverse. Preparing our students to serve diverse populations is facilitated by including three semesters of medical conversational Spanish in the curriculum, promoting service learning projects in a wide breadth of populations, and securing clinical sites in areas that care for medically-underserved populations. The graduating class of 2018 collectively cared for 101,178 patients, 39% of whom were medically underserved. Graduates from the Class of 2017 reported an average confidence using Medical Spanish with patients rated on a scale of 0-100 for the start of the program and at graduation. They report an average of 35/100 before starting the program and an average of 70/100 upon graduation, thereby doubling their confidence in the use of Medical Spanish.
The program begins each year by having incoming PA students volunteer alongside faculty and staff. Beginning in 2017, the group spent the day at the Union Rescue Mission in Downtown Los Angeles participating in several projects that assist those facing homelessness. Previous Service Orientations included volunteering at the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, where students spent time organizing donated food to be given out to those in need of nutrition across Los Angeles. Experiences such as these are seen throughout the curriculum. Students work with populations facing homeless and underserved patients in Los Angeles through the USC Student-Run-Clinics, which allow students to receive early clinical exposure in their education. The program has been awarded multiple Song-Brown training grants, funded by the State of California, which are intended to increase the number of providers entering primary care in medically underserved areas. According to the Office of Statewide Health and Planning for the State of California, 42% of reporting graduates are currently practicing in areas of unmet need and 48% of program clinical clerkship sites are in areas of unmet need. Collectively among the classes of 2011-2020, 38 of our students were selected as National Health Service Corps Scholars and 1 student was selected as a Native Hawaiian Scholar.
Students encounter educational training on advocacy in both required and volunteer components of the curriculum. All students are exposed to the role of advocacy in the Medical Care Organization and Advanced Topics in Education courses. Students learn the role of advocacy in community and individual health. Each spring, the program hosts an opportunity for students to volunteer to travel to Washington, D.C., where they develop and practice advocacy on behalf of the profession. The program recognizes these students by inducting them as USC PA Health Policy Scholars and encourages them to continue leadership and advocacy upon completion of the PAEA training.
Additionally the program acknowledges our alumni, who have gone on to serve in leadership roles in the U.S. Congress, the American Academy of Physician Assistants, the California Academy of Physician Assistants, the Physician Assistant Education Association, the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants, Society of Teachers of Family Medicine, and other major associations that affectively guide health care and the PA profession.