PA Curriculum Overview

Our Master of Science in Physician Assistant Program takes 27 months to complete. The first 15 months of the program are dedicated to the didactic education, along with the participation in a clinical mentorship program. The last 12 months of the program involve students pursuing their clinical clerkship rotations, which offer the students clinical education experiences in primary care, surgery, and emergency medicine.

Didactic learning experiences

The courses and their course descriptions provide the full schedule for the PA program. Please be advised, while the PA Program at CMU requires specific courses as prerequisites for enrollment, and many applicants may have significant healthcare education and employment experience, the program does not award advanced placement in the program.

Clinical mentorships

CMU's PA Program offers the benefit of a mentorship experience for all first-year students. Although the program shares the critical requirements and expectations of many PA Programs, there are two key areas of emphasis which make this program relatively unique.  Specifically, we educate students with a focus in providing and supporting primary and rural health care.  This is achieved through the clinical problem-solving coursework series with the clinical mentorship experience.

Mentorship

Starting in mid-January of the didactic year, each student participates in a one-day-per-week mentorship experience for six months, in which they shadow a local primary care practitioner and perform supervised hands-on patient care. The mentorship opportunity allows students to apply their knowledge and skills in a clinical environment, to further enhance their clinical and practical skills and build their confidence before pursuing the second year of studies.

Our unique mentorship program allows students to:
  • Develop and improve patient evaluation skills.
  • Practice effective communication skills in establishing a productive provider-patient relationship.
  • Establish a professional student-mentor relationship.
  • Learn about other disciplines of the interprofessional team.
  • Review and discuss selected cases with their mentor.
  • Observe administrative aspects of office practices.
  • Build confidence and become comfortable in a clinical setting.

Supervised clinical practice experience

Students spend the last 12 months of the program completing eight core Supervised Clinical Practice Experiences (SCPE). Students are required to return to campus at the close of each SCPE to complete their end-of-rotation summative evaluation.  The summative assessment includes an objective, standardized evaluation that measures existing medical knowledge as well as medical knowledge gained from the specific SCPE.  The return to campus experience (callback week) also includes seminars and presentations on pertinent topics as well as simulated patient encounters using standardized patients for high-fidelity simulators.

Core supervised clinical practice experiences

Emergency medicine

Emergency medicine is an introduction to triage and stabilization of patients with life-threatening conditions and procedures performed in the emergency department. Emphasis is placed on skills required to perform and document a problem-oriented history and physical, formulate a differential diagnosis, order and interpret tests necessary to confirm or rule out a primary diagnosis, and provide patients with appropriate patient education. The student will also learn strategies for interacting with patients and/or families in various levels of stress.

Family medicine, pediatrics, women's health, and behavioral/mental health

Family medicine, pediatrics, women's health, and behavioral/mental health is a practice of the evaluation, documentation, diagnosis, and treatment of the wide range of problems common in primary care and family medicine. The student will develop proficiency in office procedures commonly performed in a family medicine office.

General surgery

General surgery is the development of the skills necessary to evaluate and manage patients with a variety of surgical problems including the pre-operative period, intra-operative period and post-operative period. This SCPE will provide students with the opportunity to develop an understanding of the role of the surgical PA as well as the surgeon, anesthesiologist, assistant surgeon, circulating nurse, scrub nurse, scrub tech, recovery room, surgery floor nurses, aids, and techs in the care of the surgical patient.

Internal medicine

Internal medicine focuses on in-depth evaluation and ongoing treatment of patients with complex problems and/or chronic illness. Students learn the skills necessary to evaluate and manage the effects of chronic disease on multiple body systems and to perform or assist in procedures commonly done in the internal medicine setting.

Elective

The elective rotation is designed to reinforce education in an area requiring additional training, enhance clinical education in a specialized area, or to further a student's education in an area of particular interest.

Service-learning

Physician assistant students are given an opportunity to work with Mobile Health Central in providing sports physicals to local high schools in the summer and early fall. This service-learning opportunity offers hands-on experience to the students while providing a low cost option for families in the area.  Additionally, 40 hours of service learning/volunteerism is a requirement to be completed before graduation.