BUIES CREEK - Campbell University’s College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences has launched the first dual physician assistant, public health degree in North Carolina.
The new program, which takes less than three and a half years to complete, will begin next fall allowing students to graduate with a Master of Physician Assistant Practice degree and a Master of Science in Public Health degree in December 2016. The PA and public health degrees normally last 28 months and two years, respectively.
The dual degree was designed to broaden PA students’ perspective on health care services in terms of community or population needs, and teach them how to contribute as community health leaders, educators and policy makers.
“The physician assistant profession is expanding,” said PA Program Director Tom Colletti, MPAS, PA-C. “We want to provide alternate career opportunities for our students, and this additional training will allow them to move their future practice away from just patient care to population care.”
Campbell is one of the few institutions nationally to offer this type of dual training in a rural setting. The program’s focus on rural health will improve graduates’ ability to address health disparities unique to rural areas.
“We’re located in a rural, underserved area, and there is a manpower shortage too, so we hit all three areas of need,” said Colletti, who indicated by 2020, there is a projected shortage of more than 60,000 primary care practitioners nationwide. There is also a need for more PA leaders who hold a master’s degree in public health in order to affect the system from a population perspective, Colletti added.
The combined degree will also give PA students the tools to create innovative solutions for health care disparities that effect larger populations.
“There’s more to the provision of health care than just taking care of a patient,” said David Coniglio, MPA, PA-C, who serves as the academic coordinator for the PA Program.
He said he believes one of the critical issues is not just bringing health care providers to rural or underserved areas, but also providing practitioners who understand how to research the needs of the community, promote a broader range of health care services, and improve health care policies.
“We have a unique opportunity to provide training in a rural setting,” said Tina Tseng, PhD, MSPH, chair of the public health program. Students will complete community outreach projects during their first year of public health training, and have an opportunity to return to the same areas, even the same clinics, to complete clinical rotations for the PA curriculum.
“Students will be in the same place but with a completely different perspective as the provider,” Tseng said. “I hope they will take an additional step and become the leaders at these community clinics and integrate the teams of public health and PA students.”
She feels the continuum of training will make a huge difference in rural areas throughout central North Carolina, sending students into communities who understand both sides of patient and population care. Tseng hopes the community involvement will encourage students to return to similar rural areas to serve and provide health care once they graduate.
Campbell University’s College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences offers two additional dual degrees with the public health program which include a Doctor of Pharmacy/MSPH and a Juris Doctor/MSPH in partnership with Campbell’s Law School. Additionally, the College offers a Doctor of Pharmacy/MBA with Campbell’s School of Business, a Doctor of Pharmacy/MS in Clinical Research, and a Doctor of Pharmacy/MS in Pharmaceutical Sciences.
Story by Andrea Pratt, College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences