Photo above: Ryan Short receives his white coat at the Lincoln Theatre ceremony May 22. Photo courtesy Emory & Henry College
By Scott Robertson
Thirty first-year students donned white coats for the first time to inaugurate a one-of-a-kind program at Emory & Henry May 22. The Department of Physician Assistant Studies’ first class will center its studies at the Marion, Va., campus once owned by Mountain States Health Alliance. The students will receive training in a way unlike any other program, said Dr. Scott Richards, program director.
“We are one of the only PA programs to start clinical immersions on Day One. The students follow the faculty into the Mel Leaman Free Clinic throughout their first year before they go on their clinical rotations to make sure they’re well-prepared. We are the only program in the United States to have a full two semesters of behavioral medicine and psychiatry in our curriculum. We are also the only program in the curriculum to have a mandatory hospice care training program and rotation, and we’re one of the only programs to have a mandatory cardiology/pulmonology rotation.”
Students will attend year-round for 27 months and earn a master’s degree. Physician assistants are advanced practice health professionals who practice clinical medicine as members of a team.
“It’s unique in so many ways,” Dr. Lou Fincher, dean of the School of Health Sciences said. “All of our programs are designed to be very collaborative and interprofessional, so our PA students will be working very closely with PT and other students learning to be part of a multi-disciplinary team which has been shown to improve outcomes.”
The program focuses on rural health care, Fincher said. “Our connection with the community and support from the community is unique because we are revitalizing Marion. It’s a partnership between us, the town and the county.”