Pfeiffer announces Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies

Brenda Dia director, MS-PAS program
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Pfeiffer University announces the launch of a Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies (MS-PAS) program. Currently in the developmental stages, the program is among those that will operate from Pfeiffer’s proposed graduate campus to be located in downtown Albemarle, N.C. [pending approval from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)].

The MS-PAS program is scheduled to welcome its first students in January 2020 upon being granted Accreditation-Provisional status from the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA), an independent accrediting body authorized to accredit qualified PA educational programs leading to the professional credential, Physician Assistant (PA), and SACSCOC. The program’s curriculum, guided by the requirements of ARC-PA, has been approved by Pfeiffer’s Academic Affairs Committee and board of trustees.

Physician Assistants, whose training follows a medical model similar to that of physicians, are nationally certified and state-licensed medical providers trained to diagnose and treat patients and prescribe medication. In addition to completing courses in basic sciences, behavioral sciences and clinical medicine, they engage in more than 2,000 hours of clinical rotations in a variety of specialties. With more than 108,000 certified PAs working across the U.S., the demand outpaces the supply in many communities.

“Pfeiffer University recognizes the need for and value of qualified physician assistants in rural communities such as Stanly County, N.C., home to our main campus and the proposed applied health sciences campus, particularly in the areas of primary care and mental health,” said Dr. Colleen Perry Keith, president. “For this reason, Pfeiffer’s PA program will offer concentrations in rural health primary care and mental health—specializations unique among PA programs in the Southeast—with an aim to attract interested and qualified students.”

The MS-PAS is a 27-month continuous residential program committed to creating an academic experience known for excellence in clinical education and scholarly activities focusing on the unequal distribution of health, illness, disease, suffering and death by social status. After a 15-month didactic—or instructive—phase, students will complete a 12-month clinical phase, which includes supervised clinical practice experiences with a number of local and regional healthcare partners in internal medicine, family medicine, pediatrics, prenatal care and women’s health, surgery, emergency medicine, behavioral and mental health, and two electives.

Students accepted to the program, expected to number 24 per cohort initially and grow eventually to 45, will enroll in courses offered at Pfeiffer’s intended facility in downtown Albemarle, whose groundbreaking is anticipated for spring 2017. The campus, which will also house Pfeiffer’s proposed Master of Science in Occupational Therapy program, will include state-of-the-art classroom and technology space as well as a cadaver laboratory.

The program is led by Brenda Diaz, MS, PA-C, who is serving as program director and assistant professor. Ms. Diaz, who has been a certified physician assistant since 1989, comes to Pfeiffer from the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine where she was academic director and interim program director for the PA program in its developmental phase. While working for Nova Southeastern University, she co-founded and served as faculty advisor for Project S.E.E.D. (Serving Everyone Embracing Diversity), an interdisciplinary community service initiative through which physician assistant students identify a specific healthcare disparity in a community, and design and implement a self-sustaining and community-empowering program to address it. She earned a bachelor of science degree in biomedical science/physician assistant from City University of New York/Harlem Hospital Physician Assistant program, and a master of science in advanced physician assistant studies with a concentration in education and leadership from A.T. Still University. She serves as chair of the Continuing Medical Education Committee of the Physician Assistants for Latino Health, an official caucus of the American Academy of Physician Assistants.

Applications to Pfeiffer University’s MS-PAS program will become available in March 2019, provided Accreditation-Provisional is granted by ARC-PA. All applicants will apply through the Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA), by visiting or calling (617) 612-2080. Applicants who have earned bachelor’s degrees from select programs of Pfeiffer University’s division of applied health sciences are guaranteed an interview during the application process.

To learn about admissions criteria and the related process or related information, contact Brenda Diaz, [email protected] or (704) 463-3100.

*Accreditation Notice that must appear verbatim with publication of this announcement: The Pfeiffer University Master of Science in Assistant Studies (MS-PAS) Program has applied for Accreditation-Provisional from the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). The Program anticipates matriculating its first class in January 2020, pending achieving Accreditation-Provisional status at the September 2019 ARC-PA meeting. “Accreditation-Provisional” is an accreditation status granted when the plans and resource allocation, if fully implemented as planned, of a proposed program that has not yet enrolled students appear to demonstrate the program’s ability to meet the ARC-PA Standards or when a program holding Accreditation-Provisional status appears to demonstrate continued progress in complying with the Standards as it prepared for the graduation of the first class (cohort) of students. If the Pfeiffer University MS-PAS Program is not granted Accreditation-Provisional by the ARC-PA, the university will not accept or review any applications nor will it enroll students in the program.

Photo: Brenda Diaz, MS, PA-C, director, MS-PAS program