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Classes begin in College of Medicine’s new PA Program

The 30 students in Penn State College of Medicine's new Physician Assistant (PA) Program have begun their studies. The two-year graduate program will focus on preparing students to provide preventive health care services and care for both acute and chronic disease.

Classes in the program began on Monday, May 19. The following day, a ceremony was held at which the students were presented with white coats that symbolize their entrance into the medical profession. Among those on-hand were alumni from the College of Medicine's previous PA program, which was in place from 1974 through 1986. (See high-resolution downloadable photos from the White Coat Ceremony here:

“I wanted a program that would be very strong and push me, which is why I'm really excited about Penn State's program,” says Myra Galusha, a member of the entering class. Galusha, a former Army intelligence officer, served two tours of duty in Iraq between 2007 and 2011. “I'm ready to fully immerse myself in my next career,” Galusha says.

“Growing up in this area, I knew about the reputation of Penn State Hershey Medical Center and the College of Medicine, and I was thrilled when I heard they were starting a Physician Assistant Program,” says Seth Fuhrman of New Oxford, Adams County, a member of the entering class.

The PA program is highly selective, with more than 1,900 people applying for the 30 slots in the PA program's inaugural class. Christine Bruce, MHSA, PA-C, founding director of the PA program, says she and her colleagues sought out applicants who clearly want to work on the front lines of primary care.

“We reviewed all of their application materials, looking for patient-centered, motivated and passionate people,” Bruce says. “Though some may have non-traditional backgrounds, we'll turn them into exceptional PAs.”

Jolene Collins' background is as a food scientist at Hershey Foods. During her time with the company, she developed several new products, including a shelf-stable white chocolate milk.

“It was a great job because I learned a lot from it,” says Collins, a member of the PA program class. “But I've always felt a pull toward the medical field, due to my passion for health, medicine and healthy living.”

Physician assistants are licensed to practice medicine under the supervision of physicians. They are formally educated to examine patients, diagnose injuries and illnesses, and provide a range of treatment services.

The new PA program at the College of Medicine has been provisionally accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). More information about the program is available on the Educational Affairs page on the College of Medicine website.

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