Physician Assistant Studies (MSPAS)

Dominican University of California offers a Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies for students starting at the graduate level.

Physician Assistant Studies Overview

The ARC-PA has granted Accreditation-Provisional status to the Dominican University of California Physician Assistant Studies Program sponsored by Dominican University of California. 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 prepares for the graduation of the first class (cohort) of students. Accreditation-Provisional does not ensure any subsequent accreditation status. It is limited to no more than five years from matriculation of the first class.

A Physician Assistant is a nationally certified and state-licensed medical professional. PAs practice medicine on healthcare teams with physicians and other providers. They practice and prescribe medication in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the majority of the U.S. territories and the uniformed services.

PAs are experts in general medicine; they diagnose, treat and prescribe medicine. Thanks to an education modeled on the medical school curriculum, PAs learn to make life-saving diagnostic and therapeutic decisions while working autonomously or in collaboration with other members of the healthcare team. PAs are certified as medical generalists with a foundation in primary care. Over the course of their careers, many PAs practice in two or three specialty areas, giving them deep experience and the flexibility to meet the changing needs of their patients, employers and communities.

Physician Assistant Studies (MSPAS) Curriculum Themes and Design

Curricular Themes

The following curricular themes articulate our beliefs about physician assistant medical practice and shapes the focus of our curriculum:

  • The clinical role of PAs includes primary and specialty care in medical and surgical practice settings.
  • Professional competencies for physician assistants include the effective and appropriate application of:
    • Medical knowledge
    • Interpersonal and communication skills
    • Patient-centered care
    • Professionalism
    • Practice-based learning and improvement
    • Systems-based practice
  • Patient-centered, physician assistant practice reflects a number of overarching themes. These include an unwavering commitment to patient safety, cultural competence, quality healthcare, lifelong learning, and professional growth. Furthermore, the profession’s dedication to the physician-physician assistant team benefits patients and the larger community.

Curriculum Design

The MSPAS Program curriculum is 28 months divided into three phases over seven consecutive semesters.

Please note: Students are strongly encouraged not to work while enrolled in the program. Any student who chooses to work is required to attend all program-related activities and will not be granted an excused absence for work obligations. Students are not required to work for the program.

Phase I—Didactic (15 months) on campus

The didactic curriculum is organized into blocks to allow for a comprehensive and integrated approach to learning medicine by organ system. Each clinical medicine system block contains anatomy, physiology, pathophysiology, clinical skills, laboratory studies, study of disease states, pharmacology, behavioral medicine, preventive medicine, and evidence-based healthcare. The classes are a combination of traditional lectures, web-based learning modules and active learning through cases, clinical skills development, role playing, simulation, and team-based problem solving.

Every student graduating from the program will have met the minimum competency of 3.0 GPA following the completion of each semester, module, and/or rotation in order to progress in the program.

Phase II—Clinical (~12 months/48 weeks) at sites throughout CA and other states

Over ~12 months the student will participate in 9 required clinical rotations, 5 weeks in length. These courses (as follows) do not have to be taken in any certain order. Students will participate but will not be responsible for determining their clinical sites and internship experiences. Internships must be coordinated with the Program Director and the Clinical Team. Students may not initiate their own clinical internships.

  • Behavioral Health
  • Emergency Medicine
  • Family Medicine
  • Surgery
  • Internal Medicine
  • Pediatrics
  • Women's Health
  • Elective
  • Elective

Phase III—Summative Session (during the final semester) on campus

The summative course is designed to provide the PA student with:

  • A review of the PA program curriculum in preparation to enter clinical practice.
  • Education related to PA practice issues such as job procurement, contract negotiations, malpractice, and Continuing Medical Education (CME).
  • A clinical summative assessment of the PA student’s skills and knowledge to assure that they have met defined program objectives for knowledge, skills, and attitudes suitable for clinical practice.

Program Competencies

Upon completion of the PA program at Dominican University of California the PA graduate will have demonstrated the specific knowledge, skills, and attitudes required to enter medical practice. These include the following competencies:

  1. Medical knowledge includes an understanding of pathophysiology, patient presentation, differential diagnosis, patient management, surgical principles, health promotion and disease prevention. Physician assistants must demonstrate core knowledge about established and evolving biomedical and clinical sciences and the application of this knowledge to patient care in their area of practice. In addition, physician assistants are expected to demonstrate an investigatory and analytic thinking approach to clinical situations.
  2. Interpersonal and communication skills encompass verbal, nonverbal and written exchange of information. Physician assistants must demonstrate interpersonal and communication skills that result in effective information exchange with patients.
  3. Patient care includes age-appropriate assessment, evaluation and management. This includes appropriate medical and technical skills, using clinical reasoning and problem-solving abilities. Physician assistants must demonstrate care that is effective, patient-centered, timely, efficient and equitable for the treatment of health problems and the promotion of wellness.
  4. Professionalism is the expression of positive values and ideals as care is delivered. Foremost, it involves prioritizing the interests of those being served above one’s own. Physician assistants must know their professional and personal limitations. Professionalism also requires that PAs practice without impairment from substance abuse, cognitive deficiency or mental illness. Physician assistants must demonstrate a high level of responsibility, ethical practice, sensitivity to a diverse patient population and adherence to legal and regulatory requirements.
  5. Practice-based learning and improvement includes the processes through which clinicians engage in critical analysis of their own practice experience, medical literature and other information resources for the purpose of self-improvement. Physician assistants must be able to assess, evaluate and improve their patient care practices.
  6. Systems-based practice encompasses the societal, organizational and economic environments in which healthcare is delivered. Physician assistants must demonstrate an awareness of and responsiveness to the larger system of healthcare to provide patient care that is of optimal value. PAs should work to improve the larger healthcare system of which their practices are a part.

Physician Assistant Studies (MSPAS) Progression and Course Sequence

Progression Requirements for Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies

The classes are a combination of traditional lectures, web-based learning modules and active learning through cases, clinical skills development, role playing, simulation, and team-based problem solving. Every student graduating from the program will have met the minimum competency of 3.0 GPA following the completion of each semester, and/or rotation, in order to progress in the program.

See the MSPAS Student Handbook for other PA program policies.

Physician Assistant Course Sequence

  • All courses in the MSPAS program require admission to the program.
  • All MSPAS courses are sequential, and must be taken in order. Exceptions require permission from the Academic Progress Committee and Program Director.
  • Graduate students must maintain a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 at all times while enrolled in the program.

Required Courses

Semester 1 - Fall 1 - Foundations

The Foundations courses in semester one are individual courses that are essential in preparing the PA student to embark on a career as a healthcare professional. They provide a foundation in the basic sciences necessary for the sytems-based study of clinical medicine

PA 5101Current Topics in the PA Profession

1.00 unit

PA 5111Clinical Assessment

6.00 units

PAL 5111Clinical Assessment Lab

0.00 units

PA 5120Foundations of Clinical Medicine

8.00 units

PA 5130Medical Ethics and Professionalism

2.00 units

PA 5141Introduction to Pharmacology and Infectious Disease Principles

1.00 unit

PA 5151Introduction to Evidence-Based Medicine and Health Policy

4.00 units

Total Credit Hours:22

Semester 2 - Spring 1

PAL 5205Clinical Applications I

1.00 unit

PAL 5270Anatomy & Physiology I

1.00 unit

PA 5280Clinical Medicine I

8.00 units

PAL 5280Clinical Medicine Lab I

0.00 units

PA 5290Clinical Pharmacology I

3.00 units

Total Credit Hours:13

Semester 3 - Summer 1

PAL 5305Clinical Applications II

1.00 unit

PAL 5370Anatomy & Physiology II

1.00 unit

PA 5380Clinical Medicine II

7.00 units

PAL 5380Clinical Medicine Lab II

0.00 units

PA 5390Clinical Pharmacology II

3.00 units

Total Credit Hours:12

Semester 4 - Fall 2

PAL 5405Clinical Applications III

1.00 unit

PA 5430Professional Practice Seminar

2.00 units

PA 5450Emergency Medicine/Surgery/Skills

4.00 units

PAL 5450Emergency Medicine/Surgery/Skills Lab

0.00 units

PA 5470Behavioral Medicine

2.00 units

PA 5480Health Care for Special Populations

2.00 units

PA 5900Capstone

3.00 units

Total Credit Hours:14

Semester 5 - Spring 2

PAL 5610Clinical Practice Experience Rotation I

4.00 units

PAL 5620Clinical Practice Experience Rotation II

4.00 units

PAL 5630Clinical Practice Exper Rotation III

4.00 units

PAL 5640Clinical Practice Experience Rotation IV

4.00 units

Total Credit Hours:16

Semester 6 - Summer 2

PAL 5650Clinical Practice Experience Rotation V

5.00 units

PAL 5660Clinical Practice Experience Rotation VI

5.00 units

Total Credit Hours:10

Semester 7 - Fall 3

PAL 5670Clinical Practice Exper Rotation VII

4.00 units

PAL 5680Clinical Practice Exper Rotation VIII

4.00 units

PAL 5690Clinical Practice Experience Rotation IX

4.00 units

PA 5800Summative Course

3.00 units

PAL 5800Summative Course Lab

0.00 units

Total Credit Hours:15

Total Credit Hours: 102

*Note: All Physician Assistant courses require admission to the School of Health and Natural Sciences in the Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies Program.