Mount St. Joseph University

Physician Assistant Program Aims for Professionalism, Empathy, Service

Dateline: student newspaper

By: Sasha Feldmann

In 2018, the Mount will continue its excellent performance in medicine by offering Cincinnati’s only Physician Assistant (PA) study program, with no others for 60 miles in any direction. Students dedicated to service through medicine will now have the rigorous, rewarding, and unique opportunity to study physician assisting in a 27-month graduate degree program. Through care and meticulous preparation, the program will offer hands-on patient care as well as state of the art technology. And, it will uphold the Mount’s standards of meaningful connections between faculty and students through smaller class sizes as well as of academic excellence, according to a pamphlet about the program at the Mount.

The admission criteria for the PA program includes, but is not limited to, a Bachelor’s Degree, a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.2, certain prerequisite courses, a minimum score of 300 on the Graduate Record Examination, and 500 hours of direct patient care. It encourages students to become committed practitioners who are fully qualified to provide outstanding quality healthcare to those in need. Application cycles are open each year in April, and for the first cohort in 2018, applications will be accepted from April 27, 2017 to September 1, 2017, according to the same source.
The program has been in the works since 2013 when former Mount president Tony Aretz applied for its Accreditation-Provisional from the Accreditation-Provisional Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARCPA). For now, they are authorized for 32 students. There will be another site visit from the ARCPA around 2019, and a final visit six months after the first students graduate, which will determine the status of its Continuing Accreditation. There will be seven semesters that cover a wide variety of disciplines, from Family Medicine to Behavioral Health. The PA’s program vision statement expresses its hope and expectation that graduates “will be recognized for their leadership and the quality of health care they provide, exemplifying professionalism, empathy and an attitude of service to others.”

Dr. Patrick Cafferty is the chairperson/program director for the new Department of Physician Assistant Studies. He was recruited to the Mount for the role in 2014, when the program was pretty much a blank canvas. He devoted numerous hours to writing the necessary policies, procedures, and course curricula, as well finding the necessary clinical affiliations for students who will be doing 15 rotations. He has worked as a PA in Connecticut, Tennessee, and Kentucky. He is currently a practicing PA at Christ Hospital, and continues to do so while heading the program, and doing some teaching in it himself. He has hired several faculty already, including many from the Mount’s Biology Department. He requires all of his professors to continue their practice while they teach. 

“I think it adds a validity to your teaching medicine, when you are actually still providing it,” he explains. Cafferty joined the military at 17 to pay for his medical education and served four years active duty. It is there that he fell in love with physician assisting. He has been a PA for 33 years now, and also practiced neurosurgery from 1984 to 2008. Aside from a crucial academic performance, he also looks for this same attitude of service in potential students of the program. 

“I don’t do it because I get paid well to do it, it’s not because it’s a cool job, it’s not because Forbes Magazine says it’s a top job for the 90s and so on. It’s because I’m privileged to be allowed to take care of people, so you have to have this attitude of empathy, you need to care about why you’re doing it,” he says. It is vital that applicants, and medical professionals in general, recognize the privilege of being able to care for another person.

Of the Mount, Cafferty says he has deeply valued “the truly collegial experience I’ve had here where people are genuine and very engaged and supportive of what we’re doing.” He believes not only the scarcity of opportunity for this study in Cincinnati, but the outstanding work and staff and students behind it gives the school the potential opportunity to be recognized as a premier provider of health care. It is clear that the new PA program will continue to demonstrate the Mount’s reputation for academic excellence, and for service to others.