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Physician Assistant Program at UTHSC No. 1 in Tennessee, No. 46 in Nation

The Physician Assistant Program at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center opened in 2014, received full accreditation in 2019, and is ranked as the No. 1 program in the state.

The Physician Assistant (PA) Program at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center is ranked No. 1 in Tennessee and No. 46 in the country, according to the U. S. News & World Report 2023-2024 Best Graduate Schools ranking released Tuesday.

The UTHSC Physician Assistant Program accepted its first cohort in 2014 and achieved a 10-year accreditation from the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc., in 2019, the highest accreditation given. Full accreditation made the program eligible for ranking by U.S. News & World Report among the 211 PA programs in the country and five programs in Tennessee that are eligible for ranking. (Seven additional programs operating in Tennessee are not eligible for ranking.)

“The fact that we were able to, in our first go around with these rankings, be the top-rated PA program in Tennessee just shows how our reputation is really getting out at the regional and national level with all the work that our faculty and students are doing,” said Kristopher Maday, MS, PA-C, program director and associate professor. “What I’m most proud about is not just getting the ranking, but really coming in and making a splash in Tennessee with being a relatively young program compared to the other more established programs that have been here for many years.”

Physician assistants serve as an extension of the medical team. Licensed by the state, physician assistants work in collaboration with physicians and can cover 80% of primary care, including histories and physicals, writing prescriptions, ordering diagnostic studies or outpatient therapies, and more.

The UTHSC PA program accepts 30 students per cohort and generally receives more than 2,000 applicants for those spots. It is a two-year program, shorter than most PA programs, and offers a master’s-level degree. The PA program became part of the UTHSC College of Medicine in 2016.

 “We take it as part of our mission that it’s not just about tuition generation and revenue, but it’s about training health care providers to be able to go back into the communities in Tennessee and take care of Tennesseans” Maday said. “We prepare our students to really be on the front lines of primary care.”

He said ranking No. 1 in Tennessee will help with recruitment of students from across the state. “Certainly within the College of Medicine, the mission is to try to attract and train Tennessee applicants so that they can go back into their communities in Tennessee to practice,” Maday said. Ranking in the top 50 programs in the country is an important accomplishment, he said. “But I think what is going to make more of a splash for us is going to be that we’re the top-rated program in Tennessee.”

Physician assistant students have the opportunity to do rotations at UTHSC’s partner teaching hospitals at  in Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga, Knoxville, and Jackson.

“This is a testament to our graduates being able to go out and do the work that they’re doing and then expanding the reputation of the College of Medicine and the program within their institutions to the point where when people hear about the UTHSC PA program they know that the graduates that are coming out and practicing are well trained and are ready to hit the ground running and practicing medicine,” Maday said.

“We are incredibly proud that our PA program is ranked No. 1 in Tennessee and in the top 50 nationwide,” said College of Medicine Executive Dean Scott Strome, MD. “This reflects the excellence and commitment of our clinicians, administrators, staff, and students.”