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UTHSC Physician Assistant Program Granted 10 Year Accreditation

The UTHSC Physician Assistant Program recently received a 10 year accreditation, the highest given by ARC-PA. (Photo by Allen Gillespie/UTHSC)

The Physician Assistant Program in the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center has been granted accreditation-continued status by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc. (ARC-PA). The UTHSC Physician Assistant Program received a 10 year accreditation, the highest given by ARC-PA.

The accreditation-continued status is granted to currently accredited programs that are in compliance with the ARC-PA Standards. The accreditation remains in effect until the program closes, withdraws from the accreditation process, or until accreditation is withdrawn due to failure of compliancy with the ARC-PA Standards.

The milestone was achieved through the dedication of leadership, faculty, and staff of the College of Medicine and the Physician Assistant Program.

“The commitment of the faculty, the commitment of the College of Medicine, and the commitment of the preceptors for our students, enabled us to meet the highest level of accreditation,” said Stephanie Storgion, MD, FAAP, FCCM, chair and professor of the UTHSC Physician Assistant Program. “To have committed faculty, not only within the PA Program, but within the College of Medicine, both from clinical faculty to basic science teaching, and having clinical directors in West Tennessee, Nashville, Knoxville, and Chattanooga, is the kind of commitment from this campus and across the state that helped us get to this level.”

One of the university’s newer degree programs, the Physician Assistant Program has been offered at UTHSC since 2014. It is the only fully accredited, public university PA Program in the state of Tennessee. The program has continuously built on its successes since its transition from the College of Health Professions into the College of Medicine in 2016, including the recruitment of Kristopher Maday, MS, PA-C, program director and associate professor in 2017, and Kara Caruthers, MSPAS, PA-C, assistant program director, associate professor, and director of community engagement, diversity, and recruitment in 2018.

The addition of two clinical directors, Joseph Willmitch, MSPAS, PA-C, DFAAPA, director of clinical education for the Memphis region, and Leigh Anne Pickup, MMSc, PA-C, DFAAPA, director of clinical education for Nashville, Knoxville, and Chattanooga, has allowed the program to increase its presence to clinical faculty, residents, and other medical care providers in hospitals across the state.

The Physician Assistant Program continues to elevate its profile through strong metrics, including its five-year, first-time board pass rate for the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE), which is at 97 percent, and the percentage of graduates employed, which is at 91 percent.

Dr. Storgion said this accreditation positions the college to better recruit students, therefore increasing the numbers of PA professionals, who will provide care for patients across Tennessee.

“Our goal is to train providers who will stay in the state and the region, to take care of the people of this region and the state.” Dr. Storgion said. “We focus a lot on not just getting the best or the brightest, but also having a class that is representative of the diversity of this region. There will never be enough MDs, so to provide the level of care needed for our patients, we need to have physician assistants whose training is similar to a physician, practicing together with the collaborating physician. This gives us the opportunity to increase providers and to improve on the health of people who live in Tennessee.”

The next validation period of the Physician Assistant Program by ARC-PA will be March 2027.

“This program clearly has the support of all the top-level administration, and it took many individuals to make this program what it is today,” Dr. Storgion said. “And our goal is to always continue to improve what we are doing. The PA Program definitely has made its place within the College of Medicine, and getting this accreditation shows that this is the home for this program.”