Pre-PA Students Gain Edge
NMU students now have an advantage in the highly competitive admissions process for Central Michigan University’s physician assistant program. Through a recent agreement, NMU is guaranteed four interviews annually for pre-physician assistant students who meet the entrance requirements and are nominated by their adviser.
“This program is unique in that qualified NMU students do not have to compete for interviews with the general pool of applicants to Central’s program,” said Dave Lucas (Physics, pictured), director of the pre-medical programs at Northern. “There are several hundred applicants each year for only 40 available slots, so having four interviews guaranteed really benefits our students. Central initiated this agreement because they were very impressed with the NMU graduates they’ve selected through their normal application procedure the past few years. It’s nice when a professional school recognizes the quality of your students and program.”
Physician assistants are mid-level health-care professionals who practice medicine under the guidance of a licensed physician. Common services they provide include taking medical histories and performing physical examinations; ordering and interpreting lab tests; diagnosing and treating illnesses; assisting in surgery; prescribing and/or dispensing medication; and counseling patients.
Lucas said physician assistant (PA) programs evolved out of the military medical corps in the 1960s to counter a shortage of family physicians and provide better access to health care. He said the employment outlook is positive, particularly in rural areas. Northern enrolled its first pre-PA students about eight years ago.
CMU is one of five universities in the state that offers a PA program. Lucas said the entry process is more complex than medical school, in large part because there is no standard for required courses or minimum number of documented hours working with patients in a health-care setting. He encourages NMU students to target a specific PA program early in their academic careers so that they have time to fulfill the entry requirements unique to that institution.
Northern students also have opportunities to observe professional physician assistants over a one-year period.
“PA schools don’t have that as a requirement, but we encourage it so that students get an idea of what to expect and make sure it’s the career they really want to pursue,” Lucas added.
NMU previously established MedStart, a similar program for pre-med students. It goes a step beyond interviews and guarantees two entering NMU freshmen acceptance into the Wayne State University School of Medicine, provided they maintain a certain GPA and meet other criteria during their pre-med studies at NMU.