Upstate News

April 23, 2009
Darryl Geddes 315 464-4828

Upstate Medical University now offers physician assistant master’s program

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Looking to help meet demands for primary care providers, especially in rural areas of New York state, SUNY Upstate Medical University will now offer training to be a physician assistant.

Upstate’s physician assistant (PA) master’s degree program is the only SUNY-affiliated PA program offered outside of New York City and Long Island.

“This was an important part of our decision to develop this program,” said College of Health Professions Dean Hugh Bonner, Ph.D. “We wanted to create educational opportunities close to home for individuals who were seeking this type of training from SUNY.”

Another key decision in developing the degree program at Upstate is the scarcity of primary care providers throughout many parts of the central and northern New York. Bonner said studies on healthcare shortages in the state indicate that there is great need for physician assistants who will work in primary care settings, especially in rural areas that have lower physician-to-population ratios and higher unmet need.

“Physician assistants can play a pivotal role in increasing the productivity for physician practices by enabling them to treat more patients,” Bonner said. “PAs are truly physician extenders and are a great asset to any healthcare team.”

A physician assistant is a healthcare professional who is licensed to practice medicine under the supervision of a physician. PAs can conduct physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, assist in surgery and write prescriptions.

A hallmark of the Upstate program is the ability for PA students and medical students to take classes together, a situation that can only occur at medical universities that offer such programs. “The push today is to develop healthcare teams and what better way to begin that process than during one’s education,” said Sandy Banas, assistant professor and chair of Physician Assistant Studies at Upstate.

Additionally, medical students and PA students will be placed together in clinical rotations across Central New York that participate with the university’s Rural Medical Education (RMED).

“Through this experience, our PA students will be able to see the need firsthand, have a greater understanding of their role in a primary care practice and get significant experiences with patients in rural and medically underserved communities,” Banas said.

The PA master’s degree program will take 27 months to complete. It includes a 15-month of classroom training that provides students with a strong emphasis on basic sciences, pharmacology, clinical medicine, interviewing skills, physical diagnosis, diagnostic studies, professionalism and ethics and research methods. The remaining 12 months are spent in different clinical rotations at various practices sites.

Students will graduate with a master’s degree and must pass the national certification exam in order to work as a PA. Program tuition and fees for New York state residents is 7,880; tuition and fees for out-of-state residents is $13,250.

Admission requirements include a bachelor’s degree, minimum grade point average of 3.0, and at least 1,000 hours of healthcare related experience.

The PA profession is considered one of the fastest growing professions in the United States. PAs are employed in nearly every facet of healthcare, including medical and surgical subspecialties. Starting salaries for PAs in New York state who graduated in 2007 averaged $73,474.

Upstate is currently accepting applications for its first class, which will begin in this June. For an application or more information, go to

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