Augsburg University’s PA program is proud to share some information about the grant we received this last January that helps support not only our program, but allows for support across all our graduate programs including Music Therapy, Social Work, Nursing, PsyD, and PA.
The grant, awarded by the Minnesota Department of Health, was granted to us for the following program goal here at Augsburg: Clinical Preceptorships, Telehealth, & Health Equity Scholarship Program.
The goal of this funding is to increase the number of health professionals working in rural and underserved locations through expanding the opportunity for students to train in those settings. When students train in rural and underserved settings, they are more likely to return upon graduating. With established expertise in health equity, cultural responsiveness and team-based primary care training, Augsburg University PA, nursing, social work, medical music therapy, and PsyD (health programs) are committed to support and expand team-based clinical training in the state of Minnesota. The PA department is leading this collaboration with the other health programs to accomplish 3 objectives: expand clinical training sites, provide student financial support, and establish a telehealth curriculum that will prepare Augsburg health professions students to increase health care access in rural and underserved communities across Minnesota.
We are proud to report that Augsburg University was awarded the grant’s maximum amount of $300,000 over 3 years to carry out this work. Vanessa Bester, EdD, PA-C, PA Program Director is the PI for this grant.
The Augsburg University PA Program is proud to have recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of our first graduating class this year. As we invite our alumni to come celebrate the achievements of our current standings, we also want to take a trip down memory lane to see how far Augsburg PA has come from our start.
In 1994, Augsburg University began the official setup of the Physician Assistant Program. Led by Program Director Dawn Ludwig, we were a 4-year post baccalaureate program that enabled students to receive their PA license and certification. Not only was it the first (and only) PA program in Minnesota at the time, it was also designed to follow Augsburg University’s guiding principles and mission. Dean Marie McNeff, vice president for academic affairs at that time, stated in an article of Augsburg Now that:
“The college is pleased to be able to offer the physician assistant program as an example of the college’s motto of ‘Education for Service.’ Our P.A. program will educate persons to be generalist physician assistants – professionals well-educated in current theory and practice, dedicated to excellence in performance with the highest standard of ethics and integrity, committed to lifelong personal and professional development, respectful and sensitive to persons of all cultures and background, and oriented toward service to underserved populations.”¹
The first class of 23 students were located in the basement of Anderson hall and had 12 months of coursework focused on human anatomy and physiology, medical ethics, pharmacology, and more; followed by 15 months of clinical rotations in various medical areas and a 12-week long preceptorship.
Over time our program itself has evolved from its original certification, and in 2002 we made the official switch to the Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies degree. Today, the program is 27 months long and has 15 months of coursework on human gross anatomy, clinical medicine, pharmacotherapy, research and professional issues in the didactic phase, followed by 12 months of clinical rotations, including an 8 week preceptorship. We are proud to partner with most major health systems as well small rural hospitals and clinics throughout Minnesota, the five state area, and beyond to provide our students with the experiences they need to provide the best care to underserved and rural populations.
The curriculum and education established in 1995 has evolved over the years yet the excellence of our PA graduates persists, with a strong presence in primary care, PANCE board pass rates well above the national average, and opportunities for our students to engage in the local and global community.
Coursework isn’t the only place where we made some changes and continue to grow. In 2015, the PA Program moved locations over to Luther Seminary, in St. Paul as part of a partnership with the university to help foster urban development spaces and encourage undergraduate and graduate studies to work in tandem.
In 2019 we made our return to the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, across the street from Augsburg University, in the Riverside Plaza Medical Building. Students now have a state of the art lecture hall, small group classrooms, a dedicated lounge space, and study room. Additionally, we also have an expanded clinical skills lab with 10-fully equipped exam room bays and 2 simulated hospital bays with simulation mannequin. The clinical skills lab also supports our point of care/bedside ultrasound curriculum and use of 3 Butterfly bedside ultrasound units. Our faculty and staff are able to remain close in our 5th floor office suite in the same building.
Here at Augsburg, we are so excited to celebrate 25 years of learning, and we look forward to expanding our outreach. We are collaborating with the Augsburg University Health Commons and the Nursing Program to provide care around the local communities, including Central Lutheran Church, Cedar-Riverside Towers, and more. PA students are also learning in tandem with the Medical Music Therapy and the Master of Arts in Leadership programs through study abroad courses in Costa Rica, China, and South Africa. We look forward to more years of growth for our students and the areas they will serve throughout their careers as PAs. While we have seen many changes throughout the years, the Augsburg PA Program continues to carry forward our original guiding principles and mission.