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Mercyhurst announces new PA master’s program

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Mercyhurst University will launch its Master of Science degree in Physician Assistant (PA) Studies June 1, 2015, with a full cohort of 20 graduate students after receiving accreditation-provisional confirmation this month.

PA Studies Program Director Catherine Gillespie received the confirmation from the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) on March 23.

Physician assistants are health care providers who fill critical roles in today’s health care system. PAs practice medicine with physician supervision in every state, specialty and setting to deliver high quality health care. 

“The Physician Assistant Program is the perfect fit for Mercyhurst University as the values of the profession neatly align within the Mercy mission and the growth of the School of Health Professions and Public Health,” said Gillespie. “The PA profession is growing as well. There is a 38 percent growth rate projected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics through 2022.”

The 97-credit graduate program will take students 24 months to complete. The didactic year (first year) provides students with foundational courses and labs in anatomy, physiology, microbiology, as well as introductions to specialized practices such as women’s health, clinical medicine and pediatrics.

The clinical year (second year) will allow students to enter local hospitals, healthcare facilities and private practices, to gain practical experience in different healthcare settings.

PA Studies faculty have a combined academic experience record of more than 44 years and over 111 years of clinical experience. All faculty continue to practice clinically.

“This will be a fairly rigorous master’s program with two years of fast-paced learning. The program itself has been developed around a medical school model,” said Gillespie. “Physician assistants are an integral part of healthcare teams that can do much of the same work as physicians. We can diagnose and treat patients under the auspices of a physician, which allows for more patients to be reached.”

For more information about the Physician Assistant Studies master’s program, visit Those interested in applying for the 2016 academic year may apply for free at


The ARC-PA has granted Accreditation-Provisional status to the Mercyhurst University Physician Assistant Program sponsored by Mercyhurst University.

Accreditation-Provisional is an accreditation status granted when the plans and resource allocation, if fully implemented as planned, of a proposed program that has not yet enrolled students appear to demonstrate the program’s ability to meet the ARC-PA Standards or when a program holding Accreditation-Provisional status appears to demonstrate continued progress in complying with the Standards as it prepares for the graduation of the first class (cohort) of students.

Accreditation-Provisional does not ensure any subsequent accreditation status. It is limited to no more than five years from matriculation of the first class.