DAVENPORT -- St. Ambrose University unveiled on Tuesday a new program for those wanting to fill a growing niche in the medical world.|
The new master's degree program will train physician assistants -- medical professionals who can perform a number of tasks, including collecting medical histories, doing exams, assisting in surgery, and prescribing medications. They usually perform in close partnership with the physician with whom they work, according to the university.
"Physician assistants are important, an integral part of the healthcare in this country," Clare Kennedy, who will be the program director, told about 40 people who attended the announcement news conference.
Many areas of the United States, including many Iowa counties, do not have adequate numbers of primary care providers -- family physicians, pediatricians and other professionals who handle a wide variety of patients -- and the shortage is expected to increase in coming decades, according to St. Ambrose. The physician assistant program is designed to help ease that shortage.
"There is, as we know, a growing need for health care providers," St. Ambrose president Joan Lescinski said.
Sandy Cassady, SAU's dean of the College of Health and Human Services, said physician assistants can find themselves in just about every type of medical facility.
Requirements for the 27-month-long program include having an undergraduate degree, the completion of prerequisite courses; and at least 500 hours of experience in health care, according to the university. The first class is scheduled to begin courses in June 2014, and about 30 students will go through the program as a class.
The physician assistant program will join a number of other medical programs at St. Ambrose, including nursing, speech-language pathology and social work, according to the college. About 530 students participate in those programs.
Students in the different programs will be able to take advantage of the expertise of the others to help round out their education, Ms. Cassady said. This will be an advantage in the working medical world, where referrals are common. A better familiarity with other fields will hopefully lead to more on-target referrals for patients.
St. Ambrose said its physician assistant program is the first one in the Quad-Cities area and also the western part of Illinois.
Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba also spoke at the news conference. He said the program will help put young people to work and increase access to health care.
"It's a win-win for everybody," he said.
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