Physician Assistant Program

College of Health Sciences-Illinois

Master of Medical Science (M.M.S.) in Physician Assistant Program

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Build a Successful Career

Develop the skills you need to be a vital member of the healthcare team as a student in the Physician Assistant Program. You'll learn from caring faculty experts who will prepare you to apply evidence-based medicine and compassionate decision making to benefit a diverse community of patients. Our student-centered curriculum and expansive clinical experiences will prepare you to build your future as a competent, caring physician assistant dedicated to making meaningful contributions to your patients, the community, and the profession.

Program
Masters

Location
Downers Grove, IL

Duration
27 months, full-time

Class Size
86

Graduation Rate
96% (3-year average)


Midwestern University's Master of Medical Science (M.M.S.) in Physician Assistant Studies is a continuous, full-time program extending 27 months from matriculation to graduation. The Physician Assistant (PA) professional curriculum offers students the opportunity to earn a graduate degree and satisfy the eligibility requirements for the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE). The maximum allotted time for completion of this program is 40.5 months.

The roles and specific clinical duties and responsibilities that graduates can expect to experience will likely vary depending on their chosen career path. PA Program graduates are expected to have the ability to competently perform patient histories and physicals, gather pertinent patient data, order and interpret diagnostic studies, recognize common diseases and disorders, choose appropriate therapeutic modalities, perform surgical procedures, manage emergency life-threatening conditions, promote health through counseling, education, and disease prevention, and demonstrate interpersonal skills consistent with the physician assistant role.

The didactic coursework includes 12 months of basic science coursework in anatomy, biochemistry, neuroscience, physiology, pharmacology, immunology, genetics, and microbiology. It also includes clinical coursework in clinical medicine, behavioral medicine, professional issues, and interpretation of the medical literature. During the remaining 15 months, students are required to rotate through eight core clinical rotations and two elective clinical rotations, in addition to completing advanced clinical medicine courses and a capstone project.

The second-year clinical program is primarily delivered at affiliated clinical sites and facilities within the Chicago metropolitan area. These sites are geographically and demographically diverse, reflecting the broad scope of practice opportunities that exist for PAs in the healthcare delivery system of this country. Sites include ambulatory practice settings, small and large office-based group practices, community health centers, in-patient settings involving large and small hospitals as well as federal and state facilities. These sites are in urban, suburban, and rural communities. In addition, the Program has established formal affiliations with clinical facilities and practitioners in a number of other states. As part of the clinical education phase of the program, students enrolled in the PA Program will likely be assigned to clinical rotations that reflect the geographic and demographic diversity described above, including distant in-state and out-of state rotations. Subsidized housing is provided for distant in-state and out-of-state core clinical rotations only. Students are expected to secure their own housing for local and elective rotations, and must provide their own transportation to all core and elective clinical rotations regardless of location.

No advanced placement within the PA Program is allowed for prior academic, clinical, or life experience. Midwestern University has an articulation agreement that exists between programs. The Program strongly discourages students from seeking outside employment while attending Midwestern University and will not make any exceptions in didactic or clinical workload for any student who chooses to engage in outside employment.

The PA Program does not offer an extended course of study beyond the usual length of the program. Please click here for more information on the curriculum. Please also see the Midwestern University Catalog for more detailed course descriptions and additional University, College, and Program policies which pertain to Physician Assistant students.

MISSION, DIVERSITY & INCLUSION, AND GOALS

The mission of the Midwestern University Physician Assistant Program is to develop competent and compassionate physician assistants who will make meaningful contributions to their patients, community and profession.

Midwestern University is committed to establishing a culture of inclusivity that celebrates diversity.  As part of its vision, Midwestern University embraces cultural and social diversity in the academic community and the community-at-large.

The Midwestern University-Downers Grove Physician Assistant Program also celebrates diversity, inclusion, and many perspectives in medical education. We value diversity among students, faculty, and staff throughout the educational experience. We seek to prepare future clinicians to serve diverse populations and address the healthcare needs of all patients. 

These values and aims align with Midwestern University’s commitment to diversity and inclusion and express commitment to meeting the diversity and inclusion standards set forth by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc.

The goals of the Midwestern University Physician Assistant Program are to: 1) provide a rigorous academic and clinical curriculum and achieve first-time PANCE percentage pass rates above the national average, 2) cultivate an environment of professionalism to encourage the development of competent and compassionate providers, 3) prepare students to serve diverse populations in both primary care and specialty settings, 4) demonstrate the application of evidence-based medicine and foster a continuous commitment to life-long learning and community involvement as a health care provider, and 5) develop and implement student recruitment and holistic admissions processes to enhance the number of our matriculants from groups who are underrepresented in medicine and/or from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The Midwestern University PA Program demonstrates achievement of these goals by analyzing the results of student performance in the didactic and clinical year, PA National Certifying Exam (PANCE) pass rates, and regular surveys of graduates, preceptors and employers. The 5th goal was adopted by the Program in March of 2021.  Achievement of this goal will be analyzed through the Program's self-assessment of admissions processes and outcomes. The following summaries demonstrate how the Program achieves each of its goals:

  1. The rigorous didactic and clinical curriculum has prepared the students for success in the PANCE. The Midwestern University PA Classes of 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 all had first-time taker pass rates above the national average, as reported by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). The Midwestern University PA Class of 2020's first-time taker pass rate was the same as the national average reported by the NCCPA. The 5-year average pass rate for first time test takers from Midwestern University, Downers Grove is 98%, compared to the national average of 96%.
  2. 100% of the 2020 PA Program graduates successfully passed the professionalism component of the didactic and clinical year courses, and preceptors continually rank the professionalism of second year PA students as one of their greatest strengths.
  3. PA Program graduates report working in diverse practice settings including private offices, institutions, and community clinics. In addition, Midwestern University PA Program graduates are employed in both primary and specialty care, and work with patients of all ages and backgrounds. 16% of graduates responding to the survey* of the graduating class of 2019 also specifically designated their primary work settings as underserved.
  4. Graduates felt strongly that they were prepared for the practice of evidence-based medicine through the Research Seminar and Capstone Project components of the curriculum, and demonstrated a commitment to life-long learning via completion of online continuing medical education activities, regular journal reading, local and/or national conference attendance, and teaching other healthcare providers. Graduates from the Midwestern University PA Program are involved in promoting health and wellness in their communities.
  5. This goal was established in March of 2021 .  A summary of data outlining the Program's progress toward achieving this goal will be provided in summer/fall of 2022. 

*October 2020 survey of the graduating class of 2019 (not every graduate answered each question; max. response rate was approximately 52%)

The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) has granted Accreditation-Continued to the Midwestern University-Downers Grove Physician Assistant Program sponsored by Midwestern University. Accreditation-Continued is an accreditation status granted when a currently accredited program is in compliance with the ARC-PA Standards.

Accreditation remains in effect until the program closes or withdraws from the accreditation process or until accreditation is withdrawn for failure to comply with the Standards. The approximate date for the next validation review of the program by the ARC-PA will be March 2023. The program’s accreditation history can be viewed on the ARC-PA website at: http://www.arc-pa.org/accreditation-history-midwestern-university-dg/

Students seeking admission to the PA Program must submit the following documented evidence:

  1. Minimum cumulative science and overall GPAs of 3.00 on a 4.00 scale.
  2. GRE scores from the general test using the Midwestern University institution code 1769.
    • The test must have been taken no earlier than January 1, 2017.
    • Test scores must be received by the Office of Admissions no later than December 1, 2021. Scores must be sent directly from ETS to the MWU Office of Admissions.
    • Competitive applicants achieve a score at or above the 50th percentile in each section. If an applicant has attempted the GRE examination on more than one occasion, the most recent GRE scores will be utilized in the review of the applicant's file.
    • For additional information about the GRE, contact ETS at 866/473-4373 or visit www.ets.org/gre.
  3. Completion of prerequisite courses as listed below from regionally accredited colleges or universities.
      • All prerequisite courses must be completed with a grade of a C or better.
      • Grades of C- are NOT acceptable for any prerequisite courses.
      • If advanced placement (AP) credit has been granted by an outside institution, this credit will automatically be considered for the following prerequisite courses: Math, Statistics, English Composition, and Social and Behavioral Science courses.
      • For AP credit earned in Biology and Chemistry, MWU may request the submission of appropriate documentation (as determined by MWU) to verify the AP credit earned meets the program's admission standards.
      • Life experience credits do not count toward fulfillment of any prerequisite courses.
      • Courses in which grades of "pass" are earned will be counted only when applicants can provide verification that the earned grades are equivalent to grades of C or better (grades of C- are not acceptable).
  4. Completion of prerequisite courses by December 31st of the year which precedes the year of anticipated matriculation.
      • No exceptions will be made.
      • Applicants must determine which prerequisites are missing and which courses must be taken to fulfill any outstanding prerequisites.
      • Students invited to interview must show documentation on the day of their visit that they are enrolled in or registered for any outstanding prerequisites.
  5. Completion of a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited college or university before matriculation.
  6. If applicable, completion of required non-cognitive assessments (e.g., situational judgment testing).
  7. Motivation for and commitment to healthcare as demonstrated by previous work, volunteer work, or other life experiences.
  8. Demonstration of service and leadership through community service or extracurricular activities.
  9. Oral and written communication skills necessary to interact with patients and colleagues.
  10. Passage of Midwestern University criminal background check.
  11. Commitment to abide by the Midwestern University Drug-Free Workplace and Substance Abuse Policy.
  12. Successful completion of tuberculosis screening and all required immunizations prior to matriculation.

PREREQUISITE COURSES

Course

Sem Hrs

Qtr Hrs

Biology with lab*

4

6

Anatomy*

4

6

General Chemistry with lab*

8

12

Organic Chemistry with lab*

4

6

Math (college algebra or above)

3

4

Statistics

3

4

English Composition**

6

9

Social and Behavioral Sciences (Sociology, Psychology, Anthropology, etc.)

6

9

*All science prerequisites must be courses designed for science majors. No survey courses will fulfill science prerequisites. Courses with an online laboratory component will not meet any biology or chemistry prerequisite. The Midwestern University-Downers Grove Physician Assistant Program is aware that many universities and colleges across the country had to modify their curriculum in reaction to the Coronavirus Disease-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. One modification was offering coursework, including laboratory components, online. Currently, the PA Program policy is that courses with an online laboratory component will not meet any biology or chemistry prerequisite. This policy will be amended to accept prerequisite coursework with a laboratory component completed during Spring 2020, Summer 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, or Summer 2021 which was only offered online. In these circumstances, MWU may request appropriate documentation to verify that the institution was not offering in-person laboratory components for prerequisite courses the applicant completed during the above time period(s). In addition, advanced placement credit received at the undergraduate level may not satisfy biology or chemistry prerequisites. For advanced placement (AP) credit earned in biology and chemistry, MWU may request the submission of appropriate documentation (as determined by MWU) to verify the AP credit earned meets the program's admission standards.

**Courses accepted for the English Composition prerequisite include rhetoric, composition, technical writing, and courses designated as writing intensive by the institution.

Pass/Fail coursework during COVID-19:
“The Midwestern University-Downers Grove Physician Assistant Program is aware that many universities and colleges across the country had to modify their curriculum in reaction to the Coronavirus Disease-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. One modification included awarding Pass/Fail final grades instead of traditional letter grades for completed coursework. According to the admissions requirement of the Midwestern University-Downers Grove PA Program, prerequisite courses in which grades of "pass" are earned are counted only when applicants can provide verification that the earned grades are equivalent to grades of C or better (grades of C- are not acceptable). This requirement will be waived for all prerequisite coursework completed during Spring, Summer or Fall 2020 in which only pass/fail grades were awarded. In these circumstances, MWU may request appropriate documentation to verify that the institution was not awarding letter grades for prerequisite courses the applicant completed during the above time period(s).”

Core Competencies for the Midwestern University – Downers Grove Physician Assistant Program

To ensure students who graduate from the Midwestern University-Downers Grove Physician Assistant (PA) Program are prepared for entry-level PA practice, they receive a didactic and clinical training curriculum that facilitates their achievement of specific core competencies.  The Midwestern University-Downers Grove PA Program competencies were developed using existing competency frameworks, such as the Competencies for the Physician Assistant Profession (revised 2020) and the Physician Assistant Education Association’s Core Competencies for New Physician Assistant Graduates.  The core competencies adopted by the Midwestern University-Downers Grove PA Program are listed below.

1. Knowledge for Practice

Graduates should be able to recognize normal health states and emerging, acute, and chronic abnormal health states, utilizing current scientific evidence to inform clinical reasoning and medical decision-making, and apply this knowledge to patient care.

  • 1.1 - Demonstrate investigative and critical thinking in clinical situations
  • 1.2 - Access and interpret current and credible sources of medical information
  • 1.3 - Apply principles of epidemiology to identify health problems, risk factors, treatment strategies, resources, and disease prevention/health promotion efforts for individuals and populations
  • 1.4 - Discern between acute, chronic, and emergent disease states
  • 1.5 - Apply principles of basic and clinical sciences to develop a differential diagnosis, diagnose disease and utilize therapeutic decision making, clinical problem-solving, and other evidence-based practice skills
  • 1.6 - Adhere to standards of care, and to relevant laws, policies, and regulations that govern the delivery of care in the United States
  • 1.7 - Consider cost-effectiveness when providing patient care
  • 1.8 - Apply principles of social-behavioral sciences by assessing the impact of psychosocial and cultural influences on health, disease, care seeking, and compliance
  • 1.9 - Recognize the influence of genetic, socioeconomic, environmental, and other determinants on the health of the individual and community
  • 1.10 - Identify and address social determinants that affect access to care and deliver high quality care in a value-based system

2. Patient Centered-Practice

Graduates should provide patient-centered care that is evidence-based and focused on safety and health equity.

  • 2.1 - Gather accurate and essential information about patients through history-taking, physical examination, and diagnostic testing
  • 2.2 - Elicit and acknowledge the story of the individual and apply the context of the individual’s life to their care, such as environmental and cultural influences
  • 2.3 - Interpret data based on patient information, current scientific evidence, and clinical judgement while considering/incorporating patient preference when making informed decisions about diagnostic and therapeutic interventions
  • 2.4 - Develop, implement, and monitor effectiveness of patient management plans
  • 2.5 - Demonstrate proficiency in the performance of basic medical, diagnostic, and surgical procedures needed for entry-level practice
  • 2.6 - Counsel, educate, and empower patients and their families to participate in their care and enable shared decision-making
  • 2.7 - Refer patients appropriately and understand the importance of continuity of care throughout transitions between providers or settings
  • 2.8 - Provide health care services to patients to prevent health problems and to maintain and/or improve health

 3. Interpersonal and Communication Skills

Graduates should demonstrate the ability to engage with patients and a variety of health care professionals in a manner that optimizes safe and effective patient-centered care.

  • 3.1 - Establish meaningful therapeutic relationships with patients and families to ensure that patients’ values and preferences are addressed and that needs and goals are met to deliver person-centered care
  • 3.2 - Communicate effectively with patients and their families, colleagues, staff and other healthcare professionals in a way that is culturally competent, equitable, understandable, and respectful to both elicit and provide information
  • 3.3 - Accurately and adequately document medical information in a timely fashion
  • 3.4 - Demonstrate insight and understanding about emotions and human responses to emotions that allow one to develop and manage interpersonal interactions
  • 3.5 - Recognize communication barriers and recommend solutions

 4. Professionalism

Graduates should demonstrate a commitment to practicing medicine in ethically and legally appropriate ways, emphasizing professional maturity by prioritizing the interest of those being served above one’s own interests, and recognizing personal limitations to ensure the delivery of safe and quality care.

  • 4.1 - Articulate standard of care practice
  • 4.2 - Demonstrate compassion, integrity, and respect for others
  • 4.3 - Demonstrate responsiveness to patient needs that supersedes self-interest
  • 4.4 - Demonstrate accountability to patients, society, and the profession through the admission of errors and reporting of harmful behaviors that negatively impact patients.
  • 4.5 - Demonstrate cultural humility and responsiveness to diverse patient populations
  • 4.6 - Show commitment to ethical principles pertaining to patient care, autonomy, and confidentiality
  • 4.7 - Demonstrate a basic understanding of business practices and the legal aspects related to medicine and patient care
  • 4.8 - Demonstrate a commitment to lifelong learning that enhances one’s medical knowledge and clinical skills
  • 4.9 - Express an understanding of the need to contribute to the education of future healthcare providers
  • 4.10 - Recognize the need to utilize resources effectively in the management of patients.
  • 4.11 - Demonstrate flexibility and professional civility when adapting to change, and seek, accept, and apply constructive feedback appropriately
  • 4.12 - Establish healthy boundaries to support healthy partnerships
  • 4.13 - Understand the importance of advocating for patients and the PA profession

 5. Practice-based Learning and Improvement/Personal Wellness:

Graduates should be able to demonstrate a commitment to continuous self-improvement and patient care by critically assessing new medical information and addressing opportunities for growth in their medical abilities.  They should also look for ways to maintain or improve on their overall health.

  • 5.1 - Exhibit self-awareness to identify strengths, address deficiencies, and recognize limits in knowledge and expertise
  • 5.2 - Identify improvement goals and perform learning activities that address gaps in knowledge, skills, and attitudes
  • 5.3 - Recognize and address self-care and personal issues that affect one’s ability to fulfill professional responsibilities

6. Interprofessional Collaborative Practice/System-based Practice:

Graduates should be able to demonstrate an understanding of their role in the health care team.  They should work effectively and collaboratively with their patients and members of the health care team to deliver high-quality care within the economic framework of their organizations.

  • 6.1 - Articulate one’s role and responsibilities to patients, families, communities, and other professionals
  • 6.2 - Acknowledge the value of the collaborative physician/PA relationship
  • 6.3 - Understand the roles of and work collaboratively with other health professionals for providing patient care
  • 6.4 - Understand different types of health systems, funding streams, and insurance, including the role of Medicare and Medicaid as payors
  • 6.5 - Recognize the value of the work of monitoring and reporting for quality improvement


96%
Graduation Rate (3-year average)

98%
Certifying Exam Pass Rate

$110,000
Median Salary

Estimated Cost of Attendance

TOTAL FOR 27-MONTH PROGRAM

Physician Assistant Year 1 Year 2 Year 3
Tuition $53,574 $53,574 $13,394
Student Services Fee $702 $702 $176
Health Ins $3,736 $3,736 $934
Disability Ins. Fee $63 $63 $16
Books & Supplies $3088 $826 $0
AAPA Membership $75 $0 $0

See the Midwestern University Catalog for policies and procedures related to refund of tuition and fees.

Class of 2023 Profile (Matriculated June 2021)

  • Female: 92%
  • Male: 8%
  • Mean Age: 23 years (Range 21-34)
  • Mean Overall GPA: 3.76
  • Mean Science GPA: 3.72
  • Mean GRE Percentiles: Verbal 66, Quantitative 57, Analytical 77
  • Class Size: 86
  • Top Home States: Illinois (52%), Indiana, Colorado, Minnesota, California, Michigan, Ohio, and Texas

Attrition and Graduation Rates

Please click the following link for information pertaining to the Program's attrition and graduation rates: ARC-PA Student Attrition Template

The average graduation rate for the program is 96%, which was calculated using the graduation rates for the PA Classes of 2018, 2019, and 2020.

Career Opportunities

Primary care, surgery, medical and surgical specialties, emergency medicine, behavioral medicine

Employment Projections and Salary

Number of PA jobs projected to increase by 37% by the year 20261

NATIONAL ANNUAL PA SALARY 

Median annual salary is $105,000 (varies by hours worked, specialty, practice setting, location, experience)2

1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S., Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Physician Assistants, on the internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physician-assistants.htm (visited 04/27/2018)

2. American Academy of PAs. (2018). 2018 AAPA Salary Report. Alexandria, VA.

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