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Master of Health Sciences Physician Assistant (A-PA-MHS)

Master of Health Sciences Physician Assistant

Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, Division of Physician Assistant Studies Department Chair: Anthony Viera, MD, MPH PA
Division Chief & Program Director: Jacqueline S. Barnett, DHSc, MSHS, PA-C
Associate Program Director: April Stouder, MHS, PA-C
Medical Director: Kenyon Railey, MD
Interim Director Preclinical Education:  Rachel Porter, PhD
Academic Coordinator: Betsy Q. Melcher, MS, ATC, MHS, PA-C
Academic Coordinator: Lorraine Anglin, MHS, PA-C
Academic Coordinator: Janelle Bludorn, MS, PA-C
Academic Coordinator: Kim Howard, MHS, PA-C
Director of Clinical Education:  Jacquetta Melvin, MPH, PA-C
Clinical Coordinator: Nicholas M. Hudak, PhD, MPA, MSEd, PA-C
Clinical Coordinator: Quincy Jones, MSW, LCSW, MHS, PA-C
Clinical Coordinator: Brittany Macon-Davis, DMSc, MHS, PA-C
Director of Diversity and Inclusion: Lovest T. Alexander, MHS, PA-C
Senior Research Faculty: Perri Morgan, PhD, MEd, PA-C
Director of Assessment and Evaluation: Melinda Blazar, EdD, MHS, PA-C
Pharmacology Course Coordinator: Jean Mesaros, PharmD, BCPS
Anatomy Course Coordinator: Megan Holmes, PhD
Senior Education Specialist: Sandro Pinheiro de Oliveira, MA, MRE, PhD
Senior Education Strategist: Rachel Porter, PhD
Senior Instructional Faculty: Annamarie Streilein, MHS, PA-C
Instructional Specialist: Suzanne Hallquist, MSPH, MHS, PA-C
Instructional Specialist: Laura Okolie, DMSc, MHS, PA-C


Program Mission

The Duke Physician Assistant Program’s mission is to educate caring, competent primary care physician assistants who practice evidence-based medicine, are leaders in the profession, dedicated to their communities, culturally sensitive, and devoted to positive transformation of the health care system.

The Physician Assistant Profession

Physician assistants (PAs) are well-recognized and highly sought-after members of the health care team. Working in collaboration with physicians and healthcare teams, PAs provide diagnostic and therapeutic patient care in virtually all medical specialties and settings. They take patient histories, perform physical examinations, order laboratory and diagnostic studies, and develop patient treatment plans. In all fifty states, PAs have the authority to write prescriptions. Their job descriptions are as diverse as those of their collaborating physicians, and also may include patient education, medical education, health administration, and research. Of the approximately 158,000 certified PAs in the United States, 23 percent provide primary care services, especially in family and general internal medicine.

While PAs practice medicine, other tasks have been integrated into the role, particularly in the institutional and larger clinic setting. For example, PAs in the tertiary care setting are often involved in the acquisition, recording and analysis of research data, the development of patient and public education programs, and the administration of their departments’ clinical and educational services. Involvement in these other services has demonstrated the value of having PAs as part of the team and provided job advancement for PAs in these settings.

Additional nonclinical positions are developing for PAs. While these positions do not involve patient care, they depend on a strong clinical knowledge base. The MHS curriculum provides PAs with depth of knowledge in the basic medical sciences and clinical medicine, as well as skills in administration and research. With these expanded skills, graduates can take advantage of the wide diversity of positions available to PAs.

Program of Study

The curriculum is twenty-four consecutive months in duration and is designed to provide an understanding of the rationale for skills used in patient assessment, diagnosis, and management. The first twelve months of the program are devoted to preclinical studies in the basic medical and behavioral sciences, and the remaining twelve months to clinical experiences in primary care, medical and surgical specialties, and advanced study in evidence-based practice.

Each student is assessed a technology fee for both the first and second years. This fee includes access to an electronic platform, which hosts most of the required textbooks needed for the program. In addition, the program provides computers and handheld devices, which are used for communication and a variety of in-class and clinical assignments and activities. The preclinical curriculum is integrated to introduce the student to medical sciences as they relate to specific organ systems and clinical problems. Learning strategies include the traditional lecture format, basic science laboratory, small group tutorials, and patient case discussions. Opportunities for early clinical exposures are an important part of the first-year curriculum, and these patient learning experiences are incorporated into the Patient Assessment and Counseling courses during the preclinical year. Standardized patient evaluations, using simulators and actors, are also a part of the preclinical curriculum.

As part of the clinical curriculum, students are required to complete core clinical courses in internal medicine, surgery, emergency medicine, primary care, pediatrics, obstetrics & gynecology, and behavioral medicine. In addition, two elective clinical courses are included in the clinical year schedule, as is a clinical course devoted to advanced study in evidence-based practice. At least one clinical experience must be completed in a medically underserved site. The final week of the clinical year is spent in intensive preparation for the PA National Certifying Examination (PANCE).