By Anna Patrick, Editor
The announcement came in a special luncheon held in the Boyle Conference room on Friday, March 30.
West Liberty’s Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies program began to take form when the medical community around Wheeling recognized the need for more physician assistants in the area. Capehart said in October of 2007 more than 40 health care providers gathered together with WLU administrators, faculty and staff to discuss the possibility of establishing programs that would meet the demands of students seeking highly specialized training in the health care field. This initiative would in turn allow West Liberty to respond to the growing health care needs of West Virginia.
“As a result of that meeting, in November 2007, we decided to undertake the development of a program that would not only fulfill our responsibility as a public institution to meet the needs of the citizens of West Virginia through the production of high quality health care providers, but would serve as a signature program for an institution who has set a course that will transform itself from a good college to a great university,” Capehart said.
Over the course of four and a half years West Liberty worked to secure labs, classrooms, and to recruit faculty and clinical sites. In September of 2011 the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc. granted provisional accreditation to the program. A Higher Learning Commission evaluation team recommended the program’s approval in December and the final approval was made by the entire Higher Learning Commission on March 22.
In just three months, students will arrive on campus on July 2, 2012 to begin their studies in the physician assistant program. WLU’s physician assistant program is under the direction of Dr. Allan Bedashi. Other faculty members for the program include medical director Dr. Howard Shackleford, Regina Jones, David Blowers, Rebecca Fahey, and Dr. Derrick Latos.
To describe Bedashi President Capehart said, “The work he’s done and the leadership he’s provided will – without question – have a monumental impact on not only the future of our university, but the lives of countless numbers of people whose physical well-being will be positively affected by the work of the graduates of this program.”
Bedashi said the two-year program “already has about 200 prospective applicants on its list and we are expecting more.” The program is presently located in the bottom floor of the library with a classroom and labs. Upon the completion of the new health sciences building on campus the program will move there.
Bedashi said, “The first year of studies will take place in the classroom and labs, and the second year will be all clinical clerkships consisting of 40 hours a week, for a total of 105 semester hours.” Students will utilize a number of clinics in the Ohio Valley area including Wheeling Hospital and OVMC. Students will also use West Virginia University’s medical center.
A physician assistant is a state licensed healthcare professional who practices medicine under physician supervision. Physician assistants practice in a wide range of medical settings, including rural communities. This profession became popular in the 1960s when there was a shortage of primary care physicians, especially in rural areas. The profession has experienced rapid growth in recent years. Today physician assistants work in a wide variety of medical specialties and are highly autonomous.
“The physician assistant program will join our other health science programs, including nursing and dental hygiene in offering even greater opportunities for students to pursue careers in healthcare fields,” Capehart said. “This new program adds to WLU’s long history of excellence in science education.”