Featured Associate: Dominican University of California

The Dominican University of California Physician Assistant Studies Program is located just north of San Francisco in the heart of Marin County. From the city, it’s a lovely drive over the iconic Golden Gate Bridge and into the rugged beauty of the northern California coast. Nestled in striking redwoods and tropical palm trees with a backdrop of lush hills, Dominican University of CA (DUOC) is known for its beautiful campus and buildings that suggest a bygone era. Though the PA program at Dominican is fairly new, the University has a rich and enduring history. Founded in 1890, DUOC is an independent institution offering more than 60 academic programs. It has earned a reputation for excellence in academics, research, and outreach over 125+ years of preparing students for fulfilling professional and personal lives.

Dominican’s Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies (MSPAS) is a 28-month program. Students complete 16 months of didactic education in medicine utilizing various teaching modalities. Students then embark on a 12-month journey through clinical rotation experiences including family and internal medicine, women’s health, pediatrics, surgery, behavioral health, emergency medicine, and other specialties. Returning in their last month for a summative evaluation and preparatory work, students then transition from program to clinical practice. The program matriculated its first class in August 2017 with a cohort of 24 eager students and graduated that class in December 2019.

The MSPAS Program’s mission is to prepare PAs to provide compassionate, high quality, patient-centered care as members of interdisciplinary healthcare teams. To achieve this, the program provides an exemplary, active learning environment that integrates theoretical learning and inquiry skills with clinical practice. This approach to teaching nurtures reflection, creativity, and critical thinking as core competencies of the profession. The goal is to graduate students who are culturally competent and committed to lifelong learning and their professional development. Graduates will be prepared to make significant contributions to the diverse communities they serve and to the advancement of the PA profession.

The vision of Dominican’s PA program is to be a national leader in PA education and to prepare physician assistants of the highest quality to practice medicine in dynamic healthcare environments, partnering with physicians and other members of the healthcare team. Students will gain the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to respond positively and effectively to challenges and opportunities relating to trends in healthcare delivery. They will learn in groups, through discussions and lectures and role-playing, and through the use of standardized and simulated patients, independent research, and case-based problem-solving. The program’s focus on higher order of learning will prepare students for critical thinking, ethical decision- making, and the synthesis and judgment of problems, based on an integrated biopsychosocial medical model. MSPAS students will learn to be reflective, insightful, and aware of professional roles as well as the limitations, needs, styles, and values of patients and other health professionals

At Dominican, the student body is diverse and the typical class size is small, currently 30-35 students per cohort, which affords individualized attention to help ensure academic success throughout the program. The MSPAS Program’s first graduating class, the Class of 2019, achieved a 96% pass rate on PANCE while the national average for that year was 93%. At six months from graduation, 87% of the class had obtained employment. The expectation is to have a 100% employment rate for graduates within nine months after graduation. The program’s director has served on the Physician Assistant Education Association Board since 2014, most recently as Treasurer, and many other MSPAS faculty serve on national and state professional organization committees. Students are members of AAPA and CAPA and some have taken on student leadership roles in these organizations. The program received Accreditation-Provisional status most recently in March 2020 and is currently on track for its final provisional visit in 2021.

Dominican’s PA program is still in its infancy, but it has built a strong foundation that will nurture its growth and lead to success in achieving its mission to serve the diverse communities of California.

For more information on the Dominican University of California’s MSPAS Program, please visit its website by clicking here.