Featured Associate: Lake Erie College

The Lake Erie College Physician Assistant Program is located near the shores of Lake Erie in Painesville, Ohio.  Part of Northeast Ohio, the Program has a presence in nationally recognized medical systems that serves diverse urban, suburban, and rural populations.   The Lake Erie College Program has a rich and unique history. Decades apart, the College originally had a PA Program from 1975-1987 and then recreated the Program entering students in 2014 until today.

The original Program began in 1975 and graduated its first cohort in 1977.  It was initially the only all-female four-year Program, later becoming coeducational. Originally created through funding by a Robert Wood Johnson Grant, the Program was affiliated with Cleveland Clinic and later Euclid Hospital.  The Program graduated its last cohort in 1987, in part due to the end of grant funding.  During the initial program, about 100 students graduated and became PAs.  Some of these PAs are still working today and are leaders in the profession. Our Program recognizes these cohorts as legacy alumni.

In 2012, preparation of the current 27-month PA Program began.  Under the vision of President Michael Victor, graduate health education became a top focus.  The major program President Victor first wanted to develop was a Physician Assistant Program, given College history and need for providers in the area.  Major funding was provided by the George Fields family and University Hospitals, which covered a significant portion of the startup costs.  Since 25 years had went by since the initial Program, the Profession had evolved and the Program was rebuilt from the ground up. The College supported renovation of the Garfield Center Building to have a dedicated suite with a modern lecture room, laboratory, attached faculty offices, and conference room. The Program was founded and recreated by five individuals:  Program Director Joe Weber, Medical Director David Kosnosky, Academic Coordinator Sean Kramer, Clinical Coordinator Ray Wawrowski, Admissions Coordinator Jennifer Sample, and Program Assistant Kelly Florentine. In 2014, the Program matriculated its first class of 24 students. By 2019, the Program celebrated 100 graduates since reopening its doors in 2012.  The Program currently maintains a small class size, matriculating 26 students per cohort.

Lake Erie College PA Program’s mission is “To develop motivated, diverse individuals into Physician Assistants who practice patient-centered, evidence-based medicine, while creating an environment of academic excellence, leadership, and collaboration that is dedicated to serving the healthcare needs of the community.”  It embraces everything necessary to develop great physician assistants.  While all Programs across the nation have a similar philosophy, there are some things that make the Program unique.  As part of a small, liberal arts college, the Lake Erie PA Program places emphasis on critical thinking as well as focusing on every individual holistically.  While much of the focus is on students and patient-centered care, it also ensure that all stakeholders are considered including faculty, staff, and the community. Collaboration and team-work are a focal point.  The Program seeks applicants with strong interpersonal and leadership skills who see the importance community service and actively works on strengthening these.

Lake Erie provides a hybrid learning environment.  To ensure clinical preparedness, the Program only hires actively practicing physician assistants as full-time faculty.  Currently, the Program currently has six full-time faculty with over 90 years of clinical experience and over 50 years of PA education experience. The curriculum was meticulously sequenced in a modular format to synchronize courses system.  All students are required to apply their lecture knowledge with Early Clinical Experiences, which have been implemented since the first day of the Program.  During these experiences, students spend time with a PA or other medical provider seeing patients while they are in the didactic phase.  This allows for a deeper understanding of the material and how they will prepare for future clinical rotations.  Throughout the curriculum, and especially the semester before rotations, Problem Based Learning is integrated.  After learning the knowledge from lectures, students work in teams in how to evaluate complicated patient cases in preparation of medical practice.  This adds elements of vertical and spiral learning.  The clinical rotations have been world-class.  Nestled in Northeast Ohio, the clinical opportunities are rich with nationally recognized healthcare systems including University Hospitals, Cleveland Clinic, Lake Health Systems, Veteran Affairs Medical Center, and many more.  Along with clinical rotations, the Program values its service to Northeast Ohio.  Each year, students participate in service learning projects that seek to help support the needs of diverse groups of individuals in the community.

While Lake Erie prioritizes each individual to be successful, the outcomes as a group has been aspirational. The Program has had 100% first time PANCE pass rate for all graduates since the program reopened in 2012.  Preceptor and employer feedback consistently mentions how well students are prepared for clinical practice.  100% of graduates have obtained employment as a physician assistant.  Multiple faculty members serve on regional Board of Directors and hospital and College committees.  Significant amounts of students regularly attend AAPA, PAEA, and OAPA conferences and events; many of which are in leadership roles.  Faculty and students have led many campus projects including White House Healthy Campus, Campus Wide Health Challenge, and Pre-Medicine Club.  Faculty and students have volunteered with local and international organizations, which include regional elementary schools, Big Brother Big Sister, Fresh Air Camp, Remote Area Medical providing free medical care in the region, and Global Brigades providing free medical care in Honduras.  As a testament to its quality, in 2018 the Program received Accreditation-Continued status from ARC-PA, with its next comprehensive visit planned for 2028.

Spanning over four decades, Lake Erie College PA Program has a unique and rich history that has embraced everything it takes to prepare great physician assistants.  The Program and College is excited in how it can continue to support our profession and community.  For more information on the Lake Erie College PA Program, please visit our website by clicking here.

Initially prepared in 2020 by Sean Kramer, MSHS, PA-C, Program Director, Clinical Associate Professor