When high school or college students think about health care careers, they’re likely thinking of the most well-known of health professions: doctors and nurses. But health care today encompasses many more professions.
Physician assistant (PA) is one such profession, and a pilot program between the Medical University of South Carolina and Claflin University, South Carolina’s oldest HBCU (Historically Black College/University), is seeking to introduce more underrepresented minority undergraduates to this career path.
The year-long program, which began in March, will unlock some of the mysteries of PA school applications, explore the career opportunities available to PAs, and connect the undergraduates with PAs of color.
“We also want them to know, you can go anywhere. We hope you choose MUSC, but if you don’t, the profession awaits you - and wants you,” said DaNine Fleming, Ed.D., associate chief officer for inclusive excellence in the Department of Diversity, Equity and Inclusionat MUSC.
Studies show that diversity among health care providers and researchers improve care and changes the research questions that are asked. Right now, though, less than four percent of certified PAs are black.
Fleming, a Claflin alum (Class of 1996), and Claflin administrators discussed how students are often unaware of the many options in health care. Fleming herself admits she didn’t know much about PAs until she began working at MUSC, which offers a Master of Science degree in Physician Assistant Studies through its College of Health Professions.
"There is much that is unsaid about the PA school application process leaving unconnected students in the dark," Fleming said.
“Many students of color don’t have the same kind of patient contact hours, and that precludes them sometimes from being as competitive as other students,” she said. “We keep hearing, ‘Oh, you don’t need patient contact,’ but the average student who applies to programs has anywhere from 1,500 to 4,000 contact hours.” MORE
(Leslie Cantu/Medical University of South Carolina)