ALBANY — Albany State University President Everette Freeman and representatives from Georgia Regents University met Friday in Washington with officials from the U.S. Department of Defense to discuss a model for transitioning discharged military medics into a program to become physician assistants.
ASU and GRU are spearheading an initiative to increase the workforce diversity of physician assistants who are veterans, underrepresented minorities and disadvantaged candidates.
As a result, a partnership has formed between ASU, the Morehouse School of Medicine and Georgia Regents University to develop a satellite PA-HBCU program that will accept veteran candidates for matriculation next year pending approval from the Accreditation Review Commission, as well as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and the Association of American Medical Colleges.
“It was a very productive meeting that provided needed and useful feedback,” Freeman said referring to the DOD meeting. “I sincerely believe our successful partnership will become an example for the nation which demonstrates that success is possible when resources and expertise are combined.”
According to The Augusta Chronicle, GRU’s master of physician assistant program last year had 348 applications for 40 slots and 397 applications for 44 slots this year.
Albany State was approached earlier this year because as a HBCU (historically black college or university) the university was seen as a way to increase diversity in the field while also give returning veterans a helping hand into the burgeoning field.
“The nation benefits because under Obamacare we simply will not have a sufficient supply of physicians to meet the need for health care delivers and health care services,” Freeman told the Chronicle.
“This is a logical next step in our efforts to be helpful in rural Southwest Georgia in meeting the health needs of the population.”
Freeman sees the potential program as a satellite of GRU with about 40 students per class with half the slots devoted to discharged medics and half from the region.
Presently, there is no national model in existence to add designated PA training seats specifically for veterans, and only 200 veterans are trained annually in the field at the 170 PA schools in the nation.
“We are grateful for the opportunity to discuss the expansion and diversity of health professions with Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Dr. Jonathan Woodson and other national leaders within the Department of Defense’s Office of Health Affairs,” said GRU President Ricardo Azziz.
Former Albany mayor and OB-GYN physician Dr. Willie Adams, a professor in ASU’s College of Sciences and Health Professions, will manage ASU’s PA Satellite program when it is approved.
Adams is a retired U.S. Army Reserve lieutenant colonel.
Plans are under way to replicate the program as a national model in which satellite Medical School-HBCU PA partnerships are formed across the country.
ASU currently offers the family nurse practitioner program which produces much needed midlevel healthcare providers in Southwest Georgia.