Master of Science in Medicine (M.S.M.)
The Physician Assistant Program is a 30 month program of study leading to a Master of Science in Medicine degree. This is the basic professional degree required for physician assistants to practice medicine in the United States. The Physician Assistant Program admits a cohort of 30 students once each year, at the beginning of the summer semester. Completion of the program will assist graduates in successfully completing the Physician Assistant National Certification Exam (PANCE) making them eligible for licensure as a physician assistant in all 50 states.
The primary mission of the Mississippi College's Department of Physician Assistant Studies is to help students acquire core competencies, as well as specialized knowledge and skills necessary to perform effectively as physician assistants and to prepare them to provide primary health care services in medically underserved areas of Mississippi and surrounding states. Secondary missions are to prepare graduates for roles in surgery and as hospitalists.
The goals of the Mississippi College Physician Assistant Program are to:
- Recruit a highly qualified, diverse student population similar in qualifications and diversity to the published national averages.
- Recruit at least 50% of students from the pool of applicants who are Mississippi residents
- Incorporate innovative approaches to interdisciplinary preclinical and clinical education and remediation which foster student success such that the graduation rate is comparable to the published national average among physician assistant programs.
- Prepare physician assistant students who possess depth of knowledge, clinical reasoning, skill, professional behaviors, and an investigative attitude toward research, education, and leadership in order to routinely receive satisfactory evaluations on the program’s published competencies.
- Prepare physician assistant graduates with the knowledge and skills necessary to achieve at least a 90% first time pass rate on the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE) and an average PANCE score at or above the national average.
- Prepare graduates who will obtain post-graduation positions in disciplines consistent with the goals of the program; namely primary care, surgery, and as hospitalists.
In keeping with the philosophy of the Mississippi College Physician Assistant Program, the graduate, upon completion of the program should demonstrate:
- Attainment of a fund of knowledge necessary for the competent practice of medicine within the parameters of physician assistant practice guidelines;
- Outstanding communication skills in their interactions with peers, colleagues and patients;
- Compassion and empathy, appropriate for Christian healthcare providers;
- Critical thinking and problem-solving skills necessary for the practice of medicine in a rapidly changing healthcare environment;
- Team practice skills necessary to practice medicine in an efficient and cost-effective manner;
- The ability to work quickly and make good decisions under pressure;
- Cultural and clinical competence;
- Knowledge and desire for self-direction in pursuit of personal and professional goals;
- The skills necessary to read and evaluate current professional medical literature and apply relevant evidence to the practice of medicine.
The physician assistant program has been granted initial Accreditation-Continued by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc. (ARC-PA) following their March 2014 meeting. Accreditation-Continued is granted 1) when a currently accredited program is in compliance with the Standards, 2) in the case of a program holding Accreditation-Probation when the program has demonstrated that it is once again in compliance with the Standards, or 3) when a program holding Accreditation-Provisional demonstrates compliance with the Standards after completion of the provisional review process. Accreditation-continued status remains in effect until the program closes or withdraws from the accreditation process or until accreditation is withdrawn for failure to comply with the Standards.
The physician assistant program is located in the Baptist Healthplex building which provides a central location for faculty offices and classrooms. The Medical Education Center houses the audio-visual media and simulated patient care facilities. The audio-visual capacity is augmented by the University’s Learning Resources Center located in the Leland Speed Library. Physician assistant classes are conducted on the Mississippi College campus and at the University Of Mississippi College Of Medicine Campus in Jackson. The clinical phase of the program utilizes a variety of hospital health centers and private practices across the state. With prior approval students may also choose elective rotations in other localities within the United States or abroad.
The physician assistant program has policies that are specific to the PA program. Physician assistant students should review these policies, which involve both academic and nonacademic matters. The policies are included in the Physician Assistant Student Handbook provided to each student upon admission to the PA program. Each student is expected to abide by these policies; failure to do so may result in dismissal from the program.
Criminal Background Checks
In accordance with Mississippi legislative statues and regulations for health care institutions regarding criminal background checks, every student must have fingerprints taken and a criminal background check completed. Cost of these requirements will be the student’s responsibility. The student must be in compliance with the legislative statues and hospital policies to participate in clinical experiences.
Successful completion of the physician assistant program qualifies the student to make application to take the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE) and subsequently apply for licensure in any of the United States. However, any disciplinary action, arrest, charge, addiction, or impairment may result in denial of licensure as a physician assistant.
The physician assistant program offers a program of study leading to a Master of Science in Medicine degree. This is the terminal professional degree required for physician assistants to practice medicine in the State of Mississippi.
The physician assistant program curriculum is designed to provide the student with a broad foundation in medicine. The courses aim to broaden understanding of clinical medicine, professional practice issues, procedural skills and diagnostic acumen while enhancing the ability to communicate effectively with patients, peers and colleagues.
To enter the physician assistant program, one must be eligible for admission to Mississippi College. The Physician Assistant Program admits one class of 30 new students each year, at the beginning of the summer semester. Applicants must submit their completed applications to the Physician Assistant Program no later than January 15th of the matriculation year. Applicants must have completed all prerequisites before matriculation into the PA program. Applicants may have no more than two outstanding pre-requisite courses (not including labs) at the time of application to the program. No transfer credit will be allowed from other PA programs and advanced placement is not permitted. The PA program admissions committee is duly constituted of program core faculty and other Mississippi College teaching faculty with heavy clinical and/or basic medical sciences emphasis and experience and makes the final selection of applicants into the program.
Admission to the physician assistant program is highly competitive. The admissions committee considers a number of factors and attributes captured on the CASPA application when selecting applicants for interviews and for matriculation into the program. Exceptions to the published pre-requisite requirements are considered by the admissions committee on a case-by-case basis and only under exceptional circumstances.
Minimum requirements for admission to the physician assistant program include:
- A Baccalaureate Degree from an accredited university or college.
- Completion of all pre-requisite courses with a grade of C (2.0 GPA) or better from a United States- accredited university or college. Courses must have been completed within the 10 years prior to the expected date of matriculation. All pre-requisite courses must be taken at a college or university accredited by one of the six regional accrediting bodies within the United States. With the exception of statistics, online coursework will not be accepted for pre-requisite courses. The following are the minimum pre-requisite courses:
- Human Anatomy & Human Physiology with labs, or Anatomy & Physiology I and II with labs. (Must complete a full sequence. Substitutions for separate course sequence will not be accepted.) 8 semester hours
Microbiology with lab (Advanced level for pre-med or biology majors) (4 semester hours)
General Chemistry I and II with labs (A complete sequence geared toward science majors/appropriate as a first-level course for a Chemistry) (8 semester hours)
Organic Chemistry with lab (4 semester hours)
Statistics, including statistical tests and analysis (3 semester hours)
Recommended courses for a competitive applicant, although not required to apply include: Medical terminology, Biochemistry with lab, Organic Chemistry II with lab (completing sequence), Genetics, Immunology, Cell Biology, Virology, Psychology (general, developmental, abnormal).
- A cumulative overall grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 of a possible 4.0 on all undergraduate and graduate work completed at an accredited university or college.
- A cumulative biology, chemistry and physics grade point average (BCP GPA) of 3.0 of a possible 4.0 on all undergraduate and graduate work completed at an accredited university or college within the United States.
- A scoring range of 146 or greater on the verbal section and a 141 or greater on the quantitative section, of the GRE General Examination is minimally required. Scores of 150 or better on both the verbal and quantitative sections increases competitiveness.
- Consistent with state law for health-care providers, and for compliance with hospital and health center requirements, criminal background checks and/or drug screenings may be required. Failure to successfully meet requirements for the background check or drug screening may result in denial of admission or dismissal from the physician assistant program. Suitability of information from background checks and drug screening tests remains at the discretion of the admissions committee.
- Applicants must have completed all required immunizations (as outlined in the PA student handbook) prior to matriculation.
- A multiple mini interview (MMI) with members of the Admissions Team is required. Interviews are granted by invitation only to the most competitive applicants based on the above listed criteria.
The requirements listed above are the minimum for admission to the program. Prospective PA students are strongly encouraged to exceed minimum levels of work, especially in relation to grade point average, grades in the prerequisite courses, and scores on the GRE and recommended clinical experience hours. The Admissions Committee will select those most qualified for the positions available. When selecting applicants for interview, the Committee may take into account any and all aspects of the student’s prior educational record and attributes contained within their application. These factors include but are not limited to:
- Grade point averages in the areas listed above.
- Quality points earned in Biology, Chemistry, and Physics courses.
- Quality and quantity of direct and indirect patient care experience.
- GRE test scores.
- Letters of recommendation.
- Student essay and expressed goals congruent to the mission of the PA program.
- Holistic review of challenges, accomplishments and experiences.
Admissions Practices That Favor Specified individuals or groups
Mississippi Residents- In keeping with the goals of the program up to 50% of the seats may be reserved for Mississippi residents. Although they are evaluated separately from the out of state applicants, these applicants must meet the same minimum criteria for admission.
Mississippi College Students- PA Direct Admission
This early admission program will identify, recruit, and select currently enrolled undergraduate Mississippi College students for a direct admission process by which they will be afforded the opportunity for early application, interview, and acceptance into the PA program.
Eligibility to apply
To be eligible to apply, students must be current Mississippi College full time students who have completed two years (four semesters) of undergraduate study in the biological sciences at Mississippi College as full-time students, and be eligible to graduate after no more than two additional full-time academic years. Transfer credits for biology or chemistry courses will not be counted toward minimum course requirements (listed below) for PA direct eligibility. The following courses must be completed within the previous 4 years at Mississippi College, with a grade of B or above, prior to applying for PA Direct:
Biology 111, (Biology I) Chemistry 141 (General Chem I)
Biology 112, (Biology II) Chemistry 142 (General Chem II)
Biology 305, (Cell Biology) Chemistry 303 (Organic Chem I)
Biology 306 (Genetics) Chemistry 313 (Org. Chem Lab I)
Biology 307 (Cell Biology and Genetics Lab) Math 207 (Elementary Statistics)
Strong preference will be given to applicants who are on track to achieve the minimum GPA necessary to meet admissions criteria for PA Direct candidates; (a minimum overall GPA of 3.5 and a minimum science GPA of 3.5).
Evaluation of Applications for PA Direct Interview
PA Direct applicants will be evaluated on a competitive basis, using the following criteria:
- GPA overall and science (Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Math courses.)
- ACT/SAT score
- Clinical experience, community service, and other experiences, to be clearly described on the PA Direct application.
- Strong preference is given to those applicants who have accrued a minimum of 100 hours of clinical experience.
- A minimum of 8 hours of clinical experience must have been acquired through shadowing a practicing Physician Assistant.
- A minimum of 2 letters of recommendations from MC faculty and at least one from a practicing PA that the applicant has shadowed.
- Personal essay describing motivation for becoming a PA and vision of practice.
- Interviews for PA Direct will be granted by invitation only.
- Applicants who are invited for multiple mini interview will be evaluated at the same time using the same process and methods as regular applicants. Multiple Mini Interviews are designed to assess communication skills, maturity, motivation, and other personal attributes.
Selection of Candidates
The Department of Physician Assistant Studies Admission Committee will select candidates for the PA Direct program from the group of applicants who are invited for interview. A number of PA Direct Candidates will be selected for a given cohort.
PA Direct applicants will be informed of the outcome of the application no later than March 1 of the year after which they apply. Possible outcomes are:
- Selection as a PA Direct candidate (reserved seat status)
- Denial of PA Direct candidate status.
- Any student who is denied PA Direct candidate status will be eligible to apply to the PA Program in the future through the regular admission process.
- Denied applicants are not eligible to reapply for the PA Direct program.
- Denied applicants are encouraged to seek feedback and counseling from the PA admission office to determine steps that may be useful to aid in development of a competitive application for regular admission in the future.
Pre-matriculation Requirements for Selected Candidates:
Acceptance through PA Direct is conditional; candidates who meet all required conditions listed below will be granted a reserved seat in the PA Studies Program class for which they are selected. This special consideration is offered for one PA cohort only. Failure to meet any of the pre-matriculation requirements listed in this section will result in forfeiture of PA Direct reserved seat status.
- Degree requirement: PA Direct Candidates must complete all degree requirements for the undergraduate degree prior to the day of anticipated entry into PA Program.
- Prerequisite courses: PA Direct Candidates must complete all remaining PA prerequisite courses, including the following:
- Biology 203 and 204 Anatomy and Physiology I and II. (Students in the Medical Sciences Track may substitute BIO 410 Human Gross Anatomy and BIO 412 Medical
- Biology 414 General Microbiology
- Required GPA: PA Direct candidates are expected to perform at a high level throughout the undergraduate curriculum to demonstrate that they are prepared to meet the demands of professional school.
- At the end of the fall semester of the senior year (or the year prior to anticipated matriculation), candidates must have earned a minimum overall GPA of 3.5 with a minimum science GPA of 3.5 (biology, chemistry, and math courses.) Exception: If candidates earn a B in the more advanced BIO 410 Gross Anatomy and BIO 412 Medical Physiology(compared to Anatomy and Physiology I and II), the PA admissions committee, at the applicant’s request, may elect not to use these grades in overall and BCP GPA calculations to determine continued eligibility in the PA Direct Program. With this being the only exception, it is expected the candidate will maintain the 3.5 GPA or better for all other required courses listed here.
- Graduate Record Examination (GRE): The GRE is required for admission into PA school. PA Direct candidates are encouraged to schedule adequate time to prepare for the GRE, as well as enough time to register and re-take the test in the event that their scores are lower than PA Direct criteria. The GRE should be taken no later than January 1 of the year of matriculation.
- The following minimum GRE scores are necessary to meet requirements for PA Direct admission:
- Verbal: at or above 150
- Quantitative: at or above 150
- Writing sample: at or above 3.0
- Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA): All candidates must submit an official application to the PA Program through CASPA, with all necessary documents including official GRE scores. CASPA deadline for PA Direct undergraduate seniors who are on track to graduate and matriculate in May is September 15 of the senior year. No more than two prerequisite courses may be incomplete at the time of the CASPA submission.
- Clinical experience: A minimum of 500 hours of clinical experience must be accrued prior to PA Direct matriculation.
- Community service: In addition to accruing required clinical experience hours, PA Direct candidates should continue to participate in non-medically related community service activities.
- Required immunizations: PA Direct selected candidates are expected to obtain all vaccinations required for the PA program prior to matriculation.
Failure to meet all pre-matriculation requirements for PA Direct:
PA Direct selected candidates who fail to meet all of the pre-matriculation requirements listed above will forfeit the privilege of direct admission into the PA Program through PA Direct. If PA Direct candidate status is lost, application status will change to “regular” admission application and procedures where the applicant will be considered for admission along with all other (non-PA Direct) applicants. Application rules for regular admission will apply. This may include the requirement to interview as a regular admission applicant.
Note: For physician assistant students, the costs of uniforms, immunizations, physical examinations, diagnostic equipment, malpractice insurance, standardized tests, board review, professional association fees, technology and clinical phase lab fees are in addition to the standard university tuition, fees, and books. Some clinical rotations may require students to temporarily reside outside of the Jackson metropolitan area. While reasonable efforts will be made to provide housing, ultimately, students are responsible for their own housing and transportation at all clinical training sites.
The Chairman of the Department of Physician Assistant Studies or a designated faculty member acts as general advisor to all PA students. The Director of Admissions for the Department of Physician Assistant Studies acts as an advisor to applicants who have not yet been formally admitted to the physician assistant program. Faculty advisors counsel students regarding academic concerns, adjustment to university life, and professional goals.
Class Attendance and Dress Code
Students in the physician assistant program are subject to Mississippi College and the PA program rules regulating class attendance and absences as outlined in the Undergraduate Catalog under Attendance Regulations and the Physician Assistant Student Handbook. Attendance in class and clinical laboratory is required and students are expected to attend regularly and to be on time to all learning experiences. The dress code for PA students is outlined in the Physician Assistant Student Handbook.
Academic Standards Specific to the Physician Assistant Program
After admission to the PA program, a student must maintain at least a 3.00 cumulative grade point average for progression. A grade of C or better is required in all courses and on examinations. Failure to meet this minimum requires remediation as outlined in the Physician Assistant Student Handbook. Failure to meet remediation requirements may result in dismissal from the program.
Requirements for progression are found in the Physician Assistant Student Handbook. There is a three-year time limit that applies to each phase of the program. The entire program (Phases I and II) must be completed within 48 months. Any student, for whatever reason, who does not graduate within a four-year time period may be dismissed from the program. Since minimum standards for progression in the PA program are different from the minimum to avoid suspension from Mississippi College, a student who becomes ineligible to enter or remain in the program may still be eligible to remain a student at Mississippi College in another major.
Graduation Requirements for Master of Science in Medicine. (M.S.M)
The general requirements for the Master of Science in Medicine degree are:
- A total of 143 semester hours of university work within the PA program curriculum;
- Compliance with the general graduation requirements of Mississippi College;
- A grade of C or higher in each course;
- A cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 in all PA program coursework;
- Successful completion of all components of the Comprehensive Summative Evaluation;
The Physician Assistant Program reserves the right to withhold a degree from any student deemed unsuitable for the practice of medicine.