Physician assistant program running at full capacity as profession grows

HWCOM PA Class of 2019 poses with their newly donned white coats.

For the first time since accepting its inaugural class, the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine’s Master in Physician Assistant Studies program is running at full capacity.

The first class is gearing up to graduate in December and join the workforce, the second class is well into their studies and the program just accepted its third class this fall. The 45 new students donned their white coats for the first time Oct. 7 during their official White Coat Ceremony.

“It was very exciting to see the third incoming class and we are all excited to be graduating our first PA class this December,” says Dr. Pedro Gutierrez, founding chair and associate dean for the physician assistant school. “The white coat has been and continues to signify the entrance into the medical profession and the demands it brings all the students entering the physician assistant profession.”

First-year PA student Valentin Frias Garcia is aware of the significance behind the white coat.

“It’s a visual representation of the task and responsibility we are undertaking,” he says. “We will be gaining the medical knowledge we will need to apply in treating patients, which to me is one of the most humbling things I can think of.”

Jesse Anderson, another first-year PA student echoes this sentiment.

“The white coat signifies the transition from students into a professional career,” Anderson says. “The first months were just school but the white coats are a transition into something more official.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics places the 10-year growth of the PA profession at 30 percent, or “much faster than average.” Anderson also likes the horizontal mobility PAs are allowed to experience if they want.

“An MD picks a specialty and sticks with it. A PA gets on-the-job training and can try different specialties and change when they want,” he says.

Combine that kind of flexibility with the profession’s projected growth and a median pay of more than $100,000 last year, and it’s easy to see why it’s starting to become oh so sweet to be a PA today.