Physician Assistant Studies program receives $980,000 grant

Posted: Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Brent Shriver, Ph.D., associate professor, is principal investigator of the $980,000 grant that aims to increase primary care practice in South Texas and the nation.clear graphic
Brent Shriver, Ph.D., associate professor, is principal investigator of the $980,000 grant that aims to increase primary care practice in South Texas and the nation. 

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By Rosanne Fohn

The Department of Physician Assistant Studies (PAS) at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio has received a five-year, $980,000 grant to emphasize primary care training and encourage more practicing physician assistants (PA) to consider teaching.

The Health Resources and Services Administration grant was awarded to Brent Shriver, Ph.D., principal investigator, and J. Glenn Forister, M.S., M.P.A.S., PA-C, co-principal investigator. Dr. Shriver is an associate professor and Forister is an associate professor/clinical and chair of the PAS department.

Faculty members from the School of Medicine and School of Nursing will also be involved in developing the program that could increase primary care practice not only in South Texas but nationwide.
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PAs work under the supervision of a medical doctor or doctor of osteopathy as part of the health care team to prevent, diagnose and treat many diseases and medical conditions.

PAS program emphasizes primary care
Ranked 18th nationally by U.S. News & World Report, the PAS master’s degree program at the Health Science Center has focused on promoting primary care practice because of the great need for health care providers in the university’s 38-county service area that extends throughout South Texas to the Texas-Mexico border.

Most of those counties are classified as Health Professional Shortage Areas and Medically Underserved Areas by the federal government, meaning that there aren’t enough medical or other health professionals to provide care.

“Because many of those counties are rural or have high poverty rates, it is difficult to get enough health providers to work there or to provide culturally competent care. And like many in the medical field, many PAs start their careers based on connections they have made through their clinical training,” Dr. Shriver explained.

National shortage of primary care providers and faculty
According to research conducted by the Physician Assistant Education Association, more physicians are choosing to specialize rather than practice primary care, bringing more PAs into specialty practices, as well. In addition, there is a high turnover rate nationally among PA faculty members, with about 44 percent having just three years’ teaching experience, according to the association’s “Twenty-Sixth Annual Report on Physician Assistant Educational Programs in the United States.”

J. Glenn Forister, M.S., M.P.A.S., PA-C, an associate professor/clinical and chair of the Department of Physician Assistant Studies, is co-principal investigator of the grant. Forister said that throughout its history, the PAS department has emphasized primary care due to the major shortage of health providers in South Texas.  clear graphic
J. Glenn Forister, M.S., M.P.A.S., PA-C, an associate professor/clinical and chair of the Department of Physician Assistant Studies, is co-principal investigator of the grant. Forister said that throughout its history, the PAS department has emphasized primary care due to the major shortage of health providers in South Texas.  

 

“Our program has always been very well regarded because of its focus on the community and the underserved,” Forister said, noting that Health Science Center PAS students are encouraged to be independent thinkers because of the sometimes-remote practices in rural South Texas where the need for providers is so great. “This is one of the reasons we decided to apply for the grant,” Shriver said.

Increasing exposure to primary care and teaching
“We think that if we increase our students’ exposure to primary care during their clinical training and bring more practicing PAs into the teaching role, either as faculty members or preceptors during our students’ clinical training, that we can increase the number of PAs in primary care,” he said.

The new project begins this month as a collaboration among faculty members from the PAS program and the Department of Clinical Laboratory Sciences in the School of Health Professions, the Department of Family and Community Medicine in the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing. They will design and implement the project which includes:

  • Increasing the number of PA students who complete more than the required number of primary care rotations and who choose primary care rotations in medically underserved and rural areas;
  • Increasing the number of primary care clinical training sites in South Texas;
  • Creating and implementing a teaching rotation for PA students to encourage graduates to consider a career in teaching or participating in teaching activities in their clinical practice;
  • Providing a faculty development program for PA clinicians who are interested in teaching, then developing presentations on the program to deliver at national meetings and creating an online version of the program;
  • Creating an online version of the faculty development program for new PA faculty members to encourage them to stay in the education field. This program would then be adapted for use by other health professions and submitted for approval as a certificate program in teaching.



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