May 25, 2001
Volume XXXIV, No. 21



Regents approve proposal for new degree program

The University of Texas System Board of Regents, meeting May 10 in Austin, approved a new graduate degree program for physician assistants at the Health Science Center. The proposal for the master of medical science program now goes to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board for final review.

The Board of Regents also accepted a $424,000 federal training grant to be used by the department of physician assistant studies in the Health Science Center's School of Allied Health Sciences. Dr. J. Dennis Blessing, chairs the department and is the grant project director. The three-year grant is from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration.

"This is wonderful, something we've been working toward," said Dr. Marilyn S. Harrington, dean of the School of Allied Health Sciences. "We have a tremendous veteran leader in Dr. Blessing. The training grant is a statement of confidence from his peers around the country about the direction of our program."

Dr. Blessing noted: "I am very pleased that our degree has been approved. It is a big step forward for the future physician assistants in Texas. The grant will help us meet the primary care health needs of the people of South Texas."

The new master's program is a 3+3 program, requiring three years of general college work and three years of professional study. The degree will be offered beginning in May 2003 pending coordinating board approval this July, Dr. Blessing said.

The federal grant is under the title of "Physician Assistant Training in Primary Care." Grant funding will be used to recruit clinical sites and establish long-distance communications with various South Texas sites through distance learning and computers. "All of our students are required to do rural clinical rotations," Dr. Blessing noted. "This will facilitate their contact with the Health Science Center and provide educational support for them during their student clinical practice."