PA Studies program celebrates 20th anniversary
The Physician Assistant Studies program at UT Health San Antonio celebrated its 20th anniversary this month at a dinner attended by alumni and special guests.
“Over the last 20 years, we have matriculated 822 students, adding significantly to the pool of available providers who enable access to care for patient populations across the nation,” Associate Professor, Program Director and Chair Paul Allen, DSc, MPAS, PA-C, told those gathered to mark the milestone. “Our program has evolved along with the profession, continuing the reputation of excellence established by those who came before us.”
Guest speakers at the event included J. Dennis Blessing, PhD, founding chair of the Department of Physician Assistant Studies, Judith Colver, MPAS, PA-C, one of the program’s founders and program directors, Miguel Ramirez-Colon, Sr., MD, the first and longest-serving medical director for the PA program, and Julie Dylla-Moczygemba, MPAS, PA-C, the program’s first student class president.
PA education at UT Health San Antonio began as a collaboration with the U.S. Army physician assistant program at Fort Sam Houston.
“Our university was the degree-providing institution endorsing the U.S. Army's program between 1995 and 2000,” Allen said, adding that graduates received a certificate of completion from the Army and a Bachelor of Science in Physician Assistant Studies (BSPAS) from the health science center.
The School of Allied Health Sciences (now the School of Health Professions) and university administration developed a standalone PA program, with the first class matriculating in fall 2000. The university graduated bachelor’s classes in December 2002, 2003 and 2004. In keeping with the trend in the PA profession toward a terminal degree at the master’s level, the program transitioned to a professional master’s degree, with the first cohort beginning classes in fall 2003. The program expanded to Laredo, where it operated from 2007–2014, reopening with a cohort of 10 students in 2021 at what is now the University of Texas Education and Research Center at Laredo.
The program has consistently posted high first-time pass rates on the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE).
“We have beat the national average for first-time PANCE pass rate every year for the last 10, ranging from 96-100%,” Allen said. “We are looking forward to being on the cutting edge of new innovations in PA education to meet the future needs of patients, the profession and the health care workforce.”