About this Profession
People who succeed as physician assistants enjoy direct patient contact, have a passion for medicine, and embrace challenges. Physician assistants are highly qualified licensed health care professionals who practice medicine with physician supervision. Physician assistants participate in a demanding academic and clinical curriculum that prepares them for the complexities of their career. Physician assistants are trained to elicit medical histories, perform physical exams, order and interpret diagnostic studies, perform clinical procedures and formulate patient treatment and management plans.
Physician assistants practice in all areas of medicine and surgery. Opportunities exist in primary care practices, medical sub-specialty practices, general surgery practices and surgical sub-specialty practices. Physician assistants work in various settings including inpatient, outpatient, nursing homes, urgent care centers and emergency rooms.
Although physician assistants can be found in all areas of medicine and surgery, the physician assistant program at SUNY Upstate has a focus on primary care in medically underserved and rural areas of Upstate New York.
The physician assistant profession is one of the fastest growing professions in the United States today. Graduation from an accredited physician assistant program and passage of the national certification exam are required for state licensure. The certification exam, developed by the National Commission on Certification of PAs, is usually taken by students within the first few weeks of graduation. To maintain their national certification, PAs must log 100 hours of continuing medical education credits every two years and pass the national recertification exam every ten years.
This full-time program encompasses twenty seven months. The first fifteen months consist of didactic training, with a strong emphasis on basic sciences, pharmacology, clinical medicine, interviewing skills, physical diagnosis, diagnostic studies, professionalism, ethics and research methods. The remaining twelve months consist of eleven four-week clinical rotations where students practice medicine in a supervised medical setting. Clinical rotations include: Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, Behavioral Science, Emergency Medicine, General Surgery, Long Term Care, Women's Health, Pediatrics, and two elective rotations.
No advanced placement credit can be used to fulfill PA Program requirements. Due to the rigorous curricular requirements, the Program strongly recommends that students do not seek outside employment, even on a part-time basis.
Master's Capstone Project
In addition to eleven clinical rotations, students must complete a Master's Capstone Project. For this project, students choose a relevant medical topic and conduct a literature search on this topic. Students will then submit a written report, and will present their topic in poster format to colleagues and physician assistant faculty.
Successful Program Completion
To successfully complete the program, students must maintain a minimum grade point average of 3.0, successfully complete an Objective Structured Clinical Exam at the end of the didactic year and at the end of the clinical year, pass all clinical rotations, pass all end of rotation objective exams, pass a comprehensive Physician Assistant exam at the end of the clinical year, and pass the Master's Capstone Project Seminar.
Students who successfully complete the requirements for the Physician Assistant Program are awarded a Master of Science Degree in Physician Assistant Studies. Graduates are eligible to sit for the national certification exam (PANCE) developed by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants.
The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) has granted Accreditation-Continued status to the SUNY Upstate Medical University Physician Assistant Program sponsored by the State University of New York. Accreditation-Continued is an accreditation status granted when a currently accredited program is in compliance with the ARC-PA Standards.
Accreditation 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 approximate date for the next validation review of the program by the ARC-PA will be September 2026. The review date is contingent upon continued compliance with the Accreditation Standards and ARC-PA policy.
Program accreditation is a requirement for the Physician Assistant National Certification Exam (PANCE) as well as for physician assistant practice in the United States. Students enrolled in an accredited program are eligible to take the PANCE.
For information on individual state licensing requirements, please visit the State Licensing Requirements page.
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