News from Upstate

October 12, 2010
Darryl Geddes 315 464-4828

Upstate receives more than $3 million for PA training

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Upstate Medical University has a received three federal grants totaling $3.1 million to help train physician assistants in medically underserved regions across New York, in addition, to providing state-of-the-art medical manikins to train physician assistants in invasive procedures. The grants were awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The grants are believed to be the largest ever received by the College of Health Professions for its educational programming.

“The grant awards reflect our college’s support of Upstate’s regional mission to address the healthcare needs of our region,” said Health Professions Dean Hugh Bonner, Ph.D., FASAHP.

Sandra Banas, MST, RPA-C, founding chair of the Department of Physician Assistant Studies in the College of Health Professions, said the recent grant awards will target New York communities in need of healthcare professionals.

Upstate will use a $2.1 million grant to cover student tuition, fees and stipends. Over the next 5 years, 40 students will receive annual stipends of $22,000 for 2 years. An additional 10 students will receive a one-year stipend of $22,000.

“This support is aimed at ensuring New York has a ready supply of well-trained physician assistants who can serve small rural communities at a time when access to healthcare is becoming more problematic. We want to eliminate any possible hurdles for students who want to pursue this in-demand healthcare career.”

An $829,000 grant will enable Upstate to expand the various clinical sites that provide clinical rotations for Upstate’s physician assistant students. As part of their training at Upstate, physician assistant students must participate in a yearlong clinical rotation. Currently Upstate has agreements with physicians, health clinics, nursing homes and hospitals in the following communities: Canandaigua, Carthage, Cortland, Elmira, Geneva, Oneida, Saranac Lake and Utica. Banas hopes to add 35 to 40 more medically underserved communities within the next five years.

Banas says it is important for students to experience the feel of medical care in these areas. “In addition to hands-on experience in a non-academic medical center setting, the students get to understand the flavor of the communities and make closer connections with families.”

A $266,000 equipment grant, also from the Department of Health and Human Services, will go to purchase life-like manikins, an adult male and infant male, to facilitate the training of invasive procedures that physician assistants perform in the healthcare setting, such as intubation and IVs. An adult female manikin that simulates giving birth will also be purchased for use in physician assistant classes. “Very often in these smaller communities, obstetricians may not be available for the birth delivery and PAs must be specialized and skilled in this procedure.” Banas said.

Upstate began its PA program in 2009. It is the only SUNY-affiliated PA program outside of New York City and Long Island. In addition to classroom work, PA students complete an entire clinical year in rural and medically underserved communities, where they work under the guidance of physicians and assist in caring for patients.

Physician assistant students must complete nine mandatory clinical rotations in the following areas: family practice, adult medicine, outpatient adult medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, behavioral medicine, general surgery, emergency medicine and long-term care. Additionally, Upstate’s PA students complete two electives. Students will graduate with a master’s degree and must pass the national certification exam in order to be employed as a physician assistant.

“Our students participate in opportunities all across the healthcare spectrum to reflect the broad range of experiences and settings where PAs work,” Banas said.

Based on American Academy of Physician Assistants data from 2007, the starting salary range for respondents who graduated in 2007 was $74,470.

For more information on Upstate’s PA program go to: http://www.upstate.edu/chp/programs/pa/

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