A Duke University PA Program Guide to Student MAT Training

As health professions education continues to respond to the opioid epidemic, there is a unique opportunity for PA programs to integrate best practices for the treatment of substance use disorder into their curriculum. However, this requires faculty leaders who are willing to pursue innovative methods for improving the quality of education provided to students.  

Jacqueline Barnett, DHSc, MSHS, PA-C, program director for the Duke University PA program, is one such leader in PA education. She is working to ensure that her program is among the ranks of the more than half of all PA programs that plan to require their students to complete Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) training prior to graduation.  

How MAT Training Works

For those unfamiliar with MAT training, it entails two components totaling 24 hours that students must complete in order to become eligible for the waiver necessary to prescribe buprenorphine for office-based treatment of opioid use disorder upon entering practice. Part 1 consists of an eight-hour training program that is offered either online, in person, or half and half. Part 2 of the training is 16 hours of content offered exclusively through online modules.

Beginning with Duke’s PA class matriculating in 2020, students will be required to complete the 24 hours of training utilizing the online modules and the in-person training by the time they finish their clinical year. The modules will be incorporated into various clinical rotations. The in-person option for Part 1 of the training was adopted when students who were offered MAT training on a voluntary basis expressed a preference for the in-person format.  

Barnett explained that, to maximize cooperation for an optional activity, it was important to cultivate student buy-in by giving them an element of control over the training process. This consideration of student preference resulted in about 70 percent of students participating in the voluntary in-person trainings held in June 2019, when the Duke PA program hosted full eight-hour face-to-face sessions sponsored by the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry (AAAP) and their Providers Clinical Support System (PCSS).  

Through federal funding, AAAP and PCSS organized all of the training content and provided trainers for the sessions at no cost. Additionally, the Duke program was able to use Primary Care Training and Enhancement Grant funding to pay for the event space. 

Instead of going through PCSS to set up the training, Barnett submitted a training request to the Mountain Area AHEC (MAHEC) in North Carolina as part of its ongoing initiatives to address pain management and substance use disorder throughout the region. MAHEC then created a registration page for students and coordinated the training with AAAP and PCSS on Dr. Barnett’s behalf.  

Whether a host submits a training request through the typical channel or through a third party like Duke did, any host’s primary responsibilities for planning an in-person training session include securing an event site and serving as the point-of-contact.  

 “Taking advantage of available federal funding and these kinds of free training opportunities to combat the devastation of the opioid crisis is the job of all leaders in PA education and is in the best interest of PA students, patients, and the profession,” said Barnett. 

PAEA would like to thank Dr. Barnett for sharing her insights on student MAT training and for her leadership in advancing the aims of PAEA’s MAT Initiative. 

For more information on how to train your students to become MAT waiver-eligible, please visit the MAT Initiative Resources and FAQ webpages and/or contact MAT Initiative Project Director John Lopes at

Disclaimer: Funding for this initiative was made possible (in part) by grant no. 6H79TI080816 from SAMHSA. The views expressed in written conference materials or publications and by speakers and moderators do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the Department of Health and Human Services; nor does mention of trade names, commercial practices, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.