PA Program Profile: Southern California University of Health Sciences

Learn more in this quick interview with Program Director Ingrid Patsch, MD.

Tell me a little bit about how this program came about.

One objective of Southern California University of Health Sciences (SCU)’s Second Hundred Years strategic plan was to diversify and increase program offerings. Immediately after the implementation of the strategic plan in 2010, numerous different degree programs were researched — and the PA program was identified as a strong option for the institution.

SCU PA students visiting Los Nietos. Credit: SCU

SCU PA students visiting Los Nietos. Credit: SCU


SCU PA students visiting Los Nietos. Credit: SCU


What do you think makes your program unique?

SCU is the first university to offer a PA program that fully immerses students in a multidisciplinary setting. Master of PA Studies students take core classes with other students who are pursuing a variety of health care careers, including future chiropractors and acupuncturists. The integrative core science courses provide students with the opportunity to learn with, from, and about each other, and the inclusion of the PA program allows for students to be integrated across conventional and Complementary Alternative Medicine (CAM) disciplines.

This unique interprofessional environment empowers students to excel within integrative health care teams. By blending Eastern and Western medicine, the PA program helps students gain the essential skills and knowledge to treat the whole person.

Do you do any team-building or philanthropic activities with your cohorts?

Our students have a community events representative in their PA club, the Physician Assistant Student Society. They strive to do as much as possible despite their intensive course curriculum.

The first week of class, students participated in Healthy Los Nietos, a school-wide community wellness program that I started over eight years ago.

Our students have also participated in local community events sponsored by the University, and they want to conduct their own events in the future, such as blood drives and blood pressure checks.

One of our students will be participating in the Aids Life Cycle, a bicycle ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles to raise money for AIDS research.

Being part of an integrative, holistic campus, our students go to yoga and tai chi classes and play flag football together.  They attend special events, like the New Year Lunar Festival sponsored by the College of Eastern Medicine. We are also planning to begin a PA student-led clinic in the future.

SCU PA students helped the College of Eastern Medicine celebrate the Chinese New Year with the Lunar festival and lion dance. Credit: SCU

SCU PA students helped the College of Eastern Medicine celebrate the Chinese New Year with the Lunar festival and lion dance. Credit: SCU

We hear a lot about networking and collaboration in the PA world. How have you been able to collaborate with other programs or community members?

The faculty of Marshall B. Ketchum University invited our program faculty to visit their campus after we received provisional accreditation. They were very encouraging and shared their experiences of beginning a new program.

We are hoping to collaborate and brainstorm with all the local programs in our area on joint community events and possibly establish a consortium on clinical rotations to pool our resources. We currently offer an integrative health rotation to other PA programs to give other PA students with an interest an opportunity to learn more about acupuncture, Ayurveda, and chiropractic treatment, and how these modalities can help their patients.

We have also invited other programs to our annual Integrative Health Conference and plan to sponsor other community wellness events in the future.

What are you doing to foster innovation in your program?

The PA faculty attend integrative health and PA education conferences to learn from and brainstorm with other professionals. We are also looking for grants to help us provide innovation in the classroom. Currently, we collaborate with other college faculty and use team-based learning, PBL, labs, interactive polls, and online quizzes to keep students engaged and actively learning.

Because we are on an integrative campus, our PA faculty and PA students have the opportunity to work with professors and practitioners from every college. Our students also have professors from other disciplines, which provides a wealth of rich experiences and knowledge to their didactic curriculum. In our student health clinic, they will have the opportunity to work with an integrative medical team during their integrative medicine rotation and utilize all available resources from Ayurvedic, chiropractic, and Eastern medicine to offer the best possible outcome for their patients.

SCU's first class of PA students. Credit: SCU

SCU’s first class of PA students. Credit: SCU

If you could give developing programs one piece of advice, what would it be?

Remain flexible, get creative, have fun, and never give up! Remember why you became an educator and a health care practitioner to get you through the rough patches. Keep fighting the good fight and advocating for the profession, high educational standards, and community service as a foundation for everything you do. Stay true to your values and to the students’ education, and you will never go wrong.