PAEA 50th Anniversary: Fast Facts about the Northwestern College PA Program

Fast Facts about the Northwestern College Physician Assistant Program

Courtesy of Jill Van Otterloo, MSPAS, PA-C, Associate Program Director & Academic Coordinator, Northwestern College Physician Assistant Program

Program Name & Location: Northwestern College Physician Assistant Program, Orange City, Iowa

Program mission, vision & values: The mission of the Northwestern College Physician Assistant Program is to equip students with an exceptional education grounded in a biblical theology of human dignity and flourishing. Our vision is that the NWC PA program will be the nation’s leading educator of Christ-centered physician assistants who will serve their communities with excellence, integrity, and compassion.

To carry out our mission and vision, our program has four strategic goals:

  • Exceptional training: To prepare students with the knowledge and skills necessary for entry into practice as a physician assistant.
  • Faith integration: To integrate biblical teaching into the medical curriculum so graduates are prepared to serve faithfully, with integrity and compassion.
  • Leadership preparation: To train physician assistants who are collaborative leaders in their field, working with others to provide optimal medical care to patients.
  • Diverse learning: To provide an inclusive learning environment that enhances cultural competence and understanding.

What year did your program welcome its first class of students? 2020

How many students have graduated from your program to date? Our program graduated its first cohort of 24 students in August this year

How have your faculty or students advocated for the PA profession? Faculty members and students participated in the Iowa Physician Assistant Society (IPAS)-sponsored legislative day at the State Capitol. They discussed a harmonization bill with local senators and representatives. The bill was later passed.

Has your program helped expand the PA pipeline by participating in events such as PAEA’s Project Access? If so, how and when? Yes, our program and students participated in PAEA’s Project Access last fall. The first-year students made connections with area schools and gave educational and interactive presentations about the PA profession to area middle school students.

How has your program impacted the community it serves? The program’s faculty and PA students are active in the rural community where our program is located. Each cohort’s student government includes positions for community outreach. These students coordinate volunteer opportunities for the class, and past initiatives have included:

  • Giving flu shots in partnership with area hospitals and clinics.
  • Serving at an area food bank (Sioux Falls, located 70 miles away).
  • Sorting and stocking clothes and other goods at an area low-income thrift store.
  • Providing blood pressure checks at a local community event, Festival Latino.
  • Advocating and promoting heart health through a February Heart Month program. PA students coordinated a health challenge for the community with local businesses sponsoring gifts to community members who participate in the exercise challenge.
  • Providing oral health education to preschool-age children at local schools and daycares.

How do you envision the next 50 years of your program? The Northwestern College PA program envisions a lasting legacy of producing skilled, compassionate physician assistants. Our goal is to help fill the health care need gap in rural America. Our PA students will positively influence communities of all kinds, but programs like ours that are in rural areas are more likely to develop PAs that remain in or relocate to rural areas.