Q-and-A with LMU’s Assistant Dean

You may have seen a few pieces in the media (like this one) last week about Lincoln Memorial University’s new professional degree program for PAs. We contacted Assistant Dean Mark Moran, MPAS, PA-C, to learn more.

Mark Moran: First, I want to make a few clarifying statements. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, the media has still managed to identify this as a PhD program. This is not a PhD degree, but rather a professional medical degree.

Second, the medical college and university have been very careful to adhere to the recommendations of the PA doctoral summit of 2009. As such, this is not a PA degree. This program will not be taught by or associated with our PA program at LMU. Rather this is a new type of medical degree being developed and delivered by the medical college and community physicians from a teaching institution, exactly the same way the PA profession was born.

The medical college has identified a specific subset of medical personnel (in this case, PAs) to offer additional training to the doctoral level, just like in the 1960s when medical schools targeted military medics to become PAs.

My involvement is as a DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine administrator and a PA educator to help identify the differences between PA and current doctoral education models. The development team includes DO, MD, PhD, PA, and administrative personnel.

PAEA: How did the idea for this PhD program come about?
MM: The DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine was founded at Lincoln Memorial University under the supervision of Autry O.V. “Pete” DeBusk – President of the Lincoln Memorial University Board of Trustees… Mr. DeBusk understands the quality of medical training that PAs receive, and the advantage of that training being completed without the use of federal dollars through the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education training programs. He approached the medical school and PA program with the idea and asked the schools to make it happen.

PAEA: Who is the program designed for?
MM: The program targets experienced physician assistants with master’s degree training. Currently, the program is offering three clinical track focuses: Primary Care (outpatient care), Hospital Medicine (inpatient care), and Emergency Medicine. In lieu of the clinical practicums, there is a an education track for those in academia or wishing to pursue academia.

PAEA: What makes the program unique?
MM: The program is unique in several ways. First, the program didactics will be delivered by online learning and therefore allow the PA to continue in full-time practice or academia.

Second, the curriculum is unique. It serves to meet three primary goals. 1. Provide training in those areas from undergraduate medical education that are typically not part of PA education or not taught at the same emphasis level. 2. Identify and provide advanced instruction in key areas of medicine of highest need and utility for today’s primary care providers. 3. Identify and replicate the ACGME graduate training model through clinical competencies and didactic instruction, taking into account the experience and training the experienced PA has to date.

PAEA: What do you see as being the biggest benefits of completing this program?
MM: The program offers several immediate benefits. First, graduates of this program will have expanded knowledge and skill compatible with their physician colleagues. By default, this improves the already high quality patient care and outcomes that PAs currently provide.

Second, it provides advanced medical training not otherwise available to PAs without unnecessary duplication of PA medical training.

Third, it provides a mechanism for PAs to rise to the ‘next level,’ medically, administratively, academically, and personally.

Fourth, this program offers to PAs what alternative degrees (e.g., EdD, PhD, DHS) do not; advanced medical education.

Lastly, this program is being developed to the highest quality and standards to clearly demonstrate doctoral level training equivalency, and to set the standard high for future colleges and universities to establish similar programs.

PAEA: Do you envision that graduates would have different roles or responsibilities from other PAs?
MM: Graduates of this program will have the skills and training necessary to function at the highest level in primary care settings. Graduates should expect an expanded scope of practice as delegated by the supervising physician. However, the true goal is to achieve a new scope of practice equivalent to other doctorally trained medical providers. The institution is working closely with state legislators on this matter locally.

PAEA: How is the online portion of the program organized?
MM: The didactic portions of the curriculum will be delivered predominantly online using a learning management system and other technologies. The delivery will include online information, online lectures, assigned readings, interactive case studies, and discussion boards at routine intervals. Each course will be delivered by clinical sub-specialists for the first year, and track-specific specialists for the second year.

PAEA: How often will students be required to come to the LMU campus?
MM: The first-year curriculum will require two on-campus residencies. During the first semester, students will come to campus one time for the lab portion of the Advanced Clinical Anatomy course. During the second semester, students will come to campus one time for the ultrasonography course. During the second year, students will return to the campus once to complete the following: a summative evaluation, to present their research project, and to graduate. The education track is still in its final stages of development, and while a residency component will be required, the number of visits is not yet finalized.