URI, Johnson & Wales sign Physician Assistant program agreement

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KINGSTON, R.I. – September 12, 2014 – University of Rhode Island graduates who enroll in the Johnson & Wales University Physician Assistant Studies Program will soon have a direct path into one of the hottest careers in the nation.

Officials from both universities signed an agreement today that will guarantee admission to up to six qualified URI graduates for each admission cycle in the master’s degree program at Johnson & Wales, the first of its kind in the state.

“This is another example of how the University of Rhode Island is working with other institutions in ways that benefit its students, the state as a whole and our partners,” said URI President David M. Dooley. “Indeed, this collaboration with Johnson & Wales will create a highly skilled workforce for job opportunities in a dynamic and rapidly expanding health care field, and strengthen Rhode Island’s already strong position in the health sciences.”

“URI and Johnson & Wales are coming together in a shared mission to address the health care needs of Rhode Island and our nation,” said JWU Providence Campus President Mim L. Runey. “At Johnson & Wales, we are educating our physician assistant students to become collaborative practitioners. Not only do PAs work directly with physicians, they are members of teams of nurses, therapists, medical technicians, and other professionals dedicated to delivering patient-centered, humanistic care. With our articulation agreement, we are opening the door for more URI students to continue their education at Johnson & Wales.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics and a 2013 CNNMoney/PayScale project the need for physician assistants to grow by 30 percent during the next 10 years. U.S. News and World Report ranked the physician assistant career as one of the most in demand in the country.

According to the ranking summary, physician assistants had a median annual salary of $90,930 in 2012. The top-earning 10 percent in the profession made approximately $124,770, while the lowest 10 percent of the pay spectrum brought in about $62,430. Doctors’ offices, general medical and surgical facilities, and outpatient care centers employed the most physician assistants in 2012, the report said.

George Bottomley, director of the Center for Physician Assistant Studies and assistant dean at JWU, who earned his bachelor’s degree in 1973 from URI, is proud of and excited about the collaboration.

Bottomley said the first physician assistant class at Johnson & Wales enrolled 23 students in June, with three URI alumni among them.

“For years, I have had a dream of starting a physician assistant program in Rhode Island, and I wanted to develop a relationship with my alma mater to provide URI students with this opportunity,” Bottomley said.

Bottomley said the collaboration is advantageous to both institutions. “URI will be able to recruit incredibly bright students into the program, and Johnson & Wales will benefit from having gifted, driven students well prepared in the health and life sciences by URI.”

In clinical practice, physician assistants work as part of an integrated medical team to provide diagnostic, therapeutic and preventive health care services. In association with a supervising physician, physician assistants take patient histories and perform exams, order lab tests and prescribe medications, diagnose illnesses and develop treatment plans, and counsel and educate patients.

The agreement creates three opportunities for URI applicants. First, all URI applicants who meet a demanding set of prerequisites are guaranteed an interview. Among the pre-requisites needed before a candidate is granted an interview are:

• Accumulation of at least 250 hours of direct patient care experience (paid or volunteer) in a medical setting.

• A minimum overall undergraduate grade point average of 3.30 with no grade lower than a C.

• A minimum undergraduate grade point average of 3.30 in all biology, microbiology, chemistry and physics courses.

• Complete the Graduate Record Examination as part of the application.

Upon completion of the program, graduates will be eligible to take the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam to become a certified physician assistant.

Second, current students and recent graduates who apply through the URI Pre-Health Professions Advising Program will be eligible for nomination to one of six spots expressly reserved for URI applicants. Final selection will be based upon performance during a personal interview at JWU.

The agreement also creates the URI-JWU Early Identification Program, modeled after an existing program between URI and the Brown University Alpert Medical School, whereby second semester sophomores can secure a seat in physician assistant school for the year following their graduation.

Pictured above

David M. Dooley, University of Rhode Island president, Mim L. Runey, Johnson & Wales Providence Campus president and chief operating officer; sign an agreement guaranteeing admission to up to six qualified URI graduates for each admission cycle in the master’s degree physician assistant program at Johnson & Wales.

Reilly Loomis, a current student in the Johnson & Wales program who earned his bachelor of science degree from URI in 2013, talks about how well URI prepared him for the JWU physician assistant program.

George Bottomley, director of the Johnson & Wales Physician Assistant Studies program and 1973 URI graduate discusses a new agreement between URI and the JWU program.

URI photos by Jessica Vescera.