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Westfield State University’s Physician Assistant Program enrolls first class in January

Westfield—Westfield State University is launching the first public Physician Assistant Program in New England, enrolling its inaugural class in January. The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) has granted Accreditation-Provisional status to the Program.

The Master of Science in Physician Assistant studies is an intensive, 24-month program. According to Jennifer Hixon, DHSc, founding director of Westfield State’s Physician Assistant Program, it intends to educate a diverse student body of highly skilled and culturally aware healthcare providers who will utilize a patient-centered care approach and be committed to serving the public in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and beyond.

One of the fastest growing fields, the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics reports that the employment of physician assistants is expected to grow an average of 38 percent through the year 2022.

“As part of our curriculum, we will be the only one in the country (among more than 250 programs) to require a rotation in addiction medicine,” said Dr. Hixon. “This will help our graduates to address the growing need for treatment of this segment of the population.”

According to data from the Physician Assistant Educator Association’s annual report, eight percent of physician assistants nationwide come from diverse ethnic backgrounds. Among the 24 members enrolled in Westfield State’s first cohort, nine (38%) self-identified as other than white. “We aim to create an innovative curriculum that addresses the needs of our region and those identified nationwide,” said Dr. Hixon.

Under the terms of the ARC-PA, Accreditation-Provisional is an accreditation status granted when the plans and resource allocation, if fully implemented as planned, of a proposed program that has not yet enrolled students appear to demonstrate the program’s ability to meet the ARC-PA Standards.