Physician Assistant examing male

Master of Physician Assistant

SMU's Physician Assistant Department prepares graduates for the practice of medicine in diverse communities and with interprofessional teams.

Campus Location

Format

  • On Campus

Program Duration

  • 27 Months

Deadlines

Prepare for a Career in Health Care

Mission Statement:  The Master Physician Assistant Department at Samuel Merritt University strives to serve the University and the medical community by preparing graduates who are interdependent medical providers, demonstrate commitment to the community and the profession through active leadership, manifest critical and creative thinking, utilize effective communication skills, and who possess the educational foundation for continued growth and development in a changing world of diverse cultures.

Program Learning Outcomes:  All graduates of the SMU PA Program are expected to demonstrate proficiency in medical knowledge, communication skills and teamwork, patient-centered care, professional development and evidence-based practice.

Our PAs experience an inclusive and diverse campus culture that supports student success in a collaborative learning environment. Extensive use of medical simulation technology, a cadaver lab, and opportunities for community service enhance learning.

Accreditation: At its June 2019 meeting, the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc. (ARC-PA) placed the Samuel Merritt University Physician Assistant Program sponsored by Samuel Merritt University on Accreditation-Probation status until its next review in June 2021.

Probation is a status of temporary accreditation conferred when a program does not meet the Standards and when the capacity of the program to provide an acceptable educational experience for its students is threatened.

Once placed on probation, a program that fails to comply with accreditation requirements in a timely manner, as specified by the ARC-PA, may be scheduled for a focused site visit and/or risk having its accreditation withdrawn.

Specific questions regarding the Program and its plans should be directed to the Program Director and/or the appropriate institutional official(s).

What We Look For: Core Values

  • Interpersonal/interprofessional communication
  • Teamwork
  • Critical thinking
  • Patient interaction/exposure
  • Responsibility
  • Technical skill
  • Medical knowledge

Featured Events

Program Requirements and Info

At its June 2019 meeting, the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc. (ARC-PA) placed the Samuel Merritt University Physician Assistant Program sponsored by Samuel Merritt University on Accreditation-Probation status until its next review in June 2021.

Probation is a status of temporary accreditation conferred when a program does not meet the Standards and when the capacity of the program to provide an acceptable educational experience for its students is threatened.

Once placed on probation, a program that fails to comply with accreditation requirements in a timely manner, as specified by the ARC-PA, may be scheduled for a focused site visit and/or risk having its accreditation withdrawn.

Specific questions regarding the Program and its plans should be directed to the Program Director and/or the appropriate institutional official(s).

A Message From the Program Chair

The Samuel Merritt University Master Physician Assistant Program has a 20-year history of excellence in PA education. During our most recent self-study and accreditation review process, issues pertaining to the clinical year and how we collect and analyze data regarding our students’ supervised clinical practice experiences were raised. These issues, as well as a few logistical and administrative program issues, led to a decision to place the SMU PA Program on a probationary accreditation status. This is a temporary designation allowing the program time to comply fully with accreditation standards and expectations. The SMU PA Program remains an accredited program during its probationary period.

The SMU PA Program immediately engaged the resources of the University which is fully supportive of our efforts. Together the Department faculty and University administration will work to address issues raised in this review and restore our accreditation status to “Accreditation-Continuing.” We have every confidence that we will achieve this outcome together. In the interim, the SMU PA Program remains a strong, experienced program and faculty and will continue our efforts to train the best PA’s possible.

Sincerely,

Mike DeRosa, PhD, PA-C
Chair, Master of Physician Assistant program
MDeRosa@samuelmerritt.edu
510.879.9280

Certification Exams, Graduation, and Employment Rates

Certification Pass Rates (First-Time Takers Only)
2018 Pass Rate (PANCE)      78%
2017 Pass Rate (PANCE)      96%
2016 Pass Rate (PANCE)      95%

Graduation Rate*
2016-2017 Cohort      93%
2015-2016 Cohort      91%

*%  of Entering Cohort that Graduated Within 150% of Expected Time

Employment Rate in the Profession (within 6 months of graduation)**
2016-2017 graduating class      94%
2015-2016 graduating class     100%
2014-2015 graduating class     100%

**Employment data only includes graduates who responded to SMU Alumni Survey; employment rate not necessarily representative of graduates who did not respond to SMU Alumni Survey.

The MPA is an entry-level master’s degree designed for those who have already earned a Bachelor's degree. Your major can be in any field. 

In addition to fulfilling all prerequisites with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 as calculated by CASPA, competitive applicants will have experience in healthcare, three letters of references including one from a Physician Assistant, writing samples and an all-day in-person interview at SMU. You do not need to take the GRE exam. If you are an international medical applicant, you will need to submit your TOEFL score and an evaluation of your academic transcript by a U.S. evaluation service that is a member of NACES.

In 2017, out of 2,174 applicants, we interviewed about 150 prospective students and selected a class of 44. In 2019 the program will admit 69 students in Oakland and Fresno. Admitted students had overall GPAs between 3.20 and 3.48.

The first four semesters of the MPA curriculum are devoted to basic medical and clinical science. The final three semesters (one year) involve full-time clinical experiences in primary care, geriatric and emergency medicine, and surgery. All courses are required; no transfer or advanced placement credit is offered. All students must be enrolled full-time.

Due to the rigorous nature of the MPA Program, being employed outside the University while enrolled is strongly discouraged. 

We strive to graduate medical providers who demonstrate a commitment to the community and the profession through active leadership, critical and creative thinking, effective communication skills, and an ability to learn from their patients and other members of interprofessional teams. 

The PA program leads to a master's degree. Our goals for our program and our students:

  • To educate highly skilled, knowledgeable Physician Assistants who contribute to the provision of high-quality health care to all individuals in a wide variety of clinical settings
  • To provide rigorous didactic and clinical education in the basic and behavioral sciences and medical disciplines necessary to produce excellent clinicians
  • To enhance appreciation for social and cultural effects on the delivery of health care through exposure to a wide variety of clinical settings reflecting the diversity of patients and the communities in which they reside
  • To equip students with an understanding of health policies and delivery systems to promote their participation as health care leaders in identifying solutions to community and professional endeavors
  • To educate students in the current information exchange systems and their associated technologies to enhance their productivity as students and professionals
  • To support and encourage service to the profession and leadership activities through involvement in Physician Assistant professional organizations.
  • A regionally accredited bachelor’s degree with the appropriate pre-requisite courses completed by time of application

  • Minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0; competitive applicants will have above a 3.2

  • Minimum undergraduate science GPA of 3.0; competitive applicants will have above a 3.2

  • Health care experience, paid or volunteer: 1,000 hours of related direct patient contact, and a minimum of 50 hours shadowing a physician assistant

  • Three letters of reference from healthcare providers; one must be from a physician assistant

  • Writing samples as described in the CASPA application

  • In-person interview

2018 PA Admitted Student Profile
Applicants1865
Admitted61
Seats Available44
Overall GPA Range
(range for middle 50% of admitted students)
3.23-3.55
Science GPA Range
(range for middle 50% of admitted students)
3.22-3.63

 

All prerequisite courses must be completed with a grade of “C-“ or better. All prerequisites must be completed by the time of application.

A minimum of 16 semesters or 24 quarter units of biological sciences are required. Biological sciences courses must include classes in: anatomy, physiology, microbiology and an additional biology elective.  See additional details below.

Prerequisite Requirement, Semester or Quarter Units

Human Anatomy*,introductory or advanced course is acceptable, no lab required. A combined course in A&P can be used to meet the requirement only if two combined A&P courses are presented, 4.0 semester or 6.0 quarter units

Human Physiology *, Introductory or advanced course is acceptable, no lab required. A combined course in A&P can be used to meet the requirement only if two combined A&P courses are presented, 4.0 semester or 6.0 quarter units

Microbiology*, introductory or advanced course is acceptable, no lab required, 4.0 semester or 6.0 quarter units

Biology Elective, any area of the biological sciences, 4.0 semester or 6.0 quarter units

Statistics, introductory or advanced course is acceptable, 3.0 semester or 3.0 quarter units

Inorganic/General Chemistry*, we will accept a standard Inorganic Chemistry course. Or the first course of a General Chemistry course series. We require chemistry courses at the level a biology or premed major would complete, 4.0 semester or 6.0 quarter units

Organic Chemistry*, we will accept a standard Organic Chemistry course or the second course of a General Chemistry course series. We require chemistry courses at the level a biology or premed major would complete, 4.0 semester or 6.0 quarter units

*Strong preference will be given to those who have completed these courses within the past 5 years. This recency recommendation is less stringent for those currently working in the health care field.
 

Health Care Experience

The MPA program defines health care experience as direct, "hands-on" patient contact that is paid and/or volunteer and reflects the core values listed above.  This experience can be gained through a variety of paid or volunteer work includ­ing, but not necessarily limited to: EMT, paramedic, certified nursing assistant, medical assistant, phlebotomist, scribe, registered nurse, medic, etc.

Most competitive applicants will have a minimum of 1,000 hours of related direct patient contact in addition to a minimum of 50 hours shadowing a Physician Assistant. We acknowledge that applicants may have diverse health care experiences.  It is the applicant’s responsibility to address how their particular experience incorporates the core program values in the application.  This can be accomplished in the job duties and/or personal statement.

Interviews

Upon receipt of your verified application from CASPA, the review process will begin. Approximately 144 individuals will be invited to interview and a class of 44 will be accepted. Academic potential, personal integrity and maturity, interpersonal skills and knowledge of the health care system in the United States are all part of the evaluation process and weigh heavily in the final admission decision.  The interview is a mandatory, all day, on campus interview. 

Students who need disability accommodations may request them by emailing Elisa Laird-Metke at drc@samuelmerritt.edu. Please give as much notice as you can to allow time to set them up. Further information about the Disability Resource Center can be found here

GRE Scores

Results from the GRE exam are not required for admission into the MPA program.

International Medical Graduates

International medical graduates and students educated abroad may apply for admission. Regardless of previous professional training and academic degrees earned, Samuel Merritt's MPA curriculum must be completed in its entirety; Samuel Merritt University’s MPA program does not offer advanced placement. 

  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is required of all International Medical Graduates.

All international academic transcripts must be evaluated by a U.S. evaluation service that is a member of the National Association of Credential Evaluations Services (NACES) for degree, course content, semester unit equivalencies and science and cumulative GPAs prior to the application deadline. The evaluation must be sent to CASPA as part of the application.  Information on NACES may be found at www.naces.org. For all applicants educated outside the United States it is strongly recommended that they complete one semester (15 units) of graduate or undergraduate coursework at a U.S. college or university. In addition, all other admission requirements must be met.

TOEFL

The need for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is required of all international medical graduates and scores should be submitted with the application. The need for a TOEFL for other applicants will be assessed based on information provided by applicants on their application. If the TOEFL is required, applicants must achieve a minimum score of 100 (Internet Based Test). Scores must be submitted during the application process.

Application Fees
Application fees are payable to the Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA). Samuel Merritt University does not charge an additional admission fee.

Non-Refundable Deposits and Fees
Students offered admission pay a non-refundable tuition deposit of $350 to secure their seat in the class.

Application fees and tuition deposits are non-refundable, whether or not the student withdraws in the first week of the term.

Policies and procedures for refunds of tuition and fees can be found in the Student Handbook and Catalog.

Tuition Calculator
There is a tuition calculator that provides a detailed summary of annual tuition, all fees for the program, and a cost estimator for the entire program.

Tuition Calculator

Graduate education to become a Physician Assistant is a significant, important, and valuable investment in your future. The Physician Assistant program at Samuel Merritt University is proud to offer a variety of ways to assist in funding your education including scholarships, work-study, and student loans. The first step in applying for financial aid at SMU is to submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

The PA program SMU offers scholarships and an assortment of resources for funding opportunities outside of the program. Most scholarships are awarded on the basis of financial need. A limited number are awarded for academic merit. Scholarships for Physician Assistants include:

  • Sharon Clark Diaz
  • Employee Campaign
  • Marshall Steele, Jr.
  • Hitchcock Heydman
  • Henry & Bernice Bigge
  • Faculty Scholarship
  • Alumni Scholarship
  • Elks of the Year
  • William Breslin

WICHE – Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education.  WICHE grants are available for students from certain geographical areas of the country.  More information is available at the WICHE website, www.wiche.edu.Your Financial Aid Package at Samuel Merritt University is personalized to you.  We develop your financial aid package using guidelines set by the Department of Education and the estimated costs of each program.

In addition to the cost of tuition, books and fees, financial aid can also cover other indirect educational costs, so the total cost of attendance includes:

  • Books and Supplies
  • Room and Board
  • Transportation
  • Personal Expenses
  • Other fees as determined by program/college

Once you receive your financial aid package, check this budget against your actual living expenses and we can make necessary adjustments to meet your needs.

Detailed information about financial aid, budgeting, total cost and application processes are available on the webpage.

https://www.samuelmerritt.edu/admissions/affording-smu/financial-aid-and-scholarships

We realize that the financial aid process can be difficult and overwhelming.  We are here to help.  Financial Aid staff can assist with budgeting, understanding your awards and understanding the process.  The SMU staff is committed to each and every prospective student and enrolled student.  We have an open door policy and are available via phone or email.

finaid@samuelmerritt.edu or 510-879-9200

 

The first 15 months (four semesters) of the curriculum are devoted to the preclinical studies of the basic medical and clinical science necessary for practice as a physician assistant. The final 12 months (three semesters) of the curriculum are full-time clinical experiences in primary care, medicine and surgery. All courses are required, no transfer credit is accepted and no advanced placement is offered. All students must be enrolled on a full-time basis.

The Thirteenth Annual Report on Physician Assistant Education published in 1996 examines the curricula of all entry-level Masters PA programs by hours of instruction in the areas of basic medical and behavioral science, physical assessment and clinical medicine during the first year of the program. In the basic sciences the average hours of instruction were 451.0; Samuel Merritt's curriculum provides 405 hours. Behavioral science instruction averaged 182.4 hours; Samuel Merritt includes 195 hours. Didactic medicine accounted for 341.8 (meeting) hours of instruction and Samuel Merritt provides for 390 hours. Samuel Merritt allots 48 hours for the instruction of special skills which is the national average. Overall, the arrangement of instructional hours as designed by Samuel Merritt compares favorably with the nationally reported figures for master's degree programs.

For more information on the courses, read the Course Descriptions.

Preclinical Studies

Fall I
PA601 + LAB  Human Gross Anatomy + Cadaver Lab  5.0
PA603  Microbiology and Infectious Disease  3.0
PA615 + LAB  Physical Diagnosis  4.0
PA617 + LAB  Interpersonal and Interprofessional Communication  2.0
PA690  Introduction to Evidence Based Practice (online)  2.0

Spring I
PA602  Physiology and Mechanisms of Disease I  3.0
PA620  Medicine I  4.0
PA660  Integrating Seminar I  1.0
PA608  Pharmacology I  3.0
PA646  Behavioral Medicine  3.0
PA630  Ethics & Professionalism (online)  2.0

Summer I
PA604  Physiology and Mechanisms of Disease II  3.0
PA621  Medicine II  4.0
PA609  Pharmacology II  3.0
PA628 LAB  Diagnostic Methods (Radiology)  1.0
PA631 LAB  Interpretation of EKG  1.0
PA624  Geriatrics  2.0
PA661  Integrating Seminar II  1.0

Fall II
PA622  Pediatrics  3.0
PA623  Obstetrics and Gynecology  3.0
PA625  The Role of the PA in General Surgery  3.0
PA626  Emergency Medicine  3.0
PA629 LAB  Clinical Skills  1.0
PA662  Integrating Seminar III  1.0
PA627  Health Policy and Systems of Healthcare  2.0
PA605 LAB  Clinical Simulations  1.0

Spring II
PA607  Pre-Clinical Preparation  3.0
PA606  Summative Evaluation  3.0

Clinical Rotations January through December (Spring II-Summer II-Fall III)
Clinical Year

The 12-month-long clinical phase is composed of seven required and two elective rotations. Students are also required to complete a supervised clinical practice experience in Behavioral and Mental Health during their clinical year. Rotations are completed in inpatient and outpatient settings, long term care centers, and emergency departments.* Required rotations are:

PA680 - Family Medicine Clerkship  2.0
PA681 - Internal Medicine Clerkship  2.0
PA682 - General Surgery Clerkship  2.0
PA683 - Pediatric Clerkship  2.0
PA684 - Geriatric Clerkship  2.0
PA685 - Obstetrics and Gynecology Clerkship  2.0
PA686 - Emergency Medicine Clerkship  2.0
PA687 - Elective I  2.0
PA688 - Elective II  2.0
Total units  18.0

* Order of rotations in clinical year will vary.

As part of the clinical year, students return to the program for seminars in resume writing, risk management and malpractice insurance, California practice regulations, and other related to the transition from school to practice. In addition, students complete ACLS early in the clinical year.

PA students are expected to develop a robust medical knowledge base and requisite clinical skills, with the ability to appropriately apply knowledge and skills, effectively interpret information, and contribute to patient-centered decisions across a broad spectrum of medical situations in all settings. The following technical standards, in conjunction with the academic standards, are requirements for admission, promotion, and graduation. The term “candidate” refers to candidates for admission to PA school as well as current PA students who are candidates for retention, promotion, or graduation.

These requirements may be achieved with or without reasonable accommodations, the cost of which will be borne by the institution. These standards should not serve as a deterrent to any candidate with disabilities who desires to pursue medical education. Candidates with disabilities bring unique perspectives which contribute to the diversity of the student population and will create a diverse health care workforce of culturally competent practitioners who can meet the needs of their patients. Candidates with disabilities are encouraged to contact the Disability Resource Center to begin a confidential conversation about possible accommodations necessary to meet these standards. Fulfillment of the technical standards for graduation from PA school does not guarantee that a graduate will be able to fulfill the technical requirements of any specific clinical position.

Observational Skills

A candidate must acquire information as presented through demonstrations and experiences in foundational sciences. In addition, a candidate must be able to evaluate a patient accurately and assess relevant health, behavioral and medical information.  Candidates must be able to obtain and interpret information through comprehensive assessment of patients, correctly interpret diagnostic representations of patient physiologic data, and accurately evaluate patient conditions and responses. 

Communication Skills

Candidates must exhibit interpersonal skills to enable effective caregiving of patients, including the ability to communicate effectively in English with all members of a multidisciplinary health care team, patients, and their families in person and in writing. Candidates must be able to clearly and accurately record information and accurately interpret verbal and non-verbal communication.

Patient Care Skills

Candidates must perform physical examinations and diagnostic maneuvers. A candidate should be able to perform or direct basic laboratory tests (urinalysis, wet mount, etc.), diagnostic and therapeutic procedures (venipuncture, placement of catheters and tubes, lumbar puncture, suturing, etc.), and interpret electrocardiograms and imaging studies.  A candidate must be able to provide or direct general care and emergency treatment for patients, and respond to emergency situations in a timely manner; examples of emergency treatments reasonably required of a physician assistant include, but are not limited to, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, administration of intravenous medications, application of pressure to arrest bleeding, opening obstructed airways, and performance of obstetrical maneuvers.  Candidates must meet applicable safety standards for the environment and follow universal precaution procedures.

Intellectual-Conceptual, Integrative, and Cognitive Skills

Candidates must be able to learn through a variety of modalities, including but not limited to, classroom instruction; laboratory, including cadaver lab; small group, team and collaborative activities; individual study; preparation and presentation of reports; and use of computer technology.  A candidate must effectively interpret, assimilate and understand the complex information required to function within the PA school curriculum including, but not limited to, the ability to comprehend three-dimensional relationships and understand the spatial relationships of structures; effectively participate in individual, small group, and lecture learning modalities in the classroom, clinical and community settings; learn, participate, collaborate and contribute as a part of a team; synthesize information both in person and via remote technology; interpret causal connections and make accurate, fact-based conclusions based on available data and information; formulate a hypothesis, investigate the potential answers and outcomes; and reach appropriate and accurate conclusions. A candidate must be able to find sources of knowledge and acquire the knowledge through various modalities, and possess the ability to be a life-long learner.

Behavioral Attributes, Social Skills and Professional Expectations

A candidate must be able to exercise good judgment, promptly complete all responsibilities attendant to the diagnosis and care of patients, and develop mature, sensitive, and effective relationships with patients. The skills required to do so include the ability to effectively handle and manage heavy workloads, function effectively under stress, adapt to changing environments, to display flexibility, and to learn to function in the face of uncertainties inherent in the clinical problems of patients. Candidates are expected to exhibit professionalism, personal accountability, compassion, integrity, concern for others, and interpersonal skills including the ability to accept and apply feedback and to respect boundaries and care for all individuals in a respectful and effective manner regardless of gender identity, age, race, sexual orientation, religion, disability, or any other protected status. Candidates should understand, and function within, the legal and ethical aspects of the practice of medicine, and maintain and display ethical and moral behaviors commensurate with the role of a physician assistant in all interactions with patients, faculty, staff, students and the public. Interest and motivation throughout the educational processes are expected of all candidates.

Why Choose SMU for PA?

Our program offers personalized attention that prepares you for national certification.

95%

PANCE First-Time Pass Rate from 2001-19

SMU's PA certification pass rates exceed the national average.

No. 1

Best Health Care Job

U.S. News & World Report Best Jobs rankings.

$113k

Median Annual Salary for PAs in California

Becoming a PA can be a financially rewarding career path.

An Inside Look at the PA Program

Our students participate in simulations and other hands-on learning opportunities in state-of-the-art facilities.

Faculty

Our PA faculty are dedicated to training students to become occupational therapists who help their patients live stronger and healthier lives. Our faculty are recognized experts in clinical reasoning, ethics, and the best practices in teaching and learning of graduate health professions students.

SMU Perspectives