PA Program Classroom Training

Physician Assistant

The nationally ranked Physician Assistant Program at Commonwealth University is designed based on the medical model that emphasizes basic sciences, clinical sciences, and the critical thinking skills required to complement physician practice.

Degrees & Offerings
  • M.H.S.
Location
  • Clearfield
  • Lock Haven
Department
College
Program Contact
Chair of the the Department of Physician Assistant / Associate Professor
Program Director / Assistant Professor, School of Graduate Studies
Illustration of Mountain

Program Details

  • Program Delivery – Offered in Lock Haven, Clearfield, and Harrisburg. Each location includes a dedicated classroom with state-of-the-art academic technology to link the campus locations as well as anatomy labs, physical exam labs, and study space.
  • Faculty Core PA Program faculty are available onsite at all campus locations and consist of physicians, physician assistants, pharmacologists, and professors of basic human and social sciences from Lock Haven. Learn more about our program faculty.
  • Service Opportunities – Available both locally and internationally. Recent international travel has included Jamaica, Costa Rica, and Honduras.
  • Program Length – 24 months in duration. The first year (didactic phase) of the PA Program is primarily based in the classroom and lab settings while the second year (clinical phase) is primarily based in a variety of clinical settings. Courses are arranged so that foundational information is learned early and provides students with confidence and a strong basis for subsequent material. The total number of credits required for the PA Program (Didactic + Clinical Years) is 94.5.
  • NCCPA Results and Attrition Data – Data regarding the Commonwealth University Physician Assistant Program’s results on the PA National Certifying Exam (PANCE) as well as class attrition data can be found on the NCCPA Results and Attrition Data page. You can review the Competencies for Entry-Level Practice here.

Application Process

The Admissions Committee of Commonwealth University's Physician Assistant Program welcomes applications beginning in late April with each application cycle for the class to be seated the following May. Potential students should apply to the program through the Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA).

  • Applications must be completed and verified by CASPA by November 1st. It is recommended that applicants submit their applications via CASPA by mid-October to allow adequate time for the application to be verified by CASPA.
  • Candidates are eligible to apply if they will complete all prerequisite courses prior to the start of the program in May.
  • Enrollment in the Physician Assistant Program is limited. Review the criteria students are evaluated on for admission into the program.
  • Applicants must submit three (3) letters of recommendation

Apply Now Request Information Admission Criteria

Courses and Curriculum

The medical content in the didactic phase is designed around the most common problems encountered in primary care. The curriculum is presented in a modular format. Each module corresponds to a body system or medical specialty and contains information regarding: epidemiology, pathophysiology, physical diagnosis, clinical medicine, diagnostic procedures, anatomy, medical reasoning, unique needs of medically underserved populations, medical records/communications, pharmacology, non-pharmacological treatments, and medical research. Most modules include lecture, laboratory, and case-based learning components.

Summer semester (14.5 credits)
  • Modular courses
    • Service Learning Module (1 credit)
    • Introductory Module (5 credits)
    • Women's Health Module (1.5 credits)
    • Urology & Sexually Transmitted Infection Module (0.5 credit)
    • Human Sexuality Module (0.5 credit)
    • Infectious Disease Module (2 credits)
  • Non-modular course
    • Gross Human Anatomy (4 credits)
Fall semester (19 credits)
  • Modular courses
    • Allergy & Immunology Module (1 credit)
    • Hematology Module (1 credit)
    • Ophthalmology Module (1 credit)
    • Dermatology Module (1 credit)
    • Endocrinology Module (1.5 credits)
    • Cardiology Module (3 credits)
    • Pulmonology Module (2 credits)
    • Nephrology Module (1.5 credits)
    • Neurology Module (2 credits)
    • Psychiatry Module (2 credits)
  • Non-modular course
    • Underserved Populations (3 credits)
Spring semester (18 credits)
  • Modular courses
    • Oncology Module (1 credit)
    • Pediatrics Module (2 credits)
    • Orthopedics Module (1 credit)
    • Rheumatology Module (1.5 credits)
    • Gastroenterology Module (1.5 credits)
    • Obstetrics Module (1.5 credits)
    • Otorhinolaryngology Module (1 credit)
    • Geriatrics Module (1 credit)
    • Surgery Module (1.5 credits)
    • Emergency Medicine Module (1.5 credits)
    • Occupational Medicine Module (1 credit)
    • Integrative, Complementary, and Alternative Medicine Module (0.5 credit)
  • Non-modular course
    • Medical Decisions (3 credits)

Notice: Students must earn at least a 3.0 cumulative grade point average in the above courses to successfully complete the didactic phase and transition to the clinical phase of the PA Program.

During the clinical phase of the program, students complete rotations in a variety of settings (inpatient, outpatient, emergency department, operating room) and with various patient populations/conditions (infants, children, adults, elderly, women's health, behavioral/mental health, preventative care, emergent/acute care, chronic conditions, and perioperative management).

Summer Semester (14 credits)
  • Clinical Rotations I (13 credits)
  • Evidence-Based Medicine I (1 credit)
Fall Semester (14 credits)
  • Clinical Rotations II (13 credits)
  • Evidence-Based Medicine II (1 credit)
Spring Semester (15 credits)
  • Clinical Rotations III (14 credits)
  • Evidence-Based Medicine III (1 credit)

Notice: Clinical experiences in the second year emphasize primary care. Students gain depth and breadth of knowledge during eight clinical rotations and one virtual experience. Each rotation is five weeks in duration, with concentrations in the areas of pediatrics, women's health, family medicine, emergency medicine, general internal medicine, general surgery, and psychiatry/behavioral health.

Commonwealth University

Physician Assistant

Illustration of Mountain

Mission & Goals

The mission of the Physician Assistant Program is to educate and train highly-skilled Physician Assistants who:

  • are capable of providing quality health care
  • have expertise in the health care needs of the medically underserved
  • are prepared to critically evaluate, and become leaders in bringing about improvement in the medical and social systems that affect the health of underserved populations
  • will seek and retain employment as primary care Physician Assistants in medically underserved areas of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

Recruit a class each year with at least 50% of the students being from Pennsylvania and that demonstrates academic excellence in both their overall and science GPAs.

Pennsylvania Residents in Matriculated Class
Class# PA residentsTotal # studentsPercentage
Class of 2023447062.9%
Class of 2024396065%
Class of 2025506083.3%

Provide every student with at least one clinical rotation that is in a rural and/or underserved area in preparation for potential future practice in these areas.

Class% of Students With At Least One Underserved and/or Rural Rotation
Class of 202388.9%
Class of 202492.3%

Prepare students for the practice of medicine as evidenced by a PANCE pass rate that is equal to or greater than the national average.

PANCE First-Time Pass Rates
ClassCommonwealth UniversityNational Average
Class of 202392%92%
Class of 202490%92%
Class of 202591%93%

Program Policies

Commonwealth University of Pennsylvania's Physician Assistant Program Policies are designed to guide students, faculty and staff in order to maximize the student experience and promote academic success within the program.

  • Please see the Degree Requirements effective Fall 2023. All enrolled students can also review their degree program requirements and track progress to degree completion in Degree Works.
  • Candidates for the M.H.S. in Physician Assistant Studies must demonstrate technical abilities and skills in five areas outlined in the Technical Standards document.
  • Students must maintain a 3.0 grade point average throughout the entire PA program, as well as the approval of the PA program faculty, to receive the Master of Health Science degree.
  • Employment policies while enrolled in the program:
    • The two-year PA program is concentrated and intense. The program discourages students from employment during either the didactic year or clinical year.
    • Students who choose to be employed during the program must be aware that:
      • Your job must never get in the way of your studies.
      • Employment will never be considered as a valid excuse for those who have trouble coming to class, attending any functions, studying, taking tests or poor academic performance.
      • The program’s lecture schedule and testing schedule can change without advance notification and students must stay flexible for changes.
      • Employment will not be considered a valid excuse for failure to comply with program schedules in these areas.
  • One part time graduate assistant is employed by the university at each campus location to assist with the technical needs of speakers in the classroom and to facilitate security of classroom equipment.
  • Students are not required to perform clerical or administrative work for the program.
  • During clinical experiences students are not to substitute for regular clinical or administrative staff.

Accreditation

The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) has granted Accreditation-Continued status to the Commonwealth University Physician Assistant Program sponsored by Commonwealth University. Accreditation-Continued is an accreditation status granted when a currently accredited program is in compliance with the ARC-PA Standards. Accreditation remains in effect until the program closes or withdraws from the accreditation process or until accreditation is withdrawn for failure to comply with the Standards. The approximate date for the next validation review of the program by the ARC-PA will be September 2027. The review date is contingent upon continued compliance with the Accreditation Standards and ARC-PA policy.

ONWARD and UPWARD

95%
First-Time Pass Rate
on the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (5-year average).
800+
Alumni
Have graduated from the Commonwealth PA Program since 1996.
Doctor Reviewing X-Ray

Program Costs

Our program offers a high quality, cost-effective educational experience for the next generation of Physician Assistants.

Professor using technology table

Our Campuses

At each of our campuses, our faculty deliver courses in technology-enhanced classrooms with vast multimedia capabilities, physical diagnosis labs, anatomy labs, and study spaces.

Preceptor instructing PA students

Become a Preceptor

Interested in becoming a preceptor? Contact us to discuss preceptor opportunities with Commonwealth University.

Program Faculty

CommonwealthU University Employee

Jennifer Bell

  • Chair of the the Department of Physician Assistant / Associate Professor
  • Clearfield
CommonwealthU University Employee

Jacquelyn Borst

  • Program Director / Assistant Professor, School of Graduate Studies
  • Lock Haven

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