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Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies (4+2 year graduate program), MSPAS

Overview

The PA profession is one of the fastest growing healthcare careers nationwide and was recently ranked as a top five healthcare job by U.S. News & World Report. With career growth and longevity projected, where you study and earn your master's degree matters.

We believe that DeSales MSPAS graduates are a unique, compassionate breed of Physician Assistants. Choosing the DeSales MSPAS means you acknowledge our rigorous, fulfilling program supported by many distinct advantages:

  • Winner of National Medical Challenge Bowl 5 times
  • Winners of the Pennsylvania Medical Challenge Bowl 11 times
  • Technologically advanced training and learning facilities
  • Curriculum fully integrated in clinical medicine, pathophysiology, and pharmacology
  • Clinical year (year two) consists of nine, five-week rotations
  • Labs replicate a real world healthcare delivery setting
  • 99.3 percent pass rate on the national certifying exam since the program's inception

Our MSPAS will not only prepare you for the PANCE (national certifying exam) but also to assume your role as a practicing, caring physician assistant. With the way our program is structured, you learn the entire spectrum of the disease processes rather than learning about diseases in different classes at different times.

View Program Goals & Outcomes

standardized patient lab

In your first year, you'll have the ability to broaden your clinical experiences by interacting with patients immediately upon matriculation through our "Friday morning rotations." Each week you'll attend a rotation site for four hours to enhance your classroom instruction.

The MSPAS consists of 99 credits:

  • Year One (Didactic) - 54 credits
  • Year Two - Clinical Rotations - 45 credits

Video: Learn More

Admissions Requirements

Admission into our MSPAS program is highly competitive. We welcome high caliber graduate students who want to make a positive impact in the delivery of healthcare as Physician Assistants.

Decisions on placement are based on impressive academic achievement, but also on demonstrated quality performance in science and/or healthcare related courses, as well as motivation and professional potential, and strong interpersonal skills.

What You'll Need
To qualify for admission into the graduate program you must have submitted your application through CASPA—and it must be verified—by December 1 and have completed, or be in the process of completing, all of the following items:

  • Provide CASPA with official transcripts from all colleges attended and three (3) letters of recommendation.
  • A minimum of a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited institution in the United States or, for international students, the equivalent degree from a foreign institution. Applicants who completed a baccalaureate degree outside the United States must provide official transcript evaluations to CASPA. Transcript evaluations must be performed by a NACES approved credential evaluation service.
  • All prerequisite coursework prior to matriculation into the program. Please note: Anatomy & Physiology I, Anatomy & Physiology II and Microbiology must have been taken within five years of applying to the program, unless an applicant has remained clinically active in the health care arena. Inquire with mspas@desales.edu for more information about prerequisite currency requirements. Challenge exams will be considered on an individual basis.
  • A minimum GPA of 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) overall and in the sciences.
  • Complete the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and submit official score report to CASPA using the DeSales University Program code 0540. MCAT scores may be provided in place of the GRE. There is no minimum score requirement for either exam.
  • A minimum of 500 hours of health care experience (paid, volunteer or shadowing). The experience must be completed within the United States due to the wide variety of health care delivery systems around the world. All 500 hours must be completed prior to matriculation into the Program but does not need to be completed before the application is submitted. We recommend having completed at least half of the minimum required hours by the time you submit your application. The most useful health care hours relate to direct patient contact, e.g., working as an EMT, surgical technician, dietitian, campus health center volunteer, Certified Nursing Assistant, pharmacy technician, medical assistant, medical scribe, etc.. Usually, the more diverse an applicant's experience is prior to entering the program, the better equipped he/she is for clinical work. Shadowing of clinically active physician assistants is also encouraged in order for you to gain an understanding of their role. Hours should be documented by a supervisor but official documentation does not need to be provided as a part of the application process.
  • For applicants who completed their baccalaureate degree in a country where English is not the primary language, an official copy of the TOEFL exam must be provided to CASPA or directly to DeSales University. A minimum score of 100 is required for admission.

Additional information

  • Potentially qualified applicants will be granted a personal interview by invitation only, attempting to ascertain your awareness of the physician assistant role, willingness to work under the supervision of a physician, motivation for pursuing a physician assistant career, interpersonal and oral communication skills, compassion, problem-solving abilities, and dedication to serving individuals in vulnerable populations.
  • The Physician Assistant Program at DeSales University is a full-time academic program. Advanced placement is not possible. There is no credit awarded for experiential learning. The courses are completed in sequence as listed in the curriculum.
  • Applicants who are alumni of DeSales University will be granted interviews for admission if they meet the minimum requirements for admission, as outlined above.
  • The Admissions Committee takes into consideration an individual's experience working with and/or serving vulnerable or traditionally under-served populations when evaluating his or her application for admission. This is in keeping with DeSales University's mission of Christian Humanism and service to diverse populations.
  • Because DeSales University participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program, the Admissions Committee gives special consideration to applicants who have served or are currently serving in the U.S. military.

Important Deadlines

  • DECEMBER 1 - CASPA VERIFICATION
    To receive full consideration into the MSPAS for the next academic year, your CASPA application must be verified by CASPA no later than December 1.
APPLY NOW THROUGH CASPA

CASPA
The DeSales MSPAS is a recognized participating program through CASPA, a service of the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA). CASPA is the only organization representing PA educational programs nationwide, and has been offered to applicants since 2001. The online application is designed to simplify the PA school application process by allowing students to apply to several programs with only one application.

Curriculum

The DeSales PA Program Advantages Include...

  • Integrated curriculum, 95 percent of which is taught by the full-time PA faculty
  • All our faculty are clinicians and the curriculum is clinically oriented
  • Early clinical experiences in the first year of the program
  • World-class facilities in the Gambet Center for Healthcare and Business Education, including:
    • a human anatomy lab
    • simulation rooms with remote-controlled high-fidelity manikins
  • Affiliation with over 900 clinical preceptors—you can complete the entire clinical year without having to relocate.
  • Help from five clinical coordinators and a clinical assistant on staff to place you in each of your nine rotations.
  • Close proximity to the vast majority of our clinical sites—within 30 minutes of the University. Some are located approximately an hour's drive from campus, but these are optional and offer free housing.     
  • Elective rotations at local and nationally renowned sites.
  • Options to complete your elective rotation abroad in Manchay, Peru or Arusha, Tanzania. One elective rotation is required during the clinical year.

Course Requirements

The MSPAS is a two-year program.
Year one is didactic — students are in class full time for 12 months. In year two, students participate in clinical rotations over 12 months.

Fall

  • PA 501 - Clinical Anatomy and Physiology (4 credits)
  • PA 502 - History and Physical Examination I (3 credits)
  • PA 504 - Clinical Medicine I (4 credits)
  • PA 510 - Pharmacology I (2 credits)
  • PA 515 - Pathophysiology I (2 credits)
  • PA 619 - Preventative Medicine and Health Promotion (1 credit)
  • PA 506 - Clinical Reasoning I (2 credits)

Spring

  • PA 503 - History and Physical Examination II (3 credits)
  • PA 505 - Clinical Medicine II (4 credits)
  • PA 511 - Pharmacology II (2 credits)
  • PA 513 - Diagnostic Methods I (1 credit)
  • PA 516 - Pathophysiology II (2 credits)
  • PA 517 - Research Seminar (1 credit)
  • PA 575 - Ethics of Health Care (Values Seminar) (3 credits)
  • PA 507 - Clinical Reasoning II (2 credits)

Summer

  • PA 508 - Physician Assistant History and Role (1 credit)
  • PA 606 - Clinical Medicine III (4 credits)
  • PA 607 - Behavioral Aspects of Medicine (3 credits)
  • PA 612 - Pharmacology III (2 credits)
  • PA 614 - Diagnostic Methods II (1 credit)
  • PA 617 - Pathophysiology III (2 credits)
  • PA 618 - Clinical Skills Development (2 credits)
  • PA 620 - Advanced Cardiac Life Support (1 credit)
  • PA 608 - Clinical Reasoning III (2 credits)

Year Two - Clinical Rotations (45 credits)
In the second year, students complete nine clinical rotations over the course of a 12 month period.

Core Clinical Rotations

  • PA 630 - Emergency Medicine (5 credits)
  • PA 631 - Family Medicine I (5 credits)
  • PA 632 - Family Medicine II (5 credits)
  • PA 633 - Internal Medicine (5 credits)
  • PA 634 - OB/GYN (5 credits)
  • PA 635 - Pediatrics (5 credits)
  • PA 636 - Psychiatry (5 credits)
  • PA 637 - General Surgery (5 credits)
  • PA 799 - Elective Rotation (5 credits)

Facilities

At DeSales, replicating authentic healthcare delivery environments is critical to successful learning and skills application.

To further this approach, most of our clinic-like facilities and labs are shared with our acclaimed nursing program students. You study and practice in state-of-the-art healthcare settings that emulate actual clinical facilities with your peers—other student healthcare colleagues.

The Area's Only Gross Anatomy Lab

Gross Anatomy Lab
Complete with cadavers, our Gross Anatomy Laboratory enhances the training of physician assistant students, giving them a real understanding of the human body. Most physician assistant programs only have cadaver labs if they are associated with medical schools. However, because DeSales has the only cadaver lab in the region, we offer opportunities for shared use in partnership with area hospitals.

Healthcare Simulation Lab

Simulation Lab
Patient simulation technology has come a long way in recent years, and DeSales University has invested in advanced technological mannequins that allow students to perform various medical procedures while receiving real-time feedback in much the same way they would from a human patient. The mannequins breathe, have a pulse, have eyes that dilate, and can react to various drugs. Our "sim lab" features four adult mannequins, including one that gives birth to an infant mannequin, and three pediatric mannequins, including two babies and one 6-year-old.

Standardized Patient Area

standardized patient lab
The Gambet Center also features a Standardized Patient Area—a clinic-style suite that mimics a functioning healthcare office, complete with a waiting room and fully equipped examination rooms. Standardized patients are people who are specially trained to act as patients for the instruction, practice, and assessment of the medical examination skills of medical students, nurses, physician assistants, and other health care providers. They will be treated by DeSales physician assistant and nursing students and provide feedback.

The Gambet Center

The facility features simulation laboratories to mirror clinical scenarios specific to adult, pediatric, and birthing care for undergraduate and graduate healthcare degree programs.  

Video: Tour the Gambet Center

Tuition & Fees

Program Costs

  • Tuition per term: $13,500*
  • Professional fee each semester: $750 per term
  • Applications only accepted through CASPA: $0 for DeSales, CASPA fees as required*
  • Graduation fee: $120
  • Returned check service: $30

Important MSPAS Financial Aid/Cost Documents by Class Start

* Tuition rates are subject to increase. Final rates for these terms will be approved by Board of Trustees.

Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies (MSPAS) Refund Amount

  • Withdrawal after 1st class: 80% of tuition refunded
  • Withdrawal after 2nd class: 65% of tuition refunded
  • Withdrawal after 3rd class: 50% of tuition refunded
  • Withdrawal after 4th class: 25% of tuition refunded
  • Withdrawal after 5th class: No refund

International Opportunities

The DeSales University physician assistant program is proud to offer 5-week and 1-week elective international rotations.

Five-week rotations are offered in Peru and Tanzania, one-week rotations are offered in Honduras.

These rotations are offered in support of the DeSales University mission, “to enrich the human community and enhance the dignity of the individual through its educational endeavors.” Because of increasing interest in global health, the DeSales University physician assistant program believes it is vital to offer structured, streamlined, educationally sound, ethically-responsible experiences for students to learn about medical care in developing country settings.

5-Week Rotation: Peru
Students work with Dr. Giordano Uchofen at the Centro Médico de Manchay, a semi-desert area of hills outside of the Peruvian capital. It is home to 80,000 people, mainly poor indigenous migrants from the highlands, 55% of whom are living in absolute poverty. In the clinic, students will have the opportunity to work in many areas: pediatrics, psychiatry, physical therapy, outpatient surgery, urgent care, and dentistry. 

5-Week Rotation: Tanzania
Students work at two locations, a local dispensary at Lumen Christi Institute in Maji ya Chai and Meru District hospital. In the dispensary, they work with a physician and physician-assistant analogue (called a Clinical Officer), and provide basic primary care to local villagers. At the hospital, which serves a population of 300,000, they rotate among many wards: diabetes, mother/baby, pediatric, general medicine, HIV, surgery, and dental. The hospital offers primary diagnostic services like x-rays, ultrasound and laboratory services as well 2 operating theatres.

1-Week Rotation: Honduras
The 1-week rotations are generally offered in January and July in Honduras. Students have the opportunity to work with a DeSales University physician assistant alumnus, Jackie Borst, who started the non-profit International Impact through Medicine Foundation. Patients are seen in an on-site clinic in Zambrano, as well as in a remote mountainous region of Honduras where a 2-day mobile clinic is offered.

What You'll Learn Abroad
More importantly than simply learning about how medicine is practiced in a different environment, DeSales physician assistant students who participate in the international experiences will learn the following:

  • The relationship between health and the social determinants of health
  • Barriers to health and healthcare in low-resource settings
  • Major causes of morbidity and mortality in the region in which they are working
  • Healthcare delivery strategies in low-resource settings
  • Cultural and ethical issues in working with underserved populations
  • Adaptability of clinical skills and practice in a resource-constrained environment
  • Humility, flexibility, professionalism, and cultural sensitivity when working within a different healthcare context
  • DeSales PA students in Tanzania DeSales PA students Rachel Sverchek and Julia Krakauer on clinical rotation in Tanzania.
    ARC-PA-Logo

    ARC-PA Accreditation

    The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) has granted Accreditation-Continued status to the DeSales University Physician Assistant Program sponsored by  DeSales  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 June 2027. The review date is contingent upon continued compliance with the Accreditation  Standards and ARC-PA policy.

    Visit ARC-PA

    PANCE Rates

    The DeSales PA program excels at PANCE preparation, with a near-perfect first-time pass rate since the program began

    PANCE is the only exam given to graduating physician assistants and it must be passed in order to be eligible for licensure in all 50 states.

    The DeSales MSPAS program is accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). Therefore, when you graduate you are eligible to sit for the PANCE (Physician Assistant National Certification Examination).

    See DeSales' PANCE rates
    PANCE -SCORES

    The DeSales Free Clinic

    Located inside the Allentown Rescue Mission in the heart of center city Allentown, Pennsylvania, the DeSales Free Clinic allows our PA students to deliver competent and compassionate medical care to one of the area's most vulnerable populations.

    Learn More 
    DeSales Free Clinic