The first physician assistant doctorate was awarded by the US army and Baylor University in 2007. The program consists of 18 months in emergency medicine education. Is a doctorate the right move? I believe this is a mistake.
Physician assistants practice medicine. Physicians practice medicine. So, why are we awarding two separate doctorates to two professions that practice medicine? In my opinion, the only doctorate of medicine that should exist is either the MD or DO. There is no reason to award the physician assistant a doctorate. What I do believe in is the option for an MD/DO bridge program. There is no reason a physician assistant should have to start from square one if they wish to become a physician. We have significantly more knowledge in medicine, then someone who graduated with a bachelors in biology; which is why we should get credit for the work we have done.
LECOM is the first university to try this out. They started their bridge program 3 years ago, and…
the original class is finishing up their third year of medical school. The bridge program gives one year credit for the work they have already done. As of this year, LECOM has also removed the MCAT barrier to matriculating into medical school. They are a pioneer in the model, and I am sure they have many kinks to work out. The major difference between medical school and physician assistant schooling is MS-1. The first year of medical school will focuses on the minutia, that many practitioners feel is irrelevant in clinical practice. This includes things like biochemistry, biostatistics, genetics, etc. However, to hold a doctorate in medicine, I feel these are things that need to be learned. The last year can be easily removed, as the majority of this time is spent auditioning for residency programs. Not a lot of learning goes on during this year. The physician assistants who are currently enrolled in the program, have demonstrated outstanding performance thus far.
So, LECOM has reduced their 4 year program to 3 years; this is nice. But, the fact remains that other medical schools have also reduced their number of years to 3, and these are for students who have ZERO experience in medicine. Also, there are many physician assistant programs that have increased theirs to three years, as well. It seems we are extremely confused as to how to approach the medical model. All of these programs are three years in length, and all three are accepting very different applicants. I am all for a bridge program, but I feel that something needs to be fixed here. What I am not for is a doctorate in physician assistant studies. Only time will tell what the next ten years has for the profession.