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CBU To Graduate First Class Of Physician Assistants In Memphis

MEMPHIS — On May 17, Christian Brothers University (CBU) will claim the distinction of graduating the first class of physician assistants educated in the city of Memphis — 31 students who were admitted into the first cohort of the city’s first PA program.

“To be a part of not only the first master’s class in Physician Assistant Studies program at CBU, but also the first in the city of Memphis, is truly an honor,” said Cecilia Maxwell, a member of the graduating class. “I am proud to say that we have set the mark which other physician assistant students and programs may follow. To be a part of the first class is truly a humbling experience.”

Dr. Mark John Scott, director of Physician Assistant Studies at CBU, says that the program is not only groundbreaking, but is also much needed in the city. “The fact that this is the first program in Memphis is innovative in itself, but the PA as well as the BSN programs made CBU competitive in the healthcare market. We literally took a blank sheet of paper and created an entire program.” There was a known need for a program of this sort after a survey gauging the need for physician assistants went out to 100 Mid-South physicians. Eighty percent of the physicians responded positively to the survey and most expressed a desire to employ these students upon their graduation.

“We need to step back and look at healthcare,” Scott added. “Memphis is fortunate to have world-renowned expertise in this city, but we need primary care. We need someone you go to when you have a sore throat.” He states that healthcare today is too complex for one person to do it.  Adding PAs will help with the patient-physician relationship, by adding more one-on-one time.

Physician assistants are licensed to practice medicine as part of a team of physicians. They are qualified and licensed to conduct physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, counsel patients and families on healthcare issues including preventive care, and assist in surgery. Physician assistants are licensed to practice medicine, issue prescriptions, and practice in all medical fields including primary care, internal medicine and subspecialties, as well as surgical and emergency care. The PA’s scope of practice may also include education, research, and administrative services.

The CBU program, which currently numbers 106 students, is run and taught by Dr. Scott, along with six full-time and six adjunct faculty members. The cohort-based program consists of 110 credit hours offered over 27 months or seven continuous semesters. The curriculum focuses on six major competency components: medical knowledge, interpersonal and communication skills, patient care, professionalism, practice-based learning and improvement and systems-based practice.

The graduation of the first PA class also requires a formal addition to CBU’s traditional Commencement ceremony: the recitation of the Hippocratic Oath.

“The public affirmation of the Oath will draw attention to CBU’s success in establishing a true medical program on campus,” Scott said.  “Its addition is also an excellent way to mark the successful completion of our inaugural class.”

Scott is very impressed with tenacity of his graduating PA class. “We need to recognize the courage of the first students to graduate from the first PA program in the city. We weren’t even accredited yet when they first started this journey. They put faith in us that we were going to get them where they needed to be,” he said. “Dreams do come true.”

CBU’s Commencement Exercises will be held on Saturday, May 17 at 11:00 a.m. at Signaigo Field on the University campus. Other degrees being awarded include bachelor’s degrees in accounting, arts, fine arts, business, engineering, sciences and mathematics. Master’s degrees will also be awarded in education, accounting, business administration and engineering management.

For more information on the Physician Assistant Studies program at CBU, visit or call (901) 321-3388.

For more information on the CBU Commencement Exercises, visit or contact the CBU Office of Student Life at (901) 321-3531.

Posted by Wendy Sumner-Winter at 8:00 AM