The Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies program at Christian Brothers University trains physician assistants (PAs) to better serve patients in the community, region, state and nation. CBU has partnered with nationally renowned medical facilities to offer exceptional clinical experiences during both phases of the program, with an additional orthopedic thread.

To date, 93% of the Class of 2021 has taken the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE), and students are maintaining a 96% first-time pass rate.

Dr. Gary Tooley has been the program director since May 2020 and is the only original faculty member in the program, having joined during the summer of 2011.

Tooley credits multiple factors for the high pass rate including the planning that went into the curriculum itself, resources from the University, and the program faculty and staff.

“We have an outstanding faculty both in terms of the skill set and the diversity of their talents in the day-to-day operation of the program,” he said. “Between my medical director and other members, we’re approaching 180 years of clinical experience in this faculty. Two of our PA faculty have been practicing in excess of 40 years each, and the medical director has had 35+ years of experience since her residency.”

The program boasts six didactic faculty positions (those teaching in the classroom) and four clinical faculty (those providing practical instruction such as in a lab or hospital) as well as three adjunct faculty members, three staff members, the medical director and Tooley.

“There’s also diversity in experience of the staff,” Tooley said. “One is an ER residency-trained PA. There are also other emergency medicine providers, internists, orthopedic/cardiovascular surgery and urgent care specialists. There’s a lot of depth and breadth to this faculty in terms of what they bring to the classroom and the lab with those experiences.”

The focus of the PA program is on evidence-based primary care and preventive medicine, the provision of health care to the medically underserved and the use of information technology in medicine. The program promotes interdisciplinary team care, patient advocacy and the delivery of primary health care for all patients.

All the goals of the program align with the Lasallian principles of the University, especially respect for all persons as well as concern for the poor and social justice. The students are taught to provide exceptional care to all persons, regardless of socioeconomic status or background—a core principle held by De La Salle.

The PA program operates on what is called an integrated modular curriculum. By teaching in modules, students are receiving instruction on areas such as anatomy & physiology all four didactic semesters rather than only in the initial courses. In addition, CBU offers more pharmacology instruction than many other programs. 

The preparation the students receive has positioned them for great success post-graduation.

“We have had four or five students who have been accepted into post-graduate residency programs,” Tooley explained. “One did a surgery residency at Yale; one at Baylor in emergency medicine; one in California in emergency medicine; and the most recent one, a member of the class of 2020, completed a post-graduate residency in emergency medicine at the University of Kentucky and beat 40 applicants for the spot in that program.”

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