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Physician assistant program launching soon at USM

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The University of Southern Mississippi’s (USM) new physician assistant program, announced last summer, is progressing expeditiously, with plans to matriculate the initial cohort in fall 2025. The program is being offered at USM’s Gulf Park campus in Long Beach.

Officials in the College of Nursing and Health Professions have worked to gain accreditation for the program, which is expected to positively impact workforce development throughout the region while delivering graduates who are ready for success in the healthcare industry.

Physician Assistant Studies Program Coordinator Chris Tuey explains that the Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA) will open its 2024-25 cycle at the end of April. USM’s new program can start receiving applications as soon as CASPA opens the cycle.

“We will be doing a rolling admissions process, which allows us to review, interview and accept candidates anytime during the admission cycle,” said Tuey.

Physician assistants use their medical expertise to examine, diagnose and treat patients, working closely with other health care professionals as a team to provide care. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 26.5 percent employment growth for physician assistants between 2022 and 2032. In that period, an estimated 39,300 jobs are expected to open.

“The physician assistant profession has grown rapidly and continues to do so,” said Tuey. “The State of Mississippi was the last to allow PA practice, so there is a lot of need for physician assistants here. The fact that salaries have grown along with the profession is a reward for those who are dedicated enough to choose a profession of service and assistance. Our program will help fill the need for more PAs in the state and nationwide, as well as better healthcare access overall.”

USM’s PA program will require accreditation by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). Classes may begin once the program receives provisional accreditation, which is anticipated by June 2025.

USM hopes to enroll thirty students in the initial cohort. The program will require twenty-seven months to complete, which includes seven continuous terms and a total of 108 semester hours (with fifteen months of classroom training and twelve months of clinical training).

Dr. Lachel Story, Dean of USM’s College of Nursing and Health Professions, says the rapidly expanding workforce markets along the Gulf Coast provided the impetus for launching the program at Gulf Park.

“Additionally, with our strong military presence in the region, this program can help meet a current need for all of our service branches,” said Story. “No in-state school is better positioned to meet these workforce needs on the coast than Southern Miss. We have a long legacy of delivering excellent health professions programs, and most of our students are from Mississippi and stay in the state once they graduate.”

To learn more about the Physician Assistant program at USM, contact Emma Mitchell at 228-214-3471.