Jan. 12: Physician Studies department presents white coats to Class of 2019

Thirty-two School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) students begin the clinical portion of their studies this week in an effort to earn their Master of Physician Assistant Studies degree.

The White Coat Ceremony for these future physician assistant (PA) providers will be held at 2 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 12, in the Charles H. Fee, MD, Auditorium at the SMHS. Annette Larson will present the ceremony’s keynote address, focusing on the role of the PA in primary care. Larson, a Class of 1979 UND PA alumnus and former faculty with the SMHS Physician Assistant Studies program, is a practicing primary care physician assistant at UND Student Health Services.

Welcome remarks will be given by SMHS Associate Dean for Health Sciences Tom Mohr, UND Vice President for Research and Economic Development and Dean of the School of Graduate Studies Grant McGimpsey. Closing remarks will be given by Eric Johnson, medical director of the SMHS Physician Assistant Studies Program and associate professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine.

“The presentation of the white coat is symbolic of the new profession the students are entering,” said PA Studies Chair Jeanie McHugo. “The coats will be worn by students through the clinical phase of their training and denote their involvement with the PA program at UND.”

The Class of 2019 is the second group of students who have been admitted under a new admissions structure. The PA program now has two methods of entry with separate criteria for admissions purposes. Entry Point 1 is designated for licensed/certified health care professionals with at least three years of clinical experience. Entry Point 2 is designated for applicants with science-based educational backgrounds and a minimum of 500 hours of direct patient care experience.

Students have already completed their first two semesters of basic science instruction, and now will spend four weeks in the clinical setting in Grand Forks before returning to their home communities, where most of their training will take place under the supervision of physician and PA preceptors. Over the next 18 months, they will return to UND for several weeks at different junctures for education and training.

Seventy-five percent of this PA class is from North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota. Students range in age from 21 to 44 years, with an average age of 30; the class includes 13 men and 19 women.