Education, Health Care, and Human Resources

University creates satellite of health graduate program

November 12, 2014
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University creates satellite of health graduate program
GVSU operates a satellite of its Master's in Physician Assistant Studies program in Traverse City at Northwestern Michigan College. Courtesy GVSU

A local university is installing a satellite of its master-level physician assistant program Up North to train students to deliver primary care to underserved markets in the region.

Grand Valley State University said last week that it's setting up its Master's in Physician Assistant Studies program in Traverse City at Northwestern Michigan College’s University Center Campus, at 2200 Dendrinos Dr.

GVSU said the location at its Traverse City Regional Center is the state’s first accredited satellite of its kind.

Satellite setup

GVSU's graduate physician assistant program Up North will accept a cohort of 12 students for the fall semester of 2015 and provide the same courses and labs as the parent location in Grand Rapids.

The program consists of four semesters of didactic training and three semesters of clinical rotations for a total of 103 credits.

The semesters spent on campus include classes on several subjects: human anatomy, medical physiology, clinical applications, clinical medicine, practical therapeutics, profession issues, pathophysiology and research methods.

Students enrolled in the program will interact on a daily basis with their peers at GVSU’s Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences through an interactive classroom video system, known as ITV.

Same as Grand Rapids

Andrew Booth, faculty member and chair of the Master's in Physician Assistant Studies program, said the students will take classes virtually in the same classroom as those in Grand Rapids.

“Wherever the lecture is being held, it will be live streamed to the distant site, either from Grand Rapids to Traverse City or Traverse City back to Grand Rapids,” Booth said. “The students will be watching it in real time, and as an instructor, we will be able to see that other class on the television monitor and communicate with them in real time.”

Roy Olsson, dean of the College of Health Professions at GVSU, said that as a satellite program, the structure and courses have to be exactly the same as the parent organization to receive accreditation.

“The only difference is they are sitting in a classroom there watching a monitor of someone lecturing,” Olsson said. “There will be faculty lecturing back in this direction, but all the labs are set up there like the ones set up down here, but for 12 students.”

"Underserved" primary care markets

The university began pursuing the development of a satellite roughly three years ago and has received about $1 million in funding through a Health Resources and Services Administration grant for physician assistant programs in primary care, according to Booth. The grant is designed to support the education of people who plan to provide health care to residents and communities in northern Michigan.

Despite the program's emphasis placed on practicing in underserved locations, Booth said the university has found students tend to stay in Grand Rapids based on the number of opportunities in the area.

“Our whole goal in doing this expansion is getting P.A.s trained to work specifically in primary care in underserved areas,” Booth said. “Ultimately, when we talking about bringing the program to them, we really truly want individuals who have a passion for underserved, passion for primary care and who have some kind of connection with northern lower Michigan and the U.P., so they stay in this area and give care to those individuals who need it.”

Although the expansion was largely based on placing more graduates in jobs in northern Michigan, Olsson said it also addresses a need for more clinical sites for students Up North. The university has an official affiliation with 20 to 30 clinical sites in northern Michigan for students to train in primary care.

Jean Nagelkerk, vice provost of Health at GVSU, said that increasing the university’s collaborative partnerships meets the needs of the region’s residents.

“We are delighted to participate in the development of a health care workforce with expertise in population health, team-based care and primary care,” Nagelkerk said.

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