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Record demand shown for physician assistant program

September 6, 2017 — 

The University of Manitoba physician assistant program, the only one in Canada at the master’s level, attracted a record number of applicants this year.

There were 197 applications for 15 spots in the program, up from 166 last year.

On Sept. 1 on the Bannatyne campus, the 15 accomplished students who were accepted into the two-year Master of Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS) program took part in Inaugural Exercises.

For the first time, the event included a Stethoscope Ceremony as well as the traditional recitation of the Hippocratic Oath.

“Formally presenting students with their first stethoscope symbolizes that the most important part of health care is listening to the patient,” said Ian Jones, director of the program.

A group of practising physician assistants (PAs) acted as presenters at the ceremony, placing stethoscopes around the incoming students’ necks and giving each three books.

The first book, Jones said, represented wisdom. The second honoured the art of medicine. The third reminded the future PAs that they will be impacted by the health-care journey ahead, but will never be alone.

Physician assistants are clinicians who work under the supervision and direction of physicians. They are qualified to perform duties such as assessing patients, ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests, providing therapeutic and clinical procedures, and prescribing medications.

In Manitoba, PAs work not only in family medicine, but in more than 30 specialties, assisting doctors in fields ranging from psychiatry to oncology.

The MPAS program is offered through the Max Rady College of Medicine, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences and the Faculty of Graduate Studies. It consists of one year of biomedical science and medicine courses, followed by 13 months of clinical rotations.

Incoming student Justine Bucko, 32, earned her bachelor of science in microbiology at the U of M, then worked in pharmaceutical sales. Her background includes volunteering at a hospital in Nepal.

“The PA program is the perfect blend of academic study and patient care, and I love that it’s a team-based career,” Bucko said after the ceremony.

Amanpreet Singh, 31, holds a master’s in microbiology from the U of M. His graduate research centred on the Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever virus. He has volunteered at Health Sciences Centre.

“It was a great honour for me to accept the stethoscope from somebody who’s actually working in the profession,” Singh said.

Lauren Girard, 24, received her bachelor of science in biochemistry and microbiology from the Université de Saint-Boniface. She has worked as a research assistant and volunteered at St. Boniface Hospital.

“I’m very passionate about our health-care system,” Girard said. “PAs are really showing that they are part of the answer to some of the inefficiencies we see, like wait times. PAs are also shown to be very cost-effective to the health-care system. So I know I’ll be making a difference.”

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