Yale to launch its first national online PA program

Yale School of Medicine announces plans to launch its first “blended” education program for aspiring physician associates (PAs), where students would study in a combination of online courses and clinical clerkships. The new Yale PA Program would help meet the growing need for qualified PAs in primary care across the country and in medically underserved areas.

The curriculum and requirements for the clinical clerkships would be identical to those in Yale’s long-standing residential PA program. Approval from the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) and various state licensing agencies is pending. 2U, an educational technology company that is working with 12 universities including the University of North Carolina, Georgetown University, and Northwestern University, would be providing the technology platform and support for this new degree program.

The Yale School of Medicine launched its PA program in 1971. With the new blended program that incorporates some online, distance education, the school would offer an innovative delivery method for students across the country. In creating this opportunity, the PA program would allow students to receive the same high-quality training as their on-campus counterparts at an equivalent cost without having to relocate.

Program director James Van Rhee said, “The blended program would provide the same didactic and clinical training that on-campus students receive, with key improvements such as immersive, interactive course videos that all of our students — both those in the traditional program and in the new blended program — can review as often as they want.”

Leveraging 2U’s leading technology, the program would feature collaborative, live classes during which students build meaningful relationships with peers and faculty in a face-to-face online setting, as well as high-quality, interactive coursework developed by Yale faculty, who also teach in the on-campus program. “Groups of students would meet online and go through real clinical cases and discuss medical ethics or trends in PA practice,” Van Rhee explained. “It would not be a passive learning experience.”

The curriculum would include hands-on clinical experience at field sites selected by Yale School of Medicine faculty and chosen with each student’s location and career goals in mind. In the past, the PA program has had students who conduct their clinical clerkships away from New Haven in areas as diverse as Kentucky and Maine, and those opportunities provided valuable learning experiences. The program would also feature in-person immersive experiences that allow students to collaborate with classmates and professors on-site at Yale’s campus in New Haven, Connecticut.

“On-site clinical placements are critical in a field such as Physician Associate, and 2U has extensive experience incorporating this hands-on curriculum component into an online program, having facilitated more than 20,000 placements through its university partner degree programs in nursing, social work, and other fields,” said Chip Paucek, CEO and co-founder of 2U. “This blended approach is a differentiator for 2U-partner programs, and we look forward to leveraging this experience as we work with Yale to create a top-tier online option for students interested in the high-growth physician associate career field.”

The blended PA program would launch at a time when the PA profession is projected to grow more rapidly than all occupations on average — 38% between 2012 and 2022. This growth coincides with increasing demand for skilled healthcare providers to serve both an aging population and patients newly insured through the Affordable Care Act. PAs are poised to meet the needs of millions of individuals living in areas with a critical shortage of primary care physicians.

“The goal is to contribute to the healthcare needs of the country,” said Robert Alpern, dean of the Yale School of Medicine. “Our hope is to give more qualified applicants the opportunity to earn a Yale School of Medicine Physician Associate degree.”

The creation of the new blended PA program aligns perfectly with the university’s overall online education strategy, said Linda Lorimer, vice president for global and strategic initiatives at Yale. “Yale is committed to outstanding educational programs, and we believe that the School of Medicine’s new online Physicians Associate program would allow our faculty to amplify the impact of their teaching to those studying throughout the United States. We are lucky to have 2U as our partner, since Chip Paucek and his colleagues have such a keen appreciation for academic excellence.”

For more information, visit the new Program’s website or contact admissions@pa.yale.edu.