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Release: Immediate

Exam scores place UI physician assistant grads among best in nation

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa College of Medicine continues to be a leader in training physician assistants (PAs), as shown by results of the 1996 national PA certification examination. Since 1974, graduates of the UI Physician Assistant Program have consistently scored well above the national mean.

Developed by the National Board of Medical Examiners, the eight-hour test includes a written general core (GEN), a primary care section (P.Care) that measures knowledge in specific areas, and a clinical skills component (CSP) using simulated patients to assess physical examination. Collectively, the 24 UI graduates who took the 1996 exam scored in the 98th percentile for both GEN and P.Care and in the 91st percentile for CSP.

Dr. Denis Oliver, professor and director of the UI program, says its graduates outperformed peers from nearly all of the nation's 81 other PA training programs. "Behind these scores are a group of individuals who will make a real contribution, not just to medicine, but also to their communities," he says.

PAs provide much-needed support in all types of health care settings, taking an active part in both medical treatment and preventive care. In rural and semi-rural areas, they often provide care in satellite clinics supervised remotely by physicians from a large neighboring community.

The UI program's graduates have attained an impressive 99 percent pass rate for the certification exam since 1974. Oliver attributes this success to outstanding students and a strong curriculum that emphasizes primary care, particularly family medicine. He also credits ongoing support from the UI College of Medicine and its faculty, who in some cases teach prospective PAs alongside students training to become physicians.

Oliver notes that many students enter the program with experience in community service and often choose to practice in areas where they are most needed. "Of last year's graduates, 85 percent chose to practice primary care and 29 percent practice in medically-underserved areas," he says. "As part of their training, all students complete a family medicine rotation in an underserved area."
Further efforts to strengthen the program's focus on primary care and meeting the needs of rural communities are under way. A mentorship program has been established to recruit and support students from rural areas, and a rural medicine curriculum is being developed.