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Release: March 8, 1999

UI Physician Assistant Program's graduates score high on national certification exam

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Continuing with tradition, all 1998 graduates of the University of Iowa Physician Assistant (PA) Program passed, and scored well above average, on the Physician Assistant National Certification Examination.

The 100 percent pass rate put the UI program at the 94th percentile among the 85 programs with more than five first-time exam takers. From 1974 to 1998, the UI first-time pass rate has averaged 99 percent. The national average during the same period was approximately 84.5 percent.

"We believe this type of achievement is a strong testament to the quality of education that the PA students receive from the College of Medicine," said David Asprey, director of the university's PA Program. "We are very proud of this accomplishment and are pleased to know that our graduates are well prepared to enter the profession and to provide high quality primary care to the citizens of Iowa and our nation."

Iowa's 24 PA graduates took the exam in October 1998. Passing the test is necessary for the PAs to obtain their licenses in all states.

Asprey attributed UI's success to the program's curriculum and caliber of its students. Compared to other programs, the UI curriculum is more heavily integrated with that of the medical students. In many cases, UI physician assistant students take classes alongside medical students and performance expectations are identical. In addition, because of the program's reputation and curriculum, the UI attracts high-quality students who are more apt to excel, Asprey said.

The UI program is one of 110 accredited PA programs in the country and one of 85 last year with more than five exam takers. The College of Medicine established the 25-month program in 1972. Since that time, the UI has graduated nearly 500 PAs.

PAs will continue to play a vital role in health care as those in the industry grapple with controlling costs and maintaining quality of care, Asprey said. The evidence is in the numbers. Since the beginning of this decade, the number of PA programs has doubled, Asprey said.

"PA training has evolved to a point where PAs working with physician supervision provide care that is equal in quality to that of a physician," Asprey said. "PAs fill an important niche in primary care and in underserved areas."