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Release: Feb. 10, 2000

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

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Continuing with tradition, all 1999 graduates of the University of Iowa Physician Assistant (PA) Program passed, and scored among the best in the country, on the Physician Assistant National Certification Examination.

The 100 percent pass rate put the UI program at the 96th percentile among the 98 PA programs with more than five first-time exam takers. From 1974 to 1999 the UI first-time pass rate is 99 percent. The national average during the same period was approximately 85 percent.

"We believe this level 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 the tradition of excellence that our graduates have established. We are delighted to know that our graduates are well prepared to enter the profession and to provide high quality health care to the citizens of Iowa and our nation."

Iowa's 23 PA graduates took the exam in October 1999. Passing the test is necessary for the PAs to obtain their licenses in all states.

Asprey attributed UI's success to the program's integrated curriculum and the caliber of its students. The UI curriculum is far more heavily integrated with that of the medical students than any other PA program around the country. More than 65 percent of the didactic curriculum completed by the UI PA students is taken with the sophomore medical students, and the performance criteria are identical. In addition, because of the program's reputation and curriculum, the UI attracts very high-quality students who are more apt to excel, Asprey said.

The UI program is one of 120 accredited PA programs in the country and one of 98 last year with more than five first-time exam takers. The College of Medicine established the 25-month program in 1972. Since that time, the UI has graduated 506 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 in this country has doubled, Asprey said.

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

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI College of Medicine and the UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide.