Introducing Dominican’s First Class of Physician Assistants

February 7, 2017

By Melinda Czifrak

It all started with an idea, “a pen and a napkin,” as Dr. Richard Salcido likes to say.

According to Instructor Debra Marinovic Salcido went straight to work on his idea.

“He [Salcido] then went to work at submitting an application to the ARC-PA (Accreditation Review Commission for Physician Assistant programs), and hiring his faculty and staff.”

This is how DU’s new Physician Assistant program came to be.

By the time a baseline faculty was in place, the faculty staff had less than a full calendar year to put a program together, design a curriculum, write lectures, plan the admissions process and recruit the first class of 30 students.

“We have all worked tirelessly and continue to work to ensure that our inaugural class are not ‘test students’ but rather that we are giving them an excellent education and training them to become exceptional PAs,” Marinovic said. “We are adamant that our first cohort is not considered a trial run. We take their education very seriously and our time and effort has reflected that dedication to their careers.”

Together with the PA program, the College of Health Sciences, comprised of the Physician Assistant, Nursing, Nutrition, and Post-baccalaureate in Medical Sciences program, was established at Dominican in July 2016.

According to Marinovic, this helps them “connect and integrate with the undergraduate population.”

“We think this will enhance undergraduate enrollment, if prospective students realize that they can be connected with a program which offers a degree in one of the most in-demand professions in the U.S,” she said.

The popularity of the program is hard to overlook. Out of the hundreds who applied, only 30 were accepted.

“The process is highly competitive with several applicants vying for each available spot in a PA program,” Marinovic said. “We don’t see this as a competition with other schools, but rather a way to match the excellence that is required of PA training and offer opportunities for more students to pursue this career.”

DU’s PA program has some technologies available that very few programs have adopted.  For example, it is only one of a handful of programs across the country that uses the Anatomage Virtual Cadaver in our anatomy curriculum.

“While our students do receive instruction in a traditional cadaver lab, they also have hands-on training with this unique system,” Marinovic said.

Imagine exploring all the structures and systems of the human body on an app in your smartphone – except that smart phone is “the size of a table.”

“We are also offer technology in our Simulation Lab that gives them hands-on exposure to real clinical scenarios before we send them out into the field for clinical training,” she said.

The first generation of Dominican physician assistants began classes on Jan. 9. The application process will begin again in April. Marinovic is anticipating an even larger “application pool” as “demand increases.”

“We have a mission to recruit and encourage military veterans and under-represented minorities in medicine to apply to our program,” she said. “We have a holistic process that looks at the whole person, and we try to select applicants that exemplify not only strong academics but community service, teamwork, and a commitment to the profession.”

Until this summer, when prospective candidates will be interviewed, the program will keep growing.

“This is always a work in progress – we don’t have any specific plans other than continuing to evaluate and improve what we have in place,” Marinovic said.