April 19, 2016
By Christopher Sich
Dominican is continuing its big jump into healthcare with last year’s launch of a new nursing program, the addition of a new minor in health communication and next year’s intended start of a master’s level physician assistant (PA) program.
The university curriculum committee, lead by Provost David Krause and consisting of 13 voting members, deemed that the PA program fits Dominican’s mission. According to Krause, the PA program has applied for accreditation, and is expecting a visit from a team of accreditors within the next few months to give the official green light.
“If everything goes as planned, the physician assistant program expects to be available January of 2017, pending final approval,” Krause said.
According to Daniel Beach, psychology department chair, the demand in the job market, as well as the huge application pool, was a leading factor for the creation of this program.
“There is a tremendous demand from students and healthcare systems for more physician assistants,” Beach said. “We have the capacity to develop more mid-level health providers within a values based institution; we also feel that we have a lot to offer the health care community by producing PA’s who are medically competent and culturally aware.”
Only 30 students will be admitted into the PA program, so the application process will be very competitive.
“We will be the only PA program in the region that is not connected to a major medical center, which will allow students to do their clinical training in many different hospitals and facilities in the area,” Beach said. “It also will raise the university’s profile and reputation among other institutions of our size; and the presence of a PA program will be seen as an index of high quality education, particularly in the health sciences.”
This program will bring positive changes, but it also raises some questions. Due to the current financial obstacle that the state of Illinois is facing, one may wonder how, and by whom, PA courses will be taught. Dominican has begun its search for faculty and has already hired for four new positions.
“We have hired Richard Salcido, MD, as director, Mary Groll, MD, as medical director and two PA faculty members, Sarah Bazzetta and Debra Marinovic” Beach said. “We are still looking to hire one more faculty member.”
According to Beach, the PA program will be contributing to the development of a more humane society, by educating students within the context of a value-based institution.
“The addition of this program will also generate income for the university, and keep tuition increases lower than we otherwise could,” Beach said.
There are goals in place for those that will be accepted into the PA program. According to Beach, one of the goals is to develop and maintain a program with a focus on providing graduate students with the knowledge and professional skills needed to transition to the PA workforce.
Dominican’s efforts in providing a program that prepares PAs with the needed skills for healthcare practice, has caught the eye of students outside of Dominican.
Frankie Petock, a sophomore and biology major at the College of DuPage, intends on transferring to a 4-year university and has added Dominican to his list of possible schools.
“A possible future goal of mine is to become a physician assistant, so for me it is important that the university I attend have a physician assistant studies program,” Petock said.
There will now be four healthcare oriented programs available after the inclusion of the PA program. The vision is clear and the future looks promising for the department. The continued development of has also factored into the creation of a minor in health communication, which was approved earlier this month.
The health communication minor was designed by Associate Professor of Communication Jennifer Dunn in collaboration with the rest of the department.
“The process to create this minor took two years, and will be offered starting next school year,” Dunn said. “For the minor the students would be required to take the courses: biomedical ethics, communication theory, health campaigns, health organizations, communication research, as well as a basic health class.”
According to Dunn, the main factors that lead to the creation of this minor, other than Dominican’s emphasis on health sciences, were the job market and the large student interest.
“All things came together at the right time; the student interest may lead to the development of a Health Communication major,” Dunn said.