Mississippi College Alumni Magazine | Summer 2010

Is There a PA In the House?

MC is poised to launch the first masters level physician assistant program in the state of Mississippi

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MC is poised to launch the first masters level physician assistant program in the state of Mississippi. A natural extension of MC’s outstanding pre-med and nursing programs, the physician assistant (PA) program is scheduled to welcome its first students in 2011. A three-year grant of $500,000 from the Hearin Foundation will help fund the new program.

A physician assistant is a licensed healthcare professional who practices medicine under the supervision of a physician. Working as part of a team, a physician assistant diagnoses and treats illnesses and can offer a broad range of healthcare services traditionally provided by doctors.

“Many people choose this profession because they get the satisfaction of treating patients with far less administrative responsibility than the typical M.D.,” says Robert Philpot, Ph.D., PA-C, director of the MC physician assistant program.  “As an added bonus, the field is virtually recession-proof, owing to an ongoing shortage of primary-care physicians.”

MC’s physician assistant program will benefit not only its students, but also the people of Mississippi. Of the approximately 80,000 PAs currently practicing nationwide, only 100 are working in Mississippi. Graduates of the MC PA program could significantly augment the state’s physician and PA workforce, particularly in rural areas where access to medical care is sparse. 

Physician assistants educated at Mississippi College may also bring an enhanced level of patient care. Mississippi has the nation’s highest rate of teenage pregnancy, highest infant mortality rate, highest rate of sexually transmitted diseases, and the largest percentage of obese adults. The 100 PAs currently working in Mississippi were trained in other states where the patient populations and healthcare needs differ. Based in Mississippi, the MC PA program will be more in tune with and responsive to the needs of Mississippians and the Mississippi medical community.

“This program is an excellent fit not only with MC’s mission of academic excellence, but also with our mission of service,” says Dr. Stan Baldwin, dean of MC’s School of Science and Mathematics. “We’ll be preparing physician assistants to provide desperately needed healthcare services in some of the poorest and most under-served areas of Mississippi and surrounding states.”

Working with a supervising physician, MC physician assistant graduates will be able to:

  • Perform physical exams  Diagnose and treat illnesses
  • Order and interpret lab tests  Suture lacerations
  • Assist in surgery  Provide patient education/counseling Make rounds in nursing homes/hospitals
  • Prescribe pharmaceuticals

The site visit for MC’s provisional accreditation for the physician assistant program is in November 2010.  MC expects to receive its provisional accreditation in March 2011.

Meet Dr. Robert Philpot

bob-philpot.jpgDr. Robert “Bob” Philpot is the director of MC’s new physician assistant program, the first program of its kind in Mississippi. Prior to joining the MC faculty, Dr. Philpot was director of physician assistant studies at South University in Georgia and has also served as a physician assistant faculty member at the University of Florida. A graduate of Belhaven College, Dr. Philpot is familiar with the metropolitan Jackson area and with the specific medical and health issues facing Mississippi residents.    “Dr. Philpot brings a wealth of experience in running a PA program,” says Dr. Stan Baldwin, dean of MC’s School of Science and Mathematics. “MC is fortunate to have a person of his experience and talent at the helm of this new program.”    MC expects to hire six additional faculty members, including four physician assistants and two physicians, to round out the PA program faculty.

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“Mississippi ranks last in many healthcare quality indicators. Part of the problem is lack of access to medical professionals. There is a dire need for additional healthcare providers for the citizens of this state. A PA program at MC will provide us another pathway for those much-needed providers.”

Dr. LouAnn Woodward, Interim Dean of the University of Mississippi School of Medicine

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