The physician assistant (PA) major focuses on providing primary care for patients. Physician assistants provide diagnostic and therapeutic patient care in conjunction with a supervising physician. They elicit medical histories, conduct physical examinations, order laboratory and radiological testing, diagnose common illnesses, determine treatment, provide medical advice, counsel and educate patients, promote wellness and disease prevention, assist in surgery, and perform casting and suturing.
Physician assistant duties vary depending on the state and specialty in which they practice. In most states, including New York, physician assistants may prescribe medication. Examples of specialties include (but are not limited to): internal medicine, family medicine, emergency medicine, geriatrics, pediatrics, obstetrics/gynecology, psychiatry, general surgery, orthopedics, neurosurgery, and neonatology. Clinical rotations (internships) during students’ last year provide the opportunity to explore these varied disciplines.
Obtaining the skills and knowledge to practice as a Physician Assistant is a complex process. A carefully planned course of study has been developed to offer a balance of didactic and clinical knowledge. A significant component of the educational process is the socialization of the student to the character, performance, and role of a provider of medical care. The evaluation of the student's adaptation to this role depends on the experienced judgment of individual faculty members. It is important to recognize that these subjective judgments may transcend or be independent of traditional paper and pencil tests and other similar objective measures of academic performance. PA education involves instruction from practicing clinicians with unpredictable schedules.
Many opportunities, in the form of evaluations, are provided for measurement of progress by both faculty and student. In addition to a fully staffed RIT Academic Support Center, individual instruction and tutoring may be provided in certain instances. Every effort is made to provide a complete learning environment. Even though a variety of experiences, learning situations, and tools are provided by the Program, the single greatest factor, motivation, is essentially up to the student.
Plan of study
The physician assistant major is offered as a BS/MS degree program, which enables students to earn both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in five years. The curriculum is divided into the pre-professional phase (years 1 and 2), which includes course work in the basic sciences, mathematics, general education, and liberal arts; and the professional phase, (years 3, 4, and 5), which features didactic medical education and culminates in clinical rotations in which students apply their medical knowledge in a series of rotations through various disciplines of medicine.