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New PA program receives provisional accreditation

Janel Shoun-Smith  | 

More than 800 applications submitted for 35 spots in first cohort

Lipscomb University’s physician assistant program has been granted provisional accreditation by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Roger Davis, dean of the College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences and vice provost for health affairs, recently announced. It is the second physician assistant program in Middle Tennessee to achieve such accreditation.

When the application period began in the fall, Lipscomb’s 27-month PA program drew more than 800 applications for 35 spots in its first cohort, now full. With provisional accreditation now granted, Lipscomb will begin classes in September for its first enrolled students, which come from 24 universities in 19 states.

“The ARC-PA accreditation-provisional is the next step in building the exceptional foundation we need to launch a successful program to provide more physician assistants to the local health care community,” said Davis. “The health care market needs more people with the skills to work hands-on with patients on a daily basis. PAs fulfill that role, and we are very proud our program has been deemed worthy to bring these skilled providers to the market.”

Physician assistants must graduate from an ARC-PA accredited program in order to sit for their national licensing exam to practice.

Lipscomb’s Master of Physician Assistant Studies will offer students an inter-professional education, extensive hands-on clinical opportunities and exposure to modern technology, all of which are crucial to becoming an integral part of the health care team, said Dr. Stephen Heffington, program director for the PA school.

Students will engage in seven semesters of study, which are broken into a 15-month didactic phase and a 12-month clinical phase.

The ARC-PA accreditation standards examine university resources and support, faculty resources, curriculum development and student support services.

Having been established within an existing health sciences college, Lipscomb’s PA program has access to numerous resources already used for other health science disciplines and to clinical partnerships already strong through other programs, said Heffington.

“Thanks to Lipscomb’s existing clinical partnerships in Middle Tennessee, we have more than 160 preceptors already signed up to work with our PA students,” he said.

In addition, new construction to be completed late this summer has provided two dedicated classrooms, faculty offices and a gross anatomy cadaver lab in the James D. Hughes Center, located in the nexus of Lipscomb’s health sciences facilities on the north side of campus.

“Most often PA programs train students by providing one cadaver for dissection for multiple groups of students or the students watch techniques demonstrated on a cadaver,” Heffington said. “Our lab will have student-led gross anatomy dissection, with one cadaver provided for every five students.”

The program has added two faculty members, Linda Elrod and Dr. Terri Jerkins, this summer to bring the PA master’s program to seven full-time faculty, one being a medical director.

“We are excited to bring the enormous resources of Nashville, one of the world’s health care capitals, and of Lipscomb, which has a long history of excellent preparation in the sciences and health sciences for medical school and health care careers, to the students in this new program,” said Lipscomb Provost W. Craig Bledsoe. “Lipscomb-trained PAs will bring a superior standard of compassion and skill to the hands-on patient interaction physician assistants provide in the health care continuum.”


Official statement from the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant

The ARC-PA has granted accreditation-provisional status to the Lipscomb University physician assistant program sponsored by Lipscomb University. 

“Accreditation-provisional” is an accreditation status granted when the plans and resource allocation, if fully implemented as planned, of a proposed program that has not yet enrolled students appear to demonstrate the program’s ability to meet the ARC-PA standards or when a program holding accreditation-provisional status appears to demonstrate continued progress in complying with the standards as it prepares for the graduation of the first class of students. 

Accreditation-provisional does not ensure any subsequent accreditation status. It is limited to no more than five years from matriculation of the first class. 

Want to learn more about Lipscomb’s School of Physician Assistant Studies? Visit