Correction: An earlier version of this article noted that the new physician assistant program would take 27 weeks to complete. That time frame is actually 27 months.

Staff Report

A new Master of Physician Assistant program is coming to the University of Nevada, Reno, in 2017, according to a university press release. The program is the result of a partnership between the university and Renown Health, northern Nevada’s largest nonprofit health care provider, which provided half a million dollars in funding.

The program, expected to start summer 2017 on the Redfield campus, will take 27 months to complete and is expected to produce its first graduating class by 2019. Any candidates wishing to take part in the new program must have at least 2,000 hours of prior medical experience, as there’s no residency needed post-graduation.

A physician assistant, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, works on a team with physicians and other medical professionals to do everything from diagnosing to treating to prescribing medication to patients.

The BLS predicts that by 2024, the market for PAs will have increased by 30 percent since 2014 — more than quadruple the average increase for all occupations.

The increase is driven largely because PAs are less expensive, costing an average of nearly $100,000 less per year than a physician or surgeon. As hospitals and clinics seek to expand, the BLS predicts that they will rely more heavily on PAs and nurse practitioners, each of which is more than able to perform basic functions like diagnosing illnesses and examining patients.

Additionally, more and more physicians are retiring or choosing to specialize. This leaves a hole in primary care that will more likely than not be filled by PAs.

At the moment, the closest PA program to Reno is in the Sacramento area. This bodes less than well for northern Nevada, as certain studies have found that doctors are more likely to practice where they studied. Thus, it’s possible that the new program could buoy the number of PAs in Nevada.

The School of Medicine has appointed Brian Lauf, PA-C, as the founding director of the program. He is reportedly looking for staff, according to a university press release. The School of Medicine has also applied for accreditation for the new program, which is currently pending approval.   

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