Exciting Start for University of Charleston Physician Assistant Program

January 26, 2013 in PA Educators, Prospective PAs

The University of Charleston Physician Assistant Program launched its inaugural class of thirty students on Monday, January 7th, only three short weeks ago! Since that time, students and faculty have felt the mix of emotions that come with the beginnings of such a journey - enthusiasm, gratitude, anxiousness, excitement, and yes, even fear. In 28 short months, each of these students will launch their careers as the program's first graduates, taking on the sacred role as medical practitioner. So what have these students been up to anyway?


Orientation was filled with interesting activities. Here's a sample of what was covered and some of the comments that were made by students through an anonymous survey:

  • Learning Preferences Assessment: Sandy Stennett PA-C, one of our core faculty members, did a great job of facilitating a learning preferences assessment and strategies session using the VARK questionnaire. --- Student comments: "I loved this presentation, I felt it truly helped me figure out the best way to learn." --- "I really liked the information given to us during this session. I think that it made us all think about what our most beneficial learning style is. For me, it broke down all of the different forms of learning that I could incorporate into my study habits. It was helpful to get to discuss these different methods with my classmates as well."
  • Anti-Procrastination Planning: Jennifer Pack PA-C, our Director of Didactic Education, shared a great presentation on procrastination including key strategies for avoiding this plaguing habit. --- Student comments: "I now know how sometimes I am procrastinating even when I do not actually mean to or realize it, such as doing little tasks first." --- "This was very helpful to me. I want to try and stay on top of everything, these tips will be very useful. Glad to know I am not the only procrastinator."
  • Cloud Computing and Note-Taking Softwares:  I had the opportunity to discuss several strategies for implementation of cloud computing applications and note-taking softwares into students' workflows. It was also fun to show the students how this technology can be used after they graduate. We covered several applications including Evernote, Dropbox, Notability, and LiveScribe. --- Student comments: "I absolutely love the programs that were discussed and will definitely be using them throughout the program in order to keep my notes and studies organized." --- "This presentation was mind blowing. It was extremely informative and helpful. It opened my eyes to a world of things that were in front of me that I did not know existed. This was very helpful and will re-shape how I will take notes, record lectures, and store information."
  • Memory Enhancements Presentation: Tina Chafin PA-C, our Director of Clinical Education, provided a fantastic presentation on memory enhancement methods. I especially enjoyed some of her acronym examples, including one useful in learning the cranial nerves. --- Student comments: "This was awesome! Very helpful, and somewhat eased my nerves on the bulk of info getting ready to consume me." --- "I enjoyed this presentation. I do some of these things already but I am going to really try to use them more often while studying."
  • Listening and Lecture Notes: Richard Bennett PhD, our Director of Admissions, helped the students understand more about the art of listening and difference between approaching studies as a graduate versus an undergraduate, including how one should approach taking lecture notes. --- Student comments: "This presentation was very good. I plan on using these tips while I am listening to lecture." --- "Very good advice, taking a lot of it to heart. Will be trying to stay ahead rather than fall behind."
  • Mentor/Mentee Team Lunches: In our program, we have developed a mentoring program where each core faculty member is paired with 6 students. During lunch on the first day of orientation, all students had a chance to meet with their official faculty mentors and team members.
  • Other: Several other activities occurred as well, including overviews of both the on-campus and clinical curricula, medical equipment presentation, and a program director pearls session.

Spring 2013 Courses

With orientation completed, no time was wasted in getting students engaged with their studies. Below is a sampling of some of the content covered thus far in each of the seven first semester courses of their curriculum.

  • Professional Development I: Self-Reflective Physician Assistant Competencies Project, History of the Profession, Student Driven Commitment to Excellence Project
  • Patient-Centered Care I: Team Approach to Care, Patient-Centered Medical Home, Health Professions Roles and Responsibilities, and Introduction to Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Mechanisms of Disease: Health versus Disease, Cell and Tissue Structure and Function, Acute Inflammation, and Cardinal Manifestations of Disease
  • Medical Physiology: Action Potential and Synaptic Transmission, Autonomic Nervous System and the Adrenal Medulla, Neuromuscular Transmission, Muscle Physiology, Somatosensory Pathways and Physiology of Pain
  • Applied Human Anatomy: Anatomical Sectional Overview, Anatomical Planes and Orientation/Movement Terms, and Head and Neck Anatomy
  • Clinical Pharmacology:Drug Discovery and Approval, Pharmacodynamics, Drug Receptor Interactions
  • History & Physical Examination: Overview of History and Physical, Health History and General Survey, Vital Signs, Basics of Documentation and Clinical Reasoning

As you can see, these guys have been busy.  Heading into their fourth week, they are starting to grasp what experienced Physician Assistants mean when they say that PA School is "like trying to drink from a firehose!"

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