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Didactic Curriculum

The didactic curriculum in the physician assistant program is designed to meet the needs of students who will be working with physicians in primary care and medical specialties and will be enhanced by course work in ethics, health systems, epidemiological principles, research and a graduate project.

The following courses and clinical preceptorships are required of all physician assistant students. Generally, this sequence will be followed, although the faculty reserves the right to make modifications in title, content, and order or length of teaching time. Physician assistant students take courses and follow rotations unique to the program. Faculty are drawn from each of the University’s colleges.

View a typical PA schedule

Block 1

Orientation

This noncredit event will provide survival skills necessary to succeed as a student in a rigorous, professional program. Students will have a chance to meet and talk with many of the university administrative and faculty personnel, as well as education specialists who will discuss organizational and study skills. Expectations based on the student handbook regarding general policies, exam procedures and grades, promotion, professional, behavior, etc. will be discussed. In addition, a tour of the University’s campus and its many positive attributes will be conducted along with an introduction to the library and computer applications used throughout the curriculum.

MSPA1360 - Clinically oriented anatomy – 6 semester hours

An integrated anatomical approach to the study of human body structure. Lectures systematically take the student from the microscopic level through the formation of organ systems, with emphasis on the interdependence of these systems. Functional concepts and internal structure are related to surface anatomy as a basis for performing a physical examination. Portions of this course will incorporate living anatomy, i.e., normal living structure and function. Also included in this course is anatomic radiography, which emphasizes normal radiological structures and prepares students for later clinical lectures emphasizing abnormal radiographs during the clinical preventive laboratory medicine series. 

MSPA1361 - Physiology/Pathophysiology – 6 semester hours

This is a clinically oriented course which provides instruction on the overall physiology of the human body as well as shows how those processes break down or malfunction in times of infection, disease, trauma and aging. Students will be able to use this information to more effectively diagnose and treat their patients, as well as provide students with information they may use to educate their patients regarding the disease process. 

FLEX-care communication training – 1 semester hour

Early and throughout the program students will receive an introduction to Carl Jung’s psychological type theory to help them understand themselves better, understand how others are naturally different from them and they will learn how to use this theory to enrich their education experience and medical practice. This training includes an opportunity for them to complete the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). This is a credit/non-credit course. 

Block 2

MSPA1371- Clinical/Preventive/Laboratory medicine 1 (CPLM 1) – 8.5 semester hours

This course builds upon the basic and clinical sciences already offered to present the disease processes of body systems in terms of etiology, historical data, clinical signs and symptoms, diagnosis, current treatment to include medications and lifestyle changes of common disease processes and the interrelationship of body systems in the makeup of the whole patient, as well as prognosis. Major emphasis is on etiology of disease, pathology, pathophysiology, pertinent preventive medicine initiatives and nutritional concerns, pertinent laboratory medicine perspectives and radiographical concerns. CPLM 1 provides an integrated approach to several subdivisions that divide the course content by clinical specialty or system, which include women’s health, rheumatology, ophthalmology, infectious diseases, orthopedics and dermatology. 

MSPA1372 – Immunology/Microbiology – 2.5 semester hours

This course is an overview of the major areas of medical microbiology immunology, bacteriology, virology, mycology and parasitology. The major goal of the course is to enable the student to develop an appreciation and understanding of the methods whereby infectious agents cause disease. The emphasis will be on etiology, epidemiology, pathogenesis, clinical manifestations and diagnosis of the representative diseases as well as basic principles and clinical relevance of immune mechanisms. The clinical preventive laboratory medicine courses that follow will integrate segments focusing on infectious diseases from the organ/system perspective rather than from the perspective of the infectious disease agents. Following mastery of this information, the student will be able to expand his/her knowledge of other diseases. 

MSPA1375 – Pharmacology – 5 semester hours

This course focuses on the fundamentals of rational drug therapy. The major categories of pharmaceuticals are presented, e.g., antimicrobial, antihypertensives, cardiac antiarrhythmics, anticoagulants, cancer chemotherapeutic agents and psychotropic drugs. Within each category the indications, contraindications, toxicity and interactions are covered. As a part of general pharmacology, there will be clinical pharmacology lectures/labs on adult and pediatric prescription writing, prescription tips and pearls from a pharmacist and drug safety and regulation concerns to better prepare our students for the clinical pharmacology portion of the Clinical Preventive Laboratory Medicine courses as well as other areas in the curriculum. 

MSPA1375 – Physical diagnosis – 5 semester hours

The physician assistant has gained a national reputation for performing a high-quality history and physical examination. This course is designed to provide the student with a systematic and clinical reasoning approach to efficiently gather historical and physical findings. Once accomplished, this information can then be used to determine a diagnosis and differential diagnosis, and formulate a treatment plan. In the event a diagnosis cannot be ascertained, information already gathered may be used as a basis for further testing or proper referral to a specialized health care provider. Presentation of the course is by lecture and coordinated lab sessions to enhance the student’s learning. Examinations throughout the course are used as a teaching/
learning tool which not only measures knowledge, but also serves to further educate. The students are also provided with a self-study refresher of medical terminology. 

Block 3

MSPA1377 – Clinical/Preventive/Laboratory medicine 2 (CPLM 2) – 8.5 semester hours

This course builds upon the basic and clinical sciences already offered to present the disease processes of body systems in terms of etiology, historical data, clinical signs and symptoms, diagnosis, current treatment to include medications and lifestyle changes of common disease processes and the interrelationship of body systems in the makeup of the whole patient, as well as prognosis. Major emphasis is on etiology of disease, pathology, pathophysiology, pertinent preventive medicine initiatives and nutritional concerns, pertinent laboratory medicine perspectives and radiographical concerns. This course provides an integrated approach to several units which divide the course content by clinical specialty or system which include, ECG/heart sounds, GI medicine, respiratory medicine, cardiology and hematology/oncology. 

MSPA1389 – Medical genetics – 1-2 semester hours

This course is a basic introduction to the complexity of genetics and the role of genetic variation in health and disease and is an online, self-study course. With the major advances in genetics in the past 10 years, we can now not only diagnosis hereditary disorders but recognize them before they manifest themselves in human disease. Topics in genomics will also be presented. In addition, topics in embryology will be interwoven throughout the course for to study human genetics without seeing its impact on the embryology of the human being would be like an orchestra playing Mozart without having the sheet music. 

MSPA1395 – Introduction to ethics – 1 semester hour

Ethical concerns are taking a larger role in the world of modern medicine. Important topics such as informed consent, end of life and quality of life issues will be explored. The general ethical conduct of the physician assistant in the clinical setting will be discussed and general guidelines of conduct and ethical practice will be presented. Lecture instruction with small group discussion of common ethical concerns. This is a pass/fail course. 

MSPA1376 – Clinical patient assessment – 2 semester hours

This course builds upon the concepts learned during the physical diagnosis course. Students take the concepts of history and physical exam and critical thinking and apply them to case studies as well as DMU’s Standardized Performance Assessment Lab (SPAL). SPAL includes interactions with live patients trained to act out a particular disease or condition. Students in this setting, under the observation of a clinician proctor, are required to perform a thorough history and physical exam, order lab work and/or X-rays or procedures, if applicable, determine a diagnosis, a differential diagnosis and formulate a treatment plan. If necessary, they may also be required to write a prescription. They will also be expected to discuss the treatment plan with the patient, which may include explaining diagnostic tests, treatment modalities, patient education and follow-up. This is all done while students are being videotaped. Immediately after the patient interaction session is completed, a clinician sits down with each student and critiques the session. Students are then required to write a SOAP note, which a PA faculty member critiques. The videotape may be used for further review and analysis. 

Block 4

MSPA1394 – Clinical/Preventive/Laboratory medicine 3 (CPLM 3) – 9 semester hours

This course builds upon the basic and clinical sciences already offered to present the disease processes of body systems in terms of etiology, historical data, clinical signs and symptoms, diagnosis, current treatment to include medications and lifestyle changes of common disease processes and the interrelationship of body systems in the makeup of the whole patient, as well as prognosis. Major emphasis is on etiology of disease, pathology, pathophysiology, pertinent preventive medicine initiatives and nutritional concerns, pertinent laboratory medicine perspectives and radiographical concerns. This course provides an integrated approach to several units that divide the course content by clinical specialty or system which include ENT, endocrine, behavioral health, neurology and renal medicine. 

MSPA1382 – Research and epidemiological principles – 1 semester hours

Understanding the epidemiology of disease is one of the basic pillars of clinical reasoning, physical examination and developing a diagnosis. In addition to understanding epidemiology, the practicing clinician must read and stay attuned to the most recent innovations in medicine. This involves research and the ability to critically review and understand the literature and use that information to improve the delivery of health care. Research design, biostatistics, as well as social and behavioral approaches to health will be explored. This course will help prepare the student for the master’s research project conducted during the second year of the program.

Block 5

MSPA1398 – Clinical/Preventive/Laboratory medicine 4 (CPLM 4) – 6 semester hours

This course builds upon the basic and clinical sciences already offered to present the disease processes of body systems in terms of etiology, historical data, clinical signs and symptoms, diagnosis, current treatment to include medications and lifestyle changes of common disease processes and the interrelationship of body systems in the makeup of the whole patient, as well as prognosis. Major emphasis is on etiology of disease, pathology, pathophysiology, pertinent preventive medicine initiatives and nutritional concerns, pertinent laboratory medicine perspectives and radiographical concerns. This course provides an integrated approach to several units that divide the course content by clinical specialty or system which include pediatrics, emergency medicine and geriatric. 

MSPA1381 – Clinical skills – 2 semester hours

Mastery of the essential hands-on clinical skills of daily practice is required to provide competent care in today’s busy practice setting. This course will ensure the student is proficient in basic life support (BLS), basic disaster life support (BDLS) and advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) prior to beginning the clinical rotational year. In addition, instruction in basic surgical skills, such as basic aseptic technique and suturing; and casting and splinting techniques will be provided. This is a pass/fail course. 

MSPA1393 – Introduction to the healthcare delivery systems - 1 semester hour

Today’s health care practitioners are faced with a complicated and confusing system of delivery and management of care. This course will introduce students to many issues they will face on a daily basis in the delivery of health care. Various issues of concern will be covered, such as Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement, access to care and managed care, along with discussions on billing and coding. 

MSPA1393 – PA professional issues – 1 semester hour

This course provides information regarding the role of the physician assistant in today’s medical environment as well as a historical perspective. Legal and legislative issues are discussed, including licensing, credentialing and national certification. This is a pass/fail course.

Year 2

MSPA2340 – Master’s project – 3.5 semester hours

The physician assistant graduate project is designed to provide the physician assistant student with the opportunity to gather further information on a selected medical topic. Using skills and information gained through the didactic phase of the physician assistant curriculum, especially topics included in MSPA 1395, research and epidemiological principles, students define a topic and research method which will be used to complete the project. The project and course will conclude with a properly written work using formatting and style standards set by the American Psychological Association (APA). They will also be responsible for an oral presentation of the project to the PA faculty, students and University community. Key lectures will be presented prior to the rotation year.