Physician Assistant

Physician assistants (PAs) are health professionals licensed to practice medicine under the supervision of a physician. PAs are extensively trained to provide diagnostic, therapeutic, and preventive healthcare services. Working as members of the healthcare team, physician assistants can take medical histories, perform physical exams, order and interpret laboratory tests, diagnose and treat illnesses, counsel patients, assist in surgery, and set fractures. PAs can also work as the principal health providers in rural or inner city clinics, where a physician is on the premises for only one or two days each week. In these types of clinical work environments, the PA confers with the supervising physician and other medical professionals as needed or as required by law.

Physician assistants are educated as generalists in medicine, thus most of the PA graduate programs emphasize primary care in their training. Although their education and credentialing are based on a primary care foundation, PAs can also work in specialty fields like cardiovascular surgery, orthopedics, and emergency medicine. Nonetheless, the largest proportion of PAs opt for the primary care specialty areas of family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, and obstetrics and gynecology.

Biola offers an excellent educational foundation, and individualized advising/preparation, for any student interested in becoming a physician assistant (PA). The Human Biology major in the Biological Sciences Dept. is ideally suited for students pursuing a PA career. In fact, the various prerequisites for Physician Assistant Masters level graduate programs (around the country) were studied carefully when designing the Pre-Health Care Professional emphasis of the Human Biology major. In recent years, Biola graduates have had impressive success in gaining admission to respected PA Professional school programs both locally and around the nation.

Biola’s excellent science curricula and faculty equip each student with the knowledge base necessary for a future medical career. This is evidenced by the fact that most Biola graduates from the Sciences score significantly above the national average on graduate school admissions tests. Furthermore, since several of the PA schools require GRE admission test scores prior to application, Biola has contracted with one of the leading (national) professional test prep companies to offer convenient on-campus review courses for the GRE exam.

Science instruction and teaching at Biola is always implemented in the context of the sovereignty of God, and as a tool to further explore and appreciate His creation. A distinctive of the pre-PA program at Biola University is that it offers excellent preparation for PA school as an integrated part of the much larger on-campus Christian community.

Every pre-PA student has access to personal advising from BOHPA, the Biola Office of Health Professions Advising. Specifically, every pre-PA student has the opportunity for multiple advising appointments with the chief advisor, an MD degree graduate from the UCLA school of medicine.

Over the last several years, Biola University has had a successful number of students gain admission to PA health professional graduate programs after completing their undergraduate degrees. The PA profession is (somewhat) unique in that the graduate institutions want applying students to have both an undergraduate science background and significant clinical experience before matriculating into a PA graduate program. The Biola Office of Health Professions Advising counsels students on how to obtain this needed clinical experience both during, and immediately after, their undergraduate studies.

As a starting point, every pre-PA student is eligible to enroll in the upper division clinical shadowing program (BIOS460) at Biola University. This semester-long experience for juniors and seniors provides weekly or semi-monthly opportunities to observe and interact directly with a physician assistant seeing patients in clinical practice. Clinical shadowing allows students to explore the physician assistant field, gain required clinical experience, provide sources for letters of recommendation, and make decisions about future career paths.

Biola has a wonderful peer-to-peer community for pre-health students in the Health Careers Club (HCC). The HCC provides opportunities for like-minded students to gather, fellowship, learn, and share the pre-health career journey together. Student officers of the HCC plan monthly activities and presentations directly related to the medical field. Speakers from various specialties are brought in to discuss their clinical work and topics in their field. Christian professionals and sponsoring missions organizations are also scheduled for students interested in short-term and long-term missions. Unlike some of the larger state schools, the Health Careers Club at Biola University ensures that no student has to undertake the challenging pre-health career journey alone.

The Biola major most suited for students interested in a future career as a Physician Assistant is the Human Biology major in the Department of Biological Sciences. The Pre-Health Care Professional emphasis under this Human Biology BS degree is specifically designed to provide students the complete educational foundation required for a PA career.

Additional Career Info

To learn more about a career as a physician assistant, click on the “Physician Assistant” heading under the “Medicine” tab at http://www.explorehealthcareers.org