The following article is part of The Clinical Advisor’s coverage from the 2018 American Academy of Physician Assistants’ annual meeting in New Orleans. Our staff will be reporting live on original research, case studies, and professional outreach and advocacy news from leading PAs in many specialty areas. Check back for ongoing updates from AAPA 2018. 

NEW ORLEANS — Students who enter a preprofessional program directly after high school may be successful in physician assistant (PA) school with structure, guidance, and mentorship, according to research presented at the American Academy of Physician Assistants’ (AAPA) 2018 conference.

Johanna D’Addario, MHS, PA-C, from the Quinnipiac University School of Health Sciences in Hamden, CT, and colleagues, conducted a study to determine how students in a structured preprofessional program would perform in a graduate PA program compared with traditional applicants, who are typically older with more healthcare experience. The authors compared students in the dual-degree Entry-Level Master’s PA (ELMPA) program with students who applied for graduate PA education only at Quinnipiac University.

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Demographic information was collected for all students who successfully completed the graduate PA Program from 2005 to 2015 (n=547). Outcome measures included didactic GPA, clinical preceptor evaluation scores, end-of-rotation exam scores, PACKRAT practice exam scores, and PANCE score.

The researchers found a statistically significant difference in didactic GPA in the graduate PA program, with GPA being higher for ELMPA students vs non-ELMPA students (3.584 vs 3.504, respectively). In the clinical year, neither preceptor evaluation scores nor EOR exam scores significantly differed between the groups (87.88 vs 87.3 for preceptor evaluation scores and 80.88 vs 80.62 for EOR exam scores). The groups scored similarly on the PACKRAT exam (133.2 vs 133.35 for didactic year, and 149.64 vs 149.54, for clinical year), as well as the PANCE exam (541.84 vs 544.75).

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“Our data indicate that the ELMPA program has been an effective means of educating PAs, as ELMPA students performed as well as or better than traditional PA students in nearly every metric measured,” the authors concluded. “Similar pre-professional programs at other universities would provide the opportunity for more students dedicated to the PA profession to enter directly after high school.”

AAPA 2018 continues through Wednesday, May 23. Visit for more information.


D’Addario J, Bowker B, Chan A, et al. Success of physician assistant students entering through a structured pre-professional program. Presented at the American Academy of Physician Assistants 2018 conference; May 19-23, 2018; New Orleans. Poster 155.