Expanded Physician Assistant Studies program designed to help Laredo area’s health care provider shortage

In an effort to help address the shortage of health care providers in the Laredo area, UT Health San Antonio’s School of Health Professions has expanded its nationally recognized Master of Physician Assistant (MPAS) program to the UT Education and Research Center at Laredo campus.

“The idea is to provide a vehicle for people from the Laredo and Webb County area to achieve the training they need to become a physician assistant and provide health care to the community where they were born and raised,” said Paul B. Allen, Sr., DSc, MPAS, PA-C, FAAPA, FSAPA, associate professor, chair and program director of the Department of Physician Assistant Studies at UT Health San Antonio.

Students in the MPAS program undergo rigorous classroom instruction and skills training and rotate through 15 clinical practice experiences in a range of health care settings — from pediatrics and primary care to surgery and emergency medicine. The program’s first Laredo cohort started classes in May of 2021.

Laredo’s need for more health care providers

According to Laredo’s Health Authority, the city and its neighbors have been experiencing a shortage of health care providers for many years, but the problem was even more amplified during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The need for health care workers is even greater today.

“We are medically underserved, and our community welcomes more opportunities for solutions,” said Victor Trevino, M.D., Laredo Health Authority. “We are overwhelmed with handling office and hospital visits. We need mid-level providers like nurse practitioners and physician assistants to help us with patient visits, making rounds.”

 

The role of a physician assistant

A physician assistant (PA) is a licensed clinician who diagnoses illness and treats patients under the supervision of a physician. PAs work in all medical specialties and settings, including primary and specialty care, emergency medicine and psychiatry. In rural or underserved communities, PAs may be especially helpful where availability of physicians is limited. In some cases, a PA may be the only primary care provider for a rural community.

“There are boundless opportunities for our PA students in Laredo”, said Rosalyn Rosas, MMS, PA-C, assistant professor, and the program’s associate academic coordinator. “After completion of their rigorous PA training, they can choose to practice as a generalist PA or pursue other specialties in the field of medicine and serve their community. Our students from Laredo have experienced firsthand what it’s like not to have immediate access to medical providers, and their journey in this program will make a difference.”

In 2020, physician assistants earned a median annual salary of more than $115,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which predicts employment in the PA profession will grow 31% from 2020 to 2030, with 12,200 openings projected each year.

To apply for the MPAS program at UT Education and Research Center at Laredo, and to learn more about the program, visit uthscsa.edu/laredo/pa.



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