Academic Catalog 2020-2021

Physician Assistant Studies, Master of Physician Assistant Studies

Program Director: A. Steele
Associate Program Director: A. Kernicky
Medical Director: M. Reiber
Director of Didactic Education: N. Winker
Director of Clinical Education: M. Mercer


Associate Professors: A. Steele, N. Winker, M. Reiber

Assistant Professors: J. Camp, M. Chadwick, H. Deibler, M. Fowler, A. Kernicky, M. Mercer

Adjunct Professors: D. Harrill, A. Shamblin
Instructor: T. Martin

Mission Statement

Develop knowledgeable and caring Physician Assistants who practice competent patient-centered primary care in diverse environments.

Program Values

The values of the Gardner-Webb University Physician Assistant (PA) Studies Program reflect a commitment to respect, ethical behavior, and integrity in personal and professional service that are established upon the foundation of Christian values and faith, in agreement with the Gardner-Webb University mission.

Program Goals

  1. Admit highly qualified applicants capable of successfully completing the Gardner-Webb University Physician Assistant Studies Program.
  2. Deliver a diverse curriculum that prepares students for entry-level clinical practice.
  3. Cultivate a commitment of service to medically underserved populations.
  4. Encourage the professional development of students and faculty.
  5. Strive to achieve and maintain Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE) pass rates equivalent to or exceeding the national average.

Gardner-Webb University and its Physician Assistant Studies Program are committed to these goals and will communicate them through our teaching, role modeling, and clinical practice.

Program Overview

Gardner-Webb University, a private, Christian, Baptist-related university, provides outstanding undergraduate and graduate education that is strongly grounded in the liberal arts while offering opportunities to prepare for various professions. Fostering meaningful intellectual thought, critical analysis, and spiritual challenge within a diverse community of learning, Gardner-Webb is dedicated to higher education that integrates scholarship with Christian life. By embracing faith and intellectual freedom, balancing conviction with compassion, and inspiring a love of learning, service, and leadership, Gardner-Webb prepares its graduates to make significant contributions for God and humanity in an ever-changing global community.

In accordance with the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) entry-level standards, the Gardner-Webb University School of Physician Assistant Studies design prepares graduates with the competencies needed for entry into clinical PA practice. Gardner-Webb hopes to attract students focused on providing medical service in underserved communities. The PA program will be a practice-oriented master’s degree program designed to accommodate students with a bachelor’s degree, diverse educational backgrounds, and an aptitude for patient care.

Our students will spend 16 months in didactic (classroom, small groups, and lab) followed by 12 months of clinical rotations. Our didactic curriculum will use a traditional classroom setting augmented with problem- and team-based learning modules and hands-on skills training. This will be followed by nine clinical rotations (experiential education). Rotation sites include family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, women's health, emergency medicine, general surgery, mental health, and one elective. In addition, students will rotate through an underserved community.

Program Accreditation

The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc. (ARC-PA) has granted Accreditation-Continued status to the Gardner-Webb University Physician Assistant Program sponsored by Gardner-Webb University. Accreditation-Continued is an accreditation status granted when a currently accredited program is in compliance with the ARC-PA Standards.

Accreditation remains in effect until the program closes or withdraws from the accreditation process or until accreditation is withdrawn for failure to comply with the Standards. The approximate date for the next validation review of the program by the ARC-PA will be March 2028. The review date is contingent upon continued compliance with the Accreditation Standards and ARC-PA policy. Specific questions regarding the Program and its plans should be directed to the program director and/or the appropriate institutional official(s).

Admission Requirements

Gardner-Webb University will begin accepting applications for a new cohort in April via CASPA. Submitted applications will be evaluated in the following areas: Overall Academic Strength, Science Aptitude, Letters of Recommendation, Health Care Experience, Physician Assistant Shadowing, and Potential for Mission Match.

The deadline for submitting applications is September 1 of each year.

Academic Strength

Evaluation of academic strength is largely based upon transcripts including course selection, semester load, and cumulative GPA. A bachelor’s degree from a US regionally accredited institution is required and the minimum acceptable overall GPA is 3.0.

Science Aptitude

Each applicant must have completed the following required courses:

Human anatomy and physiology with lab (two semesters or equivalent);
General biology with lab (one semester or equivalent);
Additional biology with lab (one semester or equivalent);
Microbiology with lab (one semester or equivalent);
General chemistry with lab (one semester or equivalent);
Additional chemistry with lab (one semester or equivalent);
Organic chemistry with lab (one semester or equivalent);
Statistics (one course);
Psychology (one course); and
Medical terminology.

The cumulative prerequisite GPA requirement is 3.0. Courses with a grade below a "B-" will not be accepted.

Coursework Notes

  • Bachelor's degree must come from a US regionally accredited institution and student must have earned an overall cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher.
  • Prerequisites must be taken at a US regionally accredited institution and each course grade must be at least a "B-" (a grade of "C+" or lower will not be accepted). A cumulative prerequisite GPA of 3.0 or higher is required.
  • Should a course be taken more than once, all grades are utilized in the overall cumulative GPA calculation, but only the highest grade for each course will be factored in the prerequisite GPA requirement and individual prerequisite course grade requirement of a "B-."
  • We prefer that all prerequisite courses are taken within the last seven years. If your courses are older than that, know that we recommend refreshing them.
  • We encourage students to have taken anatomy and physiology within two years of the program application date; however, this is not a requirement.
  • All prerequisite work for an earned bachelor’s degree must come from US regionally accredited institutions. However, in addition, Gardner-Webb University requires students to submit a foreign transcript evaluation for any coursework completed through non-US institutions. This does not apply to study abroad credits earned through US institutions.
  • Applicants with up to two remaining prerequisites may apply provided they complete each with at least a "B-" or higher before the first day of September (official transcripts must be received at Gardner-Webb University by October 1 or a selected candidate will relinquish their seat).
  • Survey courses (usually 100 or 101) will not meet the prerequisite course requirements.
  • We do not accept Animal, Mammalian, or Comparative Anatomy and Physiology courses. Additionally, either Anatomy and Physiology I and II OR separate Anatomy and Physiology courses will fulfill the two-semester Anatomy and Physiology requirement. However, these two tracks cannot be combined (Anatomy cannot be paired with Anatomy and Physiology II). The admissions committee can review the content of a syllabus if the course title does not accurately reflect the course content.
  • Prerequisites can be met via Advanced Placement credit (college equivalent courses taken in high school), provided the official score report reflects a 4 or 5.
  • Courses can be taken at any regionally accredited institution, including community colleges. We prefer that all prerequisite courses be taken at a four-year institution.
  • The PA program does not accept College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) credit or credit by examination for any prerequisite requirements.

Letters of Recommendation

Each applicant will be required to provide three professional or academic letters of recommendation. At least one letter must come from an advanced care practitioner or physician (PA, NP, MD, DO).

Background Checks and Drug Screenings

Prior to matriculation, students offered a seat in the program must complete a criminal background check and drug screen via CastleBranch services. Thereafter, students may be required by clinical sites to undergo repeat drug screening and criminal background checks. Students are responsible for all expenses related to meeting drug screening, student health, and background documentation requirements. Students who at any point in the program delay or decline to participate in a requested alcohol and/or drug screen will have that action considered equivalent to taking and failing a drug/alcohol screen. Applicants accepted into the GWU PA program who answered “no” to questions relating to criminal background in their CASPA application and found to have a subsequent positive criminal background check are likely to be dismissed from the program on the basis of misrepresentation. In the event of a reported incident, a determination about the applicant’s/student’s continued progress in the academic program will be made by Gardner-Webb University in accordance with University procedures. Applicants who have been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor may be denied certification or licensure as a health professional. Information regarding eligibility may be obtained from appropriate credentialing boards. Clinical rotation sites may not permit participation in the clinical experience. This should be considered seriously by the candidate prior to application and matriculation. Applicants are advised that results of criminal background checks and other required background screenings will be released to third parties involved in their clinical education. Criminal offenses occurring after the student matriculates may result in the student’s dismissal from the program; if this occurs, tuition and fees will not be refunded.

Health Care Experience

The program places importance on healthcare experience. A minimum of 1,000 direct patient care experience (PCE) hours is required. Applicants are encouraged to be very detailed in their description of health care positions within their CASPA application to allow for appropriate assessment of the type of experience and the quantity. 

U.S. Citizenship/Residency

The Gardner-Webb University PA Studies program accepts applications from U.S. citizens and permanent residents.

TOEFL Requirement

An applicant whose native language is not English and who does not have a full year (two semesters) of composition or its equivalent in English studies with a grade of “B-” or better must demonstrate skills in English understanding and use. Recent scores on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) normally suffice. TOEFL scores should be submitted with the CASPA application or directly to the Office of Graduate Admissions. Satisfactory scores are based on the testing format and include the following.

  1. Internet-based TOEFL: Score of 100 with a minimum score of 20 on each section.
  2. A total score of 600 on the paper TOEFL, with a score of 55 on the Listening Comprehension.
  3. A total score of 250 on the computer-based TOEFL.
  4. A level 112 from the ELS Language Centers or other recognized evidence may be considered satisfactory, pending admissions committee approval.

For selected candidates, interviews will begin in August and seats will be offered using a rolling admission process.

Technical Standards

Students admitted to the Gardner-Webb University Physician Assistant Studies Program are selected because they have demonstrated the capacity to complete the entire curriculum in order to attain the Master of Physician Assistant Studies degree. The curriculum requires demonstrated abilities in (1) observation, (2) communication, (3) motor, (4) intellectual, and (5) behavioral and social skills. Therefore, all students admitted to the Physician Assistant Studies Program must possess these attributes. If you have any questions regarding these standards or your ability to meet these standards, you should contact the Program Director upon application to the program and prior to acceptance.

  1. Observation

      Candidates must be able to:

    1. Observe demonstrations, visual presentations in lectures and laboratories, laboratory evidence and microbiologic cultures, microscopic studies of microorganisms and tissues in normal and pathologic states;
    2. Observe a patient accurately at a distance and close at hand; and
    3. Use the sense of vision, hearing, sensation, and smell as part of the observation process.
  2. Communication

      Candidates should be able to:

    1. Communicate effectively and sensitively with patients and families in a culturally competent manner;
    2. Communicate effectively and efficiently in oral and written forms with all members of the healthcare team;
    3. Be able to speak, hear, and observe patients in order to elicit information, perceive nonverbal communications, and describe changes in mood, activity, and posture; and
    4. Utilize speech, reading, writing, and computers as part of the communication process. In addition, candidates must possess the skills necessary to communicate effectively in small and large group discussions.
  3. Motor

      Candidates must have sufficient motor skills and coordination to:

    1. Execute the movement required to provide patient care such as palpation, auscultation, percussion, and other diagnostic maneuvers;
    2. Execute movements required to provide continuous general care and emergency treatment to patients; these skills require continuous coordination of gross and fine muscle movement, equilibrium, and sensation;
    3. Manipulate equipment and instruments without interruption necessary to perform basic laboratory tests and procedures required to attain curricular goals (e.g., needles, stethoscope, ophthalmoscope, tongue blades, intravenous equipment, gynecologic speculum, and scalpel); and
    4. Transport instruments and equipment from one location to another in a timely fashion in order to facilitate patient care responsibilities and receive educational training.
  4. Intellectual-Conceptual, Integrative and Quantitative Abilities

      Candidates must be able to:

    1. Comprehend three-dimensional relationships and the spatial relationship of structures;
    2. Collect, organize, prioritize, analyze, and assimilate large amounts of technically detailed and complex information within a limited time frame and then present that information in a variety of educational settings, including lectures, small group discussions, and individual clinical settings; and
    3. Analyze, integrate, and apply information appropriately for problem solving and decision- making.
  5. Behavioral and Social Attributes

      Candidates must have:

    1. Emotional health, maturity, sensitivity, intellectual ability, and good judgment needed to complete all responsibilities associated with the diagnosis and care of patients;
    2. The ability to tolerate physical, mental, and emotional stress associated with training and the profession;
    3. Qualities of adaptability, flexibility, and be able to function in the face of uncertainty;
    4. A high level of compassion for others, motivation to serve, integrity, and a consciousness of social values;
    5. Sufficient interpersonal skills to interact positively and in a culturally competent manner with people from all levels of society, all ethnic backgrounds, and all belief systems; and,
    6. The ability to accept criticism and respond by appropriate modification of behavior.

Admission decisions are made on the assumption that each candidate can meet the technical standards without consideration of disability. Candidates accepted for admission to the Physician Assistant Studies Program will be required to verify that they understand and can meet these technical standards and do so continuously and without interruption. Gardner-Webb University, the CoHS and Physician Assistant Studies Program comply with all federal, state, and local laws including the Americans with Disabilities Act. The University reserves the right of final determination for applicants requesting accommodations to meet the program’s technical standards. This includes a review of whether the accommodations requested are reasonable, taking into account whether the accommodation would jeopardize patient safety, or the educational process of the student or the institution, including all coursework and supervised clinical practice experiences deemed essential for graduation. The Physician Assistant Studies Program will work jointly with the Noel Center for Disability Resources to determine what accommodations are suitable or possible in terms of reasonable accommodation, and will render the person capable of performing all essential functions established by the program. In the event an applicant is unable to independently, with or without reasonable accommodation, fulfill these technical standards prior to or any time after admission, the student will not be permitted to enter or progress within the program.

Program Work Policy

Due to the intensity and high standards of the program, it is advisable that students remain prepared and focused throughout the curriculum. Students are strongly discouraged from seeking or maintaining employment, including part-time employment, while enrolled in the program. If a PA student chooses to work during the program, it is his/her responsibility to ensure that employment does not interfere with attending classes or supervised clinical practice rotations or hinder academic progress. Program expectations, assignments, deadlines, examinations, and other student responsibilities cannot be altered or adjusted to accommodate a working student. Students are also advised to take full advantage of academic and other support services available to them during their enrollment. As an intense graduate medical education program it is anticipated that students will quickly become independent learners, managing their time and multiple responsibilities to effectively complete their coursework. It is the responsibility of the student to problem solve, question what they do not understand, and handle conflict with respect and maturity.

Student Learning Outcomes

  1. Obtain and record a complete and accurate medical history and perform a complete or problem-focused physical examination from any patient in any setting.
  2. Interpret and synthesize the information derived from the history, physical examination, and other patient-related data to guide the formulation of a thorough differential diagnosis.
  3. Order, perform, and interpret appropriate diagnostic procedures and laboratory tests based upon the findings from the medical history and physical examination; identify, discuss, perform, and order appropriate therapy and treatment modalities for the management of commonly-occurring primary care entities; recognize life-threatening conditions.
  4. Clearly and effectively communicate with patients, their families, and other medical personnel in a professional manner; demonstrate knowledge of the impact that health problems have on the individual and family members and develop an attitude of professional concern for each patient.
  5. Utilize critical-thinking skills through the use of evidence-based medicine; articulate the unique role of the physician assistant in the medical team; possess a working knowledge of the American health care delivery system.
  6. Exhibit ethical behavior and professional conduct.

Academic Curriculum (116 hours)

Spring Semester, Year One (Didactic)

MPAS 504Applied Human Anatomy


MPAS 506Medical Physiology


MPAS 508History and Physical Examination


MPAS 510Introduction to Clinical Medicine


MPAS 512Clinical Pharmacology


Summer Semester, Year One (Didactic)

MPAS 521Patient-Centered Care I


MPAS 531Professional Development I


MPAS 540Physician Assistant Medicine I


MPAS 571Special Populations/Geriatrics


Fall Semester, Year One (Didactic)

MPAS 523Patient-Centered Care II


MPAS 550Physician Assistant Medicine II


MPAS 580OR and Minor Surgery

2.5 with a lab

Spring Semester, Year Two (Didactic)

MPAS 533Professional Development II


MPAS 560Physician Assistant Medicine III


MPAS 573Pediatrics


MPAS 590Emergency Medicine


Summer Semester , Year Two; Fall Semester, Year Two; and Spring Semester, Year Three (Clinical Year)

MPAS 620Family Medicine SCPE


MPAS 621Evidence-Based Medicine


MPAS 622Internal Medicine SCPE


MPAS 624Pediatric Medicine SCPE


MPAS 626Women's Health SCPE


MPAS 628Emergency Medicine SCPE


MPAS 630General Surgery SCPE


MPAS 632Mental Health SCPE


MPAS 636Underserved Population/Area SCPE


MPAS 638Elective SCPE


MPAS 645Professional Development - Clinical


MPAS 654Summative Evaluation


Total Credit Hours: 116