Academic Catalog 2021-2022

Physician Assistant Studies, Master of Physician Assistant Studies

Department Director: A. Steele
Associate Department 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, L. Clark, H. Deibler, A. Kernicky, M. Mercer

Adjunct Professors: C. Smith

Mission Statement

Develop knowledgeable and caring Physician Assistants who practice competent patient-centered primary care in diverse environments. Our values 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 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. Recruit, admit, and educate highly qualified applicants, without regard to ethnicity, culture, gender, or socioeconomic status, from across the United States, 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 is 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 begin the program in January and spend 16 months in the didactic phase (classroom, small groups, and lab) followed by 12 months in the clinical phase (supervised clinical practice experiences or SCPEs). Our didactic curriculum uses a traditional classroom setting augmented with problem- and team-based learning modules and hands-on skills training. This is followed by ten SCPEs, including family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, women’s health, emergency medicine, general surgery, mental health, one rotation in an underserved community, and two electives.  Also within the clinical curriculum is an advanced Evidence-Based Medicine course followed by a Capstone before graduation.

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).

Diversity and Inclusion

The PA Studies Program upholds the tenets of diversity within Gardner-Webb University’s Statement of Value of Diversity.

Studying and celebrating our world’s rich mix of cultures, ideologies, and ethnicities; respecting and welcoming students without regard to ethnicity, gender, religious commitment or national origin.

Inclusiveness and diversity are fundamental in preparing healthcare providers to deliver equitable, cross-cultural healthcare while making strides to eliminate health disparities and improve outcomes across all populations.  The social determinants of health that are influencing the well-being of Cleveland County residents, as well as those of surrounding communities and the state of North Carolina, are important to our program.  Health equity for our underrepresented and underserved community members is the passion of our program, and one example of how the PA Program values inclusion and diversity. 

Admission Requirements

Gardner-Webb University will begin accepting applications for its January 2022 cohort in late April 2021. Applications must be CASPA complete and must contain all required application materials including the supplemental application and $100 supplemental fee by this date. Instructions will be sent to each applicant concerning the supplemental application and fee once the applicant has submitted his or her application to Gardner-Webb through CASPA.

The deadline for submitting applications is September 1, 2021.

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.

Applicants should be aware that acceptance into a PA program is an extremely competitive process. A 3.0 GPA is the minimum and does not guarantee an interview or acceptance.

Prerequisite Courses

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.

Important Course Information to Note

  • Bachelor’s degree must be from a U.S. regionally accredited institution.  A minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 is required.
  • ALL prerequisite courses must be from a U.S. regionally accredited institution. Each course grade must be at least a B-minus (a grade of C+ or lower will not be accepted).  A minimum overall prerequisite GPA of 3.0 is required.
  • NOTE:  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-minus.
  • Survey courses do not meet the prerequisite course requirements (usually 100 or 101 classes).
  • Online labs will not be accepted.
  • Either of the following will be accepted:
  • Anatomy and Physiology I and II with labs OR
  • Human Anatomy with lab AND Human Physiology with lab
  • PLEASE NOTE:  These two tracks cannot be combined (e.g. Human Anatomy cannot be paired with Anatomy and Physiology II).  The admissions committee may choose to review the content of a syllabus if the course title does not accurately reflect the course content.
  • Animal, Mammalian, or Comparative Anatomy and Physiology courses do not qualify as substitutes for Anatomy and Physiology.
  • Prerequisites may be met via Advanced Placement credit (college equivalent courses taken in high school), provided the office score report reflects a 4 or 5.
  • If prerequisite courses are older than seven years, we recommend refreshing them..
  • Students are encouraged to have taken Anatomy and Physiology within the last two years.
  • Courses may be taken at any regionally accredited institution, including community colleges.  It is preferred that all prerequisite courses be taken at a four-year institution.
  • Gardner-Webb University requires all students to submit a foreign transcript evaluation for any coursework completed through non-U.S. institutions.
  • This does not apply for study abroad credits earned through U.S. institutions.
  • College Level Examination Program (CLEP) credit or credit by examination for any prerequisite requirements will not be accepted.
  • Under no circumstance will applicants be allowed to begin the Physician Assistant Studies Program if the required courses or bachelor’s degree are not completed by the first day of September prior to the program start date.

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).

Health Care Experience

A minimum of 1000 direct patient contact hours are required for application. Patient care experience will be evaluated based on the type of experience and the number of hours in a clinical setting.

1,000 hours of patient care experience must be completed no later than August 1.  Preference will be given to candidates who have direct patient care experiences that required a prior period of training based on the length and rigor of the required training.

Applicants are encouraged to be detailed in their description of duties and responsibilities when listing healthcare positions within the CASPA application.

Qualifying patient care experiences include but are not limited to: military corpsmen, paramedic, EMT, combat medic, registered nurse (RN), licensed practical nurse (LPN), certified nursing assistant (CNA), surgical technician, EEG or EKG technician, emergency room technician, medical assistant (MA), respiratory therapist, radiologic technician, registered dietitian, phlebotomist, lab technician, dental hygienist, x-ray technician, physical/occupational therapist, physical therapy aide, medical social worker*, mental health counselor, ophthalmic technician, chiropractic assistant*, ABA behavioral technician*, athletic trainer, exercise physiologist, health and wellness consultant in clinical setting, medical scribe.

*These experiences will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Examples of unacceptable patient care experiences include: clerical duties for any organization, transporter (orderly), veterinarian work, medical answering service, ward secretary, massage therapist, dental assistant, in-home care assistant (personal caregiver for ill family member), shadowing, pharmacy tech, pharmaceutical sales, student clinical experience/internships.

Background Checks and Drug Screenings

Before matriculation, students offered a seat in the program must complete a criminal background check and drug screen via CastleBranch services. To fulfill the annual requirements of SCPE sites, students are required to repeat the criminal background check and drug screening via CastleBranch as designated by the Clinical Team. (Standard A3.19) The program reserves the right to conduct unannounced drug screening at its discretion (see Controlled Substance Examination Regulation Act or CSERA). Each of the following warrants a professionalism violation and APC referral for possible dismissal from the program:

  1. Student delay or decline to participate in requested alcohol and/or drug screen at any point after matriculation (considered equivalent to failing a drug/alcohol)
  2. Positive drug screen without medical review officer approval
  3. Attending any university or program function, class, or clinical site while inebriated.
  4. Representing Gardner-Webb University and/or the PA Program in an official capacity while intoxicated.

Applicants are advised that the results of criminal background checks and other required background screening will be released to third parties involved in their clinical education. 

Applicants accepted into the GWU PA Studies Program who answered "no" to questions relating to the criminal background in their CASPA application and are found to have a subsequent positive criminal background check may be dismissed from the program based on 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, according to the GWU PA Studies Program Policy.

Applicants who have been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor may be denied certification or licensure as a health professional. Eligibility information may be obtained from appropriate credentialing boards. Furthermore, supervised clinical practice experience sites may not permit participation in the clinical experience. This should be considered seriously by the candidate before application and matriculation.

Any criminal offense incurred after the student matriculates (misdemeanor or felony) must be reported to the program director within five (5) business days and may result in the student’s dismissal from the program; if this occurs, tuition and fees will not be refunded.

Felony conviction as a student within the Gardner-Webb Physician Assistant Studies Program will result in immediate dismissal from the GWU PA Studies Program.

U.S. Citizenship/Residency

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

Additional Requirements

  • If an applicant indicates that English is not their native language on the CASPA application, they MUST provide one of the following requirements:
    • Two (2)-semesters of English composition or its equivalent in English studies, earning a grade of B- or better; or
    • TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) scores submitted with the CASPA application or directly to GWU PA Admissions from the Educational Testing Service. A minimum total score of 93 with a minimum speaking score of 26 is required.

      Applicants must meet the Gardner-Webb PA Studies Program Technical Standards.

PA Studies Program Technical Standards

Applicants must meet the Gardner-Webb PA Studies Program Technical Standards.

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 College of Health Sciences 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.

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.

Program Employment Policy

The Gardner-Webb University Physician Assistant Studies Program policy on employment is listed below:  

  • Physician assistant students are strictly prohibited from working for the PA Studies Program.
  • Physician assistant students are strictly prohibited from substituting as student workers for instructional or administrative support staff.
  • Physician assistant students are strongly discouraged from being employed while enrolled. Employment cannot be used to excuse absence from scheduled learning activities or to excuse poor performance/progression in the program.

Program Policy on Students Scheduling Clinical Rotations

All SCPEs are assigned by the program’s Director of Clinical Education in conjunction with the Clinical Scheduling Manager. The student is not permitted to schedule SCPEs. The Program must make all arrangements for scheduling and will instruct the student regarding contacting sites and preceptors prior to the start of a SCPE. The Program verifies preceptor and site eligibility, including ongoing site evaluations and eligibility, according to ARC-PA standards.

    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


    MPAS 536Intro to EBM and Public Health


    MPAS 540Physician Assistant Medicine I


    Fall Semester, Year One (Didactic)

    MPAS 523Patient-Centered Care II


    MPAS 550Physician Assistant Medicine II


    MPAS 571Special Populations/Geriatrics


    MPAS 580Surgical Medicine


    Spring Semester, Year Two (Didactic)

    538 538Healthcare Law & Ethics


    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 Medicine SCPE


    MPAS 628Emergency Medicine SCPE


    MPAS 630Surgical Medicine SCPE


    MPAS 632Behavioral Medicine SCPE


    MPAS 636Underserved Medicine


    MPAS 638Elective I SCPE


    641 641Elective II


    651 651Capstone


    MPAS 654Summative Evaluation


    Total Credit Hours: 116