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Mercer to Introduce Physician Assistant Program

May 9, 2006

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ATLANTA – The Center for Health and Learning, a partnership of Mercer University and Piedmont Healthcare, announces the creation of a physician assistant program to begin in fall 2007. The initial class of 25 graduate candidates will earn a master of medical science degree from the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences of Mercer University, currently known as Southern School of Pharmacy.


“The offering of a physician assistant program is an important first step that the University has taken to increase the number of health science programs available to its students,” said H.W. “Ted” Matthews, dean of Southern School of Pharmacy and vice president for the health sciences at Mercer. “This program provides Mercer students another health career option, especially for those who are interested in the practice of medicine. This field is in great demand and provides excellent career opportunities.”


The new physician assistant program is one of the reasons for the changing name of Mercer’s 103-year-old pharmacy school, which will officially become the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences on July 1, 2006. “This change reflects the additional health science offerings that will be beneficial to our students and University in fostering inter-professional education,” Matthews added.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the physician assistant is among the fastest growing occupations in America, and is expected to grow faster than average than all other occupations through the year 2014. In May 2004, the median salary of physician assistants was nearly $70,000.


The 28-month program will be based on Mercer’s Cecil B. Day Graduate and Professional Campus in Atlanta and will eventually enroll 80 to 100 graduate candidates. Coursework will include studies in biology, physiology, anatomy and biochemistry, among others.


In addition to the master’s degree-level program, Mercer will also introduce a bachelor’s degree-level pre-physician assistant program on its Macon campus. Undergraduate students successfully completing 90 hours of coursework in the program, including all College of Liberal Arts general education requirements and a certain number of hours of patient care, will be guaranteed admission into the highly-competitive master’s program in Atlanta.


“With the development of a three-year pre-physician assistant program on the Macon campus, we will address a critical need in health care while also providing a fantastic opportunity for our undergraduates,” said D. Scott Davis, associate executive vice president and vice provost for Mercer.


“Many of our students are interested in a career in a health-related area, and the development of this program allows a unique situation,” he explained. “Currently, a student at Mercer can prepare for medical or dental school, or pursue a pre-pharmacy or pre-physician curriculum while also enjoying the benefits of a liberal arts base. The students in the pre-physician assistant program will have that same opportunity. They will receive a B.S. degree in health science from the College of Liberal Arts at the completion of their first year in the graduate program in Atlanta.”


The physician assistant program will be conducted in coordination with Piedmont Healthcare. In June 2005, Piedmont Healthcare and Mercer announced the establishment of the Center for Health and Learning, a partnership that is creating a number of joint initiatives, including nursing, pharmacy, research and other medical and allied health education programs.


“We, at Piedmont Healthcare, are pleased to be working with Mercer University as they develop their new physician assistant academic program,” noted Steve Taylor, M.D., executive vice president and chief medical officer of Piedmont Healthcare. “Physician assistants are a valuable professional resource for us at Piedmont, and anything we can do to facilitate the training of additional top-notch PAs will help us maintain and even further improve the high quality of patient care provided here.”


For more information about Mercer’s Physician Assistant program, contact the Office of the Senior Vice President – Atlanta at Mercer University at 678-547-6397 or



About Piedmont Healthcare

Piedmont Healthcare, a not-for-profit organization and one of the 100 Best Performing Integrated Healthcare Networks (Top 100 IHNs) in the nation, is the parent company of Piedmont Hospital – a 500-bed acute tertiary care facility in the north Atlanta community of Buckhead, offering all major medical, surgical and diagnostic services, a recipient of the 2006 Distinguished Hospital Award for Patient SafetyTM, according to HealthGrades (a leading health care ratings company), and one of the nation’s Most Wired hospitals in the 100 Most Wired Survey and Benchmarking Study in 2005 and 2004; Piedmont Fayette Hospital, a 100-bed acute care community hospital in Fayetteville, named one of the nation’s 100 Top Hospitals® for the third year in a row and one of the nation’s Most Wired hospitals; Piedmont Mountainside Hospital, a 35-bed community hospital in Jasper; the Piedmont Hospital Foundation; Piedmont Physicians Group, with more than 70 primary care physicians in a network of 18 offices throughout metro Atlanta; and the Piedmont Clinic, a 469-member physician network. For more information, visit



About Mercer University

Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a private, faith-based institution that has a national reputation of scholastic excellence, with rigorous academic programs, innovative teaching and time-honored values that embrace reason, responsibility, compassion and character. A dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education, the University has 7,300 students; 1,300 faculty and staff; 10 schools and colleges – liberal arts, law, pharmacy, medicine, business, engineering, education, theology and nursing; major campuses in Macon and Atlanta; four regional academic centers across the state; a university press that has published more than 1,000 volumes; four academic libraries; teaching hospitals in Macon and Savannah; an educational partnership with Robins Air Logistics Center in Warner Robins; an engineering research center in Warner Robins; a budget of more than $150 million; an endowment of more than $180 million; and a NCAA Division I athletic program. For more information, visit