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New Physician Assistant Program Receives Provisional Accreditation

October 29, 2007

Media Contact:
Mark Vanderhoek
(478) 301-4037

ATLANTA — The College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences will launch its Physician Assistant in January 2008 following the announcement of its provisional accreditation by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant Inc. In a recent letter, the program received word on its provisional accreditation from the ARC-PA. The provisional accreditation will allow the College to begin the program, which will be the fourth in Georgia and the only second in the Atlanta area.

The program will be offered in conjunction with College’s educational partnership - Piedmont Healthcare of Atlanta.

“We’re very proud to have received this accreditation so quickly, our staff and I have put in many long hours over past 11 months,” said Brad Schwarz, MS, PA-C, the director of the College’s Physician Assistant Program. “Mercer University has a proud history of developing professional education programs to address the work force needs of Georgia, including the establishment of its medical school and engineering school. We’re honored to continue that tradition by helping to develop this important program.”

“As the U.S. population ages, there will be fewer health care providers and greater patient care needs,” he explained. “We hope this program will help meet the medical needs of our state and our nation by providing highly qualified physician assistants over the ensuing years.”

The new physician assistant program helped to cultivate the change of Mercer’s 104-year-old pharmacy school, which officially became the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences on July 1, 2006.

The 28-month physician assistant program will be based on the Cecil B. Day Graduate and Professional Campus in Atlanta and will eventually enroll up to 50 graduate candidates per year. “The initial class will be 25 students followed by a slow growth over the next four years,” said Schwarz, who joined Mercer in October 2006 following a national search. He previously served as the associate director at the Emory University Physician Assistant program.

The applicant pool of candidates has been excellent, Schwarz noted, and should only increase with the granting of provisional accreditation. Meanwhile, the top floor of the Davis Building on the University’s Atlanta campus is undergoing renovations that will provide the labs and classrooms needed.

The program is designed with 12 months of initial classroom instruction, followed by 16 months of professional didactics and clinical rotations.  The clinical rotations will consist of nine core and two elective five-week clinical experiences, interspersed with a series of professional didactic sessions,” Schwarz said.  At the conclusion of the PA student’s clinical rotations, they will return to the campus for a final three-week capstone experience prior to graduation.

There will be nine required clinical “core” rotations, which include: family practice, pediatrics, women’s health, emergency medicine, surgery, internal medicine-outpatient, internal medicine-inpatient, behavioral medicine and orthopedics. Students will also be allowed to take two elective clinical rotations.

Schwarz has hired several faculty and staff members:
· Dr. Philip Brachman, M.D., F.A.C.P., is the medical director and clinical assistant professor. Serving in a part-time capacity, he will act as a liaison to the medical community and assist in developing clinical rotations, as well as provide input concerning curriculum development.
· Nadja Vawryk Button, MHS, PA-C, is clinical coordinator and clinical assistant professor and is charged with development and oversight of clinical rotations. 
· Patricia Kelly, MMSc, PA-C, serves as clinical assistant professor and academic coordinator.
· Laura Baumgarten, LPN, is the program specialist.

In addition to the graduate program, Mercer will have a bachelor’s degree pre-physician assistant program on its Macon campus, home to its traditional undergraduate schools and colleges. Undergraduate students successfully completing a minimum of 90 hours of pre-requisite coursework in the program, including all College of Liberal Arts general education requirements and the designated number of hours of direct patient care experience, will be considered for admission into the highly-competitive master’s program in Atlanta.

About the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences at Mercer University:
Founded in 1903, the independent pharmacy school merged with Mercer University in 1959. In a bold leadership move, it became the first school in the Southeast to offer the doctor of pharmacy degree as its sole professional degree in 1981. In addition to the doctor of pharmacy degree, the college has one of the largest concentrations of Ph.D. students in pharmaceutics among colleges of pharmacy in the United States. In 2008, the college will introduce a Physician Assistant program.

About Mercer University:

Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. The University has 7,200 students; 11 schools and colleges – liberal arts, law, pharmacy, medicine, business, engineering, education, theology, music, nursing and continuing and professional studies; major campuses in Macon and Atlanta; four regional academic centers across the state; a university press; two teaching hospitals — Memorial Health University Medical Center and the Medical Center of Central Georgia; educational partnerships with Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Warner Robins and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta; an engineering research center in Warner Robins; a performing arts center in Macon; and a NCAA Division I athletic program. For more information, visit
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