Graduate School of Medical Sciences

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Health Sciences for Physician Assistants

Overview

The Weill Cornell Graduate School Master of Science in Health Sciences for Physician Assistants (MSHS PA) program is a twenty-six month course of study to educate students to become Physician Assistants. The program begins in early March each year and is comprised of two phases of study: a classroom intensive pre-clinical phase and a clinical phase.

The twenty-six month curriculum is conducted under the auspices of the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences. The PA Program is registered and accredited (see Accreditation section below) by the Accreditation Review Committee for Physician Assistant Education, Inc. (www.arc-pa.org). Upon successful completion of the MSHS PA Program, Cornell University grants a Master's of Science degree in Health Sciences for Physician Assistants and graduates are eligible to take the National Certifying Board Examination administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (www.nccpa.net).

The MSHS PA Program, in its earliest model, was begun at The New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center in 1973 as a Surgical Assistant (SA) Program for the purpose of training qualified individuals to assist in the care of the surgical patient. While the surgical focus remains strong, primary care training is provided to all students preparing them for practice in any area. The MSHS PA Program offers students an opportunity to apply the foundations of medicine learned in the classroom to patient care in a variety of practice settings by utilizing the abundant academic and clinical resources summarized below.  In addition, students now learn and develop skills in research allowing them to better incorporate new medical methodologies and progress into clinical practice. As a result, students participate in patient care as integral members of the surgical/medical team.

In order to graduate, students are required to satisfactorily complete all curriculum components including a Master’s thesis and oral defense.   

For more information about the PA profession please visit www.aapa.org, www.paeaonline.org.

Accreditation

The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) has granted Accreditation-Continued to the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences Physician Assistant Program sponsored by Cornell 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 2020. The review date is contingent upon continued compliance with the Standards and ARC-PA policy.

Mission Statement

The principal mission of the Weill Cornell Graduate School MSHS Physician Assistant Program is to educate highly competent, compassionate, and culturally sensitive physician assistants drawn from diverse backgrounds and experiences, who will be capable of practicing and excelling in varied clinical and academic settings.

The MSHS PA Program offers a rigorous and thorough foundation in generalist medicine and primary care education, striving for a balanced curriculum that provides students with fundamental principles of clinical practice along with training in general surgery and the surgical subspecialties.

Consistent with the mission of its sponsoring institution, the MSHS PA Program offers a course of study to advance the art and science of medicine, thereby contributing to the betterment of health care at both national and community levels and to the PA Profession through clinical practice, research and other scholarly endeavors.

Educational Philosophy

The Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences is committed to providing an environment that fosters mutual respect, the values of professionalism, ethics, and humanism in the practice of medicine as a physician assistant. The environment thus created will be conducive to learning the importance of the professional duties each student is about to assume. Of paramount importance is to understand the individuality and importance of each person the students will come in contact with throughout both training and practice, taking into account the value of human diversity. This includes patients, colleagues, fellow students, and above all self.

Each student will be expected to perform at the best of his or her abilities. This requires that faculty, students and administrative and support staff treat each other with civility without limiting appropriate teaching techniques and styles that advance and stimulate the educational environment in order to foster critical thinking and encourage professional leadership. Students will be presented with sufficient information to develop a medical knowledge base and the skills required to refine and expand the knowledge base throughout a professional career, sharpen and hone clinical skills, and comport oneself as a professional in all situations.

Program Goals

The following specific educational objectives have been established for the Physician Assistant Program. Upon completion of this program, the student will demonstrate appropriate:

  1. Fund of knowledge in surgery, medicine and primary care to allow entrance into clinical practice and to serve as a foundation for learning throughout the graduate’s career. Students who discern an interest in medicine in addition to surgery will be allowed to follow a medical track of elective rotations.
  2. Development of behavior, suitable for inclusion in the medical profession, including abilities to function as an integral part of a medical team, to accept constructive criticism, and to assume increasing degrees of responsibility under proper supervision
  3. Mastery of technical skills including patient assessment techniques (i.e. history taking, physical examination skills), proficiency with oral and written clinical presentations, and facility with surgical procedures appropriate for level of training
  4. Understanding of surgical sciences as the program places emphasis in clinical surgical training. Students will demonstrate proficiency in the pre-operative evaluation and preparation of patients, operating room skills, and caring for the patients in the post-operative period.

Outcomes for Program Goals

The following specific educational objectives have been established for the Physician Assistant Program. Upon completion of this program, the student will demonstrate appropriate: 

1. Fund of knowledge in surgery, medicine and primary care to allow entrance into clinical practice and to serve as a foundation for learning throughout the graduate’s career. Students who discern an interest in medicine in addition to surgery will be allowed to follow a medical track of elective rotations.

The program's graduation rate has been between 96.7% - 100% per year for the past five years, which is above the most recently reported national graduation rate of 90.8% (PAEA, "By The Numbers: Program Report 31", updated January 2017). There has been no attrition in the last two graduating classes.

The Weill Cornell Graduate School PA program’s first time pass rate for the PANCE exam for the past five years is as follows:

2016 = 100%

2015 = 97%

2014 = 100%

2013 = 97%

2012 = 96% 

Program evaluations from the four recently graduated classes (2012 – 2015) reveal that between 80% and 92% have obtained employment in medical or surgical practice or their subspecialties.  Regarding preparedness by the program for practice, 86% of the respondents from these classes have provided a categorical “yes”.  The remaining 16% have provided specific comments concerning particular areas of exceptional preparedness.  There were no negative responses.

Out of five elective rotations available to students, the PA Program requires that one elective has a primary care orientation, referred to as a 'selective rotation'.

The Director of Clinical Education seeks to maximize student achievement on the PANCE and counsels all students to avoid excessive specialty surgery experiences and seek a well-rounded elective rotation schedule.

In the class of 2016, the most recent class for which complete data is available for clinical experiences, 12 of 32 clinical phase students chose to do all 5 elective rotations in medicine or medical specialties.  Furthermore, 21 of 32 students chose to do at least 3 of 5 elective rotations in medicine or medical specialties.

The class of 2017 was surveyed after completing 10 of 15 clinical rotations.  When asked what their best rotation to date had been, a majority (17 of 30 students) named a rotation in medicine or a medical specialty.

2. Development of behavior, suitable for inclusion in the medical profession, including abilities to function as an integral part of a medical team, to accept constructive criticism, and to assume increasing degrees of responsibility under proper supervision.

Program faculty and administration continuously assess students' professional behavioral throughout the 26 months of the program. Academic advisors address behavioral concerns with students as they occur. The Committee on Promotion and Graduation evaluates each student's academic standing and professional behavior on a minimum of two occasions: 1) upon the student's promotion to the clinical phase of the program, and 2) as the student nears program completion.  The Committee also meets on an ad hoc basis should academic or behavioral issues arise between regularly scheduled meetings.

Faculty members prepare a summative assessment of each student's professional behavior near the end of the clinical phase of the PA program.  This document is reviewed with each student as part of his or her Exit Interview.  Any instances of unprofessional behavior are discussed in detail at this time, and a specific plan is agreed upon to avoid all similar behavior in the future.

3. Mastery of technical skills including patient assessment techniques (i.e. history taking, physical examination skills), proficiency with oral and written clinical presentations, and facility with surgical procedures appropriate for level of training.

Using our state-of-the-art Clinical Skills Center, students are evaluated in the diagnosis and treatment of standardized patients.  Faculty members observe these clinical encounters, and video recordings are available for student review.  These objective structured clinical examinations (OSCE) occur four times throughout each student’s matriculation: OSCE 1 assesses a complete patient history, OSCE 2 evaluates a complete medical history and physical examination, OSCE 3 requires a problem-focused history and physical examination, and OSCE 4 involves two sequential problem-focused encounters to simulate a busy urgent care facility. Mean percent scores for four recent cohorts are as follows:

Class OSCE 1 OSCE 2 OSCE 3 OSCE 4
Class of 12 86.8 93.1 80.6 84.6
Class of 13 85.0 89.5 72.6 74.5
Class of 14 85.6 86.8 70.7 87.4
Class of 15 85.7 89.1 76.7 75.9

OSCE 1 and 2 occur after approximately 6 and 10 months of didactic training, respectively.  OSCE 3 typically occurs after 7-8 clinical rotations, and the variation in mean scores are likely due to differing sequences of core rotations and students' early efforts at focusing a comprehensive patient assessment to include only the most pertinent details.  OSCE 4 occurs after most of the core rotations and several elective rotations, and the variation in these scores may be due to the scheduling of subspecialty medical/ surgical experiences while the final OSCE evaluates more general patient scenarios.  Any OSCE performance that is significantly below the class mean or is found by faculty to be deficient for any reason is remediated and repeated until mastery is demonstrated.

4. Understanding of surgical sciences as the program places emphasis in clinical surgical training. Students will demonstrate proficiency in the pre-operative evaluation and preparation of patients, operating room skills, and caring for the patients in the post-operative period. 

During the preclinical, didactic phase of training, there are three extremely rigorous courses in surgery, its subspecialties and its relationships with general practice.  These courses include intense practical training and assessment.  In the 3 most recently graduated classes,  53.5% of students earned final grades of honors or high pass in these courses and 45.7 scored final grades of pass.  In contrast, during the clinical phase of training, performance in core general surgery rotations 1 and 2  was much improved, with an average of 87% of students earning high pass or honors, reflective of the level of preparation during the didactic phase for clinical training.

Graduate Performance on the National Certifying Examination

All graduates of the Weill Cornell Graduate School MSHS Physician Assistant Program are eligible to sit for the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE). The following is the pass rate for first-time takers:

2012 – 96%
2013 – 97%
2014 – 100%
2015 – 97%
2016 – 100%

PDF icon 5 Year Program Report 2017.pdf

Tuition and Fees

The tuition for the most recently enrolled class is $27,044 for each of the three (3) "academic" years. Students are eligible for financial aid for each phase. Students also pay a graduation fee. Please note that this tuition cost is set for the current academic year and is subject to change.

If a student has pending financial aid, finance charges are waived and tuition will be deducted as the disbursement of loan money arrives. 

Applying For Aid

The federal FAFSA form www.fafsa.ed.gov is required for federal loan programs.

Loan & Scholarship Programs

Your financial aid package will tell you what types of education loan programs you are eligible to accept. If you have remaining "unmet need," you may need private or alternative loan programs to cover all your expenses.

Approximately 90% of our students are recipients of financial aid, Federal Direct Loan Program and/or Alternative Education Loans. There are scholarships available through the various PA organizations and state agencies. In addition we maintain listings within the department regarding alternative scholarship programs available to our students. Veterans of the Armed Forces may also be eligible for benefits under the G.I. Bill.

Subsidized and Unsubsidized Federal Direct Loans are available with certain terms and limits. Please refer to the Financial Aid Handbook along the left margin of this page for details.

Alternative Educational Loans Program Alternative Loans, also known as Private Loans, help bridge the gap between the actual cost of your education and the limited amount the government allows you to borrow in its program.

Alternative Educational Loans Program Alternative Loans, also known as Private Loans, help bridge the gap between the actual cost of your education and the limited amount the government allows you to borrow in its program.

Alternative student loans are independent of government regulation and can offer various terms for repayment, interest rates, and loan limits. The terms of these loans can vary from lender to lender and you are offered opportunity to choose the loan that fits your situation. The Weill Cornell Medical College has a list of preferred lenders.

Estimated Yearly Student Expenses Students enrolled in the MSHS PA Program and living at the college are not encouraged to bring an automobile to New York City because parking is expensive ($250-350/month) and students rarely have an opportunity to use their cars. While many clinical rotations do not require personal transportation, some do. This amount is calculated into the annual student budget. For students living "off campus" the anticipated yearly expenses are similar because the cost of parking, insuring and maintaining an automobile substitutes for the cost of room and board "on campus". STUDENT HOUSING IS NOT GUARANTEED. Dormitory housing is occasionally available for students of the MSHS PA Program. Once a student is accepted he or she will be provided with a housing application. Estimated expenses are based on off-campus housing.

Current approximate yearly expenses for MSHS PA Program students includes, but is not limited to:

  • Graduation Fee: $400.00
  • Matriculation Fee: $450.00
  • Graduate School Fee: 400.00
  • Educational Facility Fee: $550.00
  • Student Disability: $60.00
  • Student Health Fee: $1,500.00
  • Health Insurance (est.): $4,700.00
  • Loan Origination Fees: 1.073% for Direct Unsubsidized/4.292% for Graduate Plus
  • Network Connection Fee: $800.00
  • Books/Supplies/Equipment: $2,000.00
  • Transportation: $1,255.00
  • Personal: $4,500.00
  • Food: $5,060.00
  • Lodging: $15,000.00

Note: The above is our best estimate; however, is subject to change. Each student has different needs so individual budgets will vary.

Applicant Advisory Sessions

Due to an overwhelming interest in the MSHS PA Program, there is significant competition for the limited number of seats each year (32). To help familiarize potential applicants with the MSHS PA Program, periodic Applicant Advisory Sessions are provided at the PA Program’s midtown location. This two-hour session includes information on the PA Profession, the MSHS PA Program, application requirements, an overview of the admissions process, and a tour of the MSHS PA Program facilities. Attendees may have an opportunity to meet current MSHS PA students and/or alumni as well. The Applicant Advisory Sessions for 2017 has been scheduled for:

February 22, 2017 6:00pm - 8:00pm

April 26, 2017 6:00pm -8:00pm

September 6, 2017 6:00pm – 8:00pm

December 2, 2017 10:00am - 12:00noon

Please contact MSHSPA@med.cornell.edu to reserve a seat. (Please include Subject line: Applicant Advisory Session) A confirmation email will be sent to you prior to the session. 

Applying to the MSHS PA Program is a three-step process: 1) Initial (CASPA) application, 2) Secondary Application and 3) Personal Interview.

  1. Initial application. Initial application must be made through CASPA (Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants) at www.caspaonline.org. It is the applicant's responsibility to ensure that all materials arrive at CASPA in advance of the MSHS PA Program’s deadline date (see below). Completed CASPA applications are processed and verified by CASPA and applicant information is forwarded to the MSHS PA Program for review.
  2. Secondary application. The MSHS PA Program will evaluate the forwarded CASPA applications and send a secondary application to the most competitive applicants. The deadline date for returning the completed secondary application along with a non-refundable fee of $60.00 will be provided on the secondary application itself.  Not all applicants will be sent a secondary application.
  3. Personal Interview. After review of the CASPA application and secondary application, the most competitive applicants will be invited for an interview at the MSHS PA Program offices and classroom. Not all applicants will be offered an interview.

Admission Requirements:

The following are requirements for the 2017-2018 application cycle:

  • CASPA Application: An online CASPA application will be made available as early as April 26, 2017 at www.caspaonline.org. Applicants must have completed and electronically submitted (“e-submitted” or an “e-submission”) an online CASPA application no later than September 1, 2017. NOTE: Any specific requirements that must be included with the e-submitted application are described below.
  • Bachelor’s Degree: All applicants must have earned a minimum of a Bachelor's Degree or equivalent no later than December 31, 2017. The applicant must self-report their degree information on their CASPA application before e-submission. Proof of degree conferral will be required prior to matriculation.
  • Prerequisite Coursework: The minimum course requirements include:
    • 2 (two) courses of Biology (each course must have a lab component);
    • 2 (two) courses of Chemistry (each course must have a lab component);
    • 1 (one) course of Microbiology (lab component strongly recommended)
    • 1 (one) course of Biochemistry (lab component strongly recommended)
    •  Anatomy and Physiology; (This requirement may be fulfilled by a combined “Anatomy & Physiology” course sequence OR a course in Anatomy AND a course in Physiology)
    • 1 (one) course of English Composition (or college-level equivalent- rhetoric or college writing course)

The applicant must self-report the above course information (i.e. courses in progress or anticipated coursework) on their CASPA application prior to e-submission. The MSHS PA Program may request applicants to provide transcripts that include these courses at any time. It is strongly suggested that all prerequisite course be completed prior to applying.

  • Other Coursework: Courses in statistics, medical terminology and/or research methods are recommended.
  • Graduate Record Examination: All applicants are required to take the General GRE Aptitude Test (which must include: Quantitative Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning and Analytical Writing components) prior to e-submission. Applicants must request Educational Testing Service (www.ETS.org) to send official score reports to CASPA. These official scores must arrive at CASPA no later than September 1, 2017. Applications that post a GRE testing date after their CASPA-reported e-submission date will not be considered. (The Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences PA Program – CASPA Designated Institution Code is: 0479). The MSHS PA Program does not have a minimum GRE score requirement.
  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL): All applicants whose native language is not English are required to take the TOEFL examination. Application to take the TOEFL may be made directly to: Test of English as a Foreign Language, P.O. Box 6151, Princeton, NJ 08541-6151. The Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences Institution Code Number is 2119. Applicants must report having taken the TOEFL on their CASPA application prior to e-submission. Official TOEFL score reports should be sent to the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences (Code 2119) and received no later than September 1, 2017 for verification.
  • Computer Literacy: It is expected that all entering students possess a basic working knowledge of computer usage including applications for word processing, spreadsheet creation and presentation design (e.g. Microsoft® Word, Microsoft® Excel, and Microsoft® PowerPoint).
  • Grade Point Average: The MSHS PA Program expects its applicants to have maintained an undergraduate average of "B" or better. NOTE: The most recently admitted class had an average overall GPA of 3.6 and an average science GPA of 3.6.
  • Health Care Experience (HCE): All applicants are required to have a minimum of 500 hours of direct patient HCE prior to applying. These hours must be completed and accurately self-reported on their CASPA application prior to e-submission. These hours may be satisfied by either paid or volunteer experiences and require hands-on patient contact.
  • Shadowing: Shadowing of a physician assistant in a variety of clinical settings is strongly recommended.
  • Community Service: Community service reflects dedication to and support of one's community and is strongly recommended.
  • Letters of Reference: At least two (2) references/letters of recommendation are required as part of the initial CASPA application of which, one letter must be from a Physician or Physician Assistant and one letter must be of an academic type (i.e. from a prior instructor). Only letters of reference/recommendations that are included in the CASPA application before e-submission will be accepted to meet this requirement.
  • Transcript Evaluation (as necessary): All candidates that are foreign graduates are required to submit a complete transcript evaluation (to American college equivalency) to CASPA. The MSHS PA Program will not review any CASPA-generated applicant profiles until all foreign transcript evaluations have arrived at CASPA and are forwarded to the MSHS PA Program by September 1, 2017. Foreign transcripts may be evaluated by the following:

World Education Services, Inc
Fax: 212-739-6100
www.wes.org

  • Secondary PA Program Application and Interviews: CASPA applications that include all of the requirements described above will be carefully reviewed. Competitive applicants will be offered a secondary application electronically which must be completed and returned to the PA Program with a non-refundable fee of $60.00. Not all applicants will be offered a secondary application. After MSHS PA Program Admissions committee review of the returned secondary application, applicants that remain competitive will be invited for an interview at the MSHS PA Program.
  • All candidates accepted for admission must comply with Weill Cornell Graduate School and Master of Science in Health Sciences for Physician Assistants Program's Policies and Procedures* (See Student webpage for link.)
  • Advanced Standing: The MSHS PA Program does not grant advanced standing to applicants.
  • Technical Standards: All applicants must meet our technical standards as follows:

Technical Standards

All candidates for the Physician Assistant (PA) Certificate of Completion and Master of Science in Health Sciences degree must possess the intellectual ability to learn, integrate, analyze and synthesize data. They must have functional use of the senses of vision, hearing, equilibrium, and taste. Their exteroceptive (touch, pain, temperature) and proprioceptive (position, pressure, movement, stereognosis, and vibratory) senses must be sufficiently intact to enable them to carry out all activities required for a complete PA education. Candidates must have motor function capabilities to meet the demands of PA education and the demands of total patient care. All candidates for the Physician Assistant (PA) Certificate of Completion and Master of Science in Health Sciences degree must posses the following abilities and skills:

  • Observation: The ability to observe is required for demonstrations, visual presentations in lectures and laboratories, laboratory evidence and microbiological cultures, microscopic studies of microorganisms and tissues in normal and pathological states. A candidate must be able to observe patients accurately and completely, both at a distance and closely. This ability requires functional vision and somatic sensation and is enhanced by a sense of smell.
  • Communications: A candidate should be able to speak, hear, and observe patients in order to elicit information, perceive non-verbal communications, describe changes in mood, activity and posture. The candidate must be able to communicate effectively and sensitively with patients including not only speech but also reading and writing. Communication in oral and written form with the health care team must be effective and efficient.
  • Motor: A candidate should have sufficient motor function to elicit information from patients by palpation, auscultation and percussion, as well as carry out diagnostic maneuvers. A candidate should have motor function sufficient to execute movements reasonably required to provide general care and emergency treatment to patients. Such skills require coordination of gross and fine muscular movements, equilibrium and sensation.
  • Intellectual-Conceptual, Integrative and Quantitative Abilities: Problem solving is a critical skill demand of PAs and this requires all these abilities. The candidate must also be able to comprehend three dimensional relationship and the spatial relationship of structures
  • Behavioral and Social Attributes: A candidate must have the emotional health, to fully use his/her intellectual ability, to exercise good judgment, complete all responsibilities, and attend to the diagnosis and care of patients. A candidate must be able to develop mature, sensitive and effective relationships with patients and colleagues. A candidate must be able to tolerate physical and emotional stress and continue to function effectively. A candidate must possess qualities of adaptability, flexibility and be able to function in the face of uncertainty. He/She must have a high level of compassion for others, motivation to serve, integrity, and a consciousness of social values. A candidate must possess sufficient interpersonal skills to interact positively with people from all levels of society, all ethnic backgrounds, and all belief systems. The administration of the MSHS PA Program recognizes its responsibility to present candidates for the MSHS PA Program Master of Science in Health Sciences for Physician Assistants Degree and Certificate of Completion who have the knowledge and skills to function in a broad variety of clinical situations and to render a wide spectrum of patient care. The responsibility for these technical standards is primarily placed on the MSHS PA Program admissions committee to select entering PA students who will be the candidates for the MSHS PA Program Master of Science in Health Sciences for Physician Assistants Degree and Certificate of Completion.

The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) as amended in 2008 defines a disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. More information about Cornell's procedures for students with disabilities can be found at the Cornell University Office of Student Disability Services website, http://sds.cornell.edu/

APPLY ONLINE

Submit your application online at CASPA.

CONTACT INFORMATION

575 Lexington Avenue, 
Suite 600
New York, New York 10022
Telephone: (646) 962-7277
Fax: (646) 962-7290
Email: MSHSPA@med.cornell.edu

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