Natural Sciences

Pre-Physician Assistant

Pre-Professional Program
Bachelor of Science in Biology

Overview

The American Academy of Physician Assistants describes a PA as a healthcare professional who is trained and licensed to practice medicine under the supervision of a physician. A PA's license allows one to perform any medical or surgical duties that are delegated to him/her by the physician. This usually involves working as part of a team in the big hospitals or being the only medical care provider in smaller, remote, and inner city clinics.

A physician assistant’s duties include preventing, maintaining, and treating human illness and injury. They provide a broad range of health care services that were traditionally performed by physicians. PA’s routinely conduct physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests. They may also counsel on preventive health care, assist in surgery, give medical orders, and write prescriptions.

Pre-Physician Assistant at the Mount

The pre-physician assistant concentration at Mount Saint Mary College is intended for students who plan to make application to a graduate program in physician assistant studies. The curriculum has been designed to satisfy the requisite course admission requirements for most institutions that offer the graduate degree. Most graduate programs also require a certain number of contact hours in a health care setting. The total contact hour requirement and the allowed environments differ among institutions. The Career Center at Mount Saint Mary College will assist pre-PA students in obtaining experiences that may satisfy some or all of these requirements. It is the responsibility of the student to investigate the specific pre-requisites for the graduate program(s) for which he/she intends to apply and, as appropriate, to acquire the necessary contact hours.

Program Requirements

The Pre-PA Program at Mount Saint Mary College has standards that must be met by the student to remain in the concentration. Admission to graduate PA programs has become increasingly competitive and simply satisfying the minimum requirements may not result in a successful application.

Curriculum 

The Pre-PA curriculum at MSMC leads to a bachelor’s degree in biology. While it is not necessarily required that an applicant to a graduate PA program have a degree in the sciences, the pre-requisite courses best fit into the sequence of courses taken by an undergraduate biology major. Most institutions have prescribed liberal arts requirements and those courses have been included in the MSMC curriculum.

Student Responsibilities

In order to remain in the pre-PA track, a student must achieve a minimum GPA of 3.2 by the end of the first academic year. By the end of the second academic year, a student must then earn a minimum GPA of 3.4 overall and in prescribed science and mathematics courses. A minimum grade of B- is required in all science courses.

In order to enhance the success of graduate applications, students are expected to participate in College and divisional activities. There are many opportunities for students to demonstrate involvement in professional, cultural, and recreational activities. Active participation in one or more of these areas is looked upon favorably when graduate admission applications are reviewed.

It is essential that students consult the specific admission requirements for graduate programs in which they are interested. This must be done in a timely manner to ensure that any necessary changes in course scheduling can be accommodated. Students are responsible for adjusting their course schedules to meet graduate admission requirements. Students must also be aware of the number and type of contact hours required and have a plan to address this requirement. Students must also arrange to take any required entrance exam (e.g. GRE).

Opportunities for Student Involvement

Beta-Beta-Beta (Tri-Beta) is the biological sciences honor society on campus. The Lambda Theta Chapter was the first MSMC honor society, established in 1975. Active membership is open to biology majors who have completed the first semester of their sophomore year and attained a cumulative average of 3.0 or greater in all courses in biology. Associate membership is open to all students interested in the life sciences; students may join as freshmen. There is a one-time fee for this honor which makes one a permanent member of Tri-Beta and includes an honor cord to be worn at graduation. The society is one of many similar chapters at colleges and universities throughout the country and strives to stimulate scholarship, disseminate scientific information, promote biological research, and provide camaraderie. Members participate in field trips, lectures, and a variety of activities throughout the year.

Gamma Sigma Epsilon is the chemistry honor society on campus. Students who have completed 16 credits in chemistry with a B (3.0) average in their chemistry courses are eligible to be inducted into Gamma Sigma Epsilon.

The American Chemical Society's student affiliate group is recognized as an official on-campus club and receives funding for their activities through student government. This student group sponsors trips, talks, community outreach activities, and participation in campus events. There is an annual fee to be an official student member of ACS which includes a weekly chemical news magazine.

Alpha Chi is a national college honor society for full-time juniors and seniors of all disciplines. To be eligible, a student must rank in the highest 10% of the class.

Students may participate in the activities of Tri-Beta, GSE, and the ACS student affiliate group without officially joining any of these organizations, but joining will afford them the benefits of formal recognition of their participation.

Research

Students may pursue undergraduate research as part of their major requirements by registering for one of two different courses, BIO/CHM 4910, Special Problems in Scientific Research for four credits, or BIO/CHM 4920, Student Research in Industrial Laboratories for three or four credits. In the former, a student has the opportunity to carry out an independent research project under the supervision of a member of the faculty. Students must develop a proposal and obtain a faculty mentor to oversee the project which would involve both laboratory and library work. Students registering for BIO/CHM 4920 work on a research problem identified in a local industrial laboratory. The nature of the particular activity will depend upon that outlined by the laboratory supervisor, student, and faculty advisor. This will depend upon the needs of local industry as well as student and faculty interest and expertise. To enroll in either course, students must obtain permission of the Division.

Students are also encouraged to apply for admission to summer research programs at MSMC (Summer Undergraduate Research Experience, S.U.R.E.) or to other colleges and universities throughout the country. In addition, the Career Center offers students information about co-op/internship opportunities for research experiences during the semester and the summer. This office assists students with resume development, interviewing skills, and completion of applications for various research programs.

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