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New facility designed to address a big need

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George Fox building will house healthcare-oriented programs

 

NEWBERG — George Fox University recently secured an important approval on a new healthcare-oriented study program that starts this month.

The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for Physician Assistant has granted Accreditation-Provisional status to the university’s Master of Medical Science — Physician Assistant (PA) program.

Accreditation-Provisional is granted when the plans and resource allocation of a proposed program that has not yet enrolled students appear to demonstrate the program’s ability to meet the commission standards, or when a program holding Accreditation-Provisional status appears to demonstrate continued progress in complying with the standards as it prepares for the graduation of the first class (cohort) of students. Accreditation-Provisional does not ensure any subsequent accreditation and is limited to no more than five years from the initial start-up.

George Fox this month launches its PA program.  It is the latest addition to the university’s growing list of programs with a healthcare focus.

“It is our deepest desire to prepare excellent professionals who will serve our communities,” said Robin Baker, the university’s president. “The physician assistant program is the next step to becoming the Christian university of choice for healthcare education in the Northwest.” The program will be housed in a new 43,000-square-foot, three-story building on Werth Boulevard near Providence Newberg Medical Center. The building, tentatively scheduled for a May 2021 opening, will also house the university’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program, creating a healthcare-centered facility.

Until the spring opening, PA classes will meet in the university’s Roberts Center on the main campus in Newberg. Twenty students will enroll in the program’s first year, with classes set to start on Jan. 7.  Year one is spent in the classroom for didactic learning, followed in year two by nine four-week clinical rotations.

PA students will attend classes full time and work with outside clinics as part of their training. Upon graduation, they will be prepared to diagnose illnesses, develop and manage treatment plans, prescribe medications, and potentially serve as a patient’s principal healthcare provider.

University officials say the timing to start such a program is ideal, as it addresses a glaring nationwide shortage of primary-care health professionals — an issue even before the COVID-19 pandemic placed a huge burden on U.S. healthcare facilities.

Prior to the spread of the coronavirus, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)  noted the shortage in a recent study, which designated more than 6,000 primary-care areas where a physician-to-population ratio of 1:3,500 or more existed. The HRSA estimated it would take 8,000 more primary care physicians to eliminate the need.

George Fox will be one of only three universities in Oregon to offer a PA program. It is the most recent healthcare addition to the university’s offerings, joining nursing (2004) and physical therapy (2012).

In addition to the PA program, George Fox is launching a Doctor of Medical Science degree that provides advanced standing and dual enrollment for George Fox PA students.