LECOM Announces New Accelerated Physician Assistant Pathway

LECOM designs bridge curriculum between Physicians Assistant degree and the Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine Degree.

The Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine is taking another innovative step toward encouraging more individuals to become physicians at a cost savings to the students. LECOM has received the approval for an accelerated three-year medical school curriculum for Certified Physician Assistants to obtain a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree.

The American Osteopathic Association Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation has approved the Accelerated Physician Assistant Pathway (APAP). The College has begun recruiting PAs to fill 12 openings for the Class of 2014 when school starts in July 2011. This will be the fifth student-centered learning pathway developed for osteopathic medical students by LECOM, a leader in innovative, affordable medical education.

Dr. Mark Kauffman, right, instructs medical students at the LECOM Clinical Assessment Center.

The pathway concept came from LECOM graduate Mark Kauffman DO, MS Med Ed, PA., who worked on the APAP idea for his Master of Medical Education thesis. Dr. Kauffman will direct the pathway, which will enable physician assistants who seek to earn osteopathic medicine degrees to do so in an accelerated, three-year program.

Dr. Kauffman began his career as a PA and is well aware of the qualifications that PAs will bring to medical school. Physician assistants, as healthcare professionals who work under the scope of their supervising physicians, undergo a rigorous didactic medical curriculum as well as at least one year of clinical rotations to obtain the entry level, bachelor or master degree for professional certification.

According to Dr. Kauffman, the PA profession has debated a change in the entry-level to that of a doctorate degree resulting in the PA Clinical Doctorate Summit of March 2009. In association with the Summit, the 2009 Physician Assistant Doctoral Summit Survey recognized that many physician assistants wish to become physicians citing the desire to practice independently, the need for professional growth and development, the need for increased medical knowledge and the ability to do more for their patients as the most common reasons to do so. Currently only 4% of PAs return to medical school noting cost and time away from clinical practice as major barriers.

By accelerating the medical school curriculum to three instead of four years, LECOM will reduce the cost and time away from clinical practice by 25% for PA students enrolled in this pathway. By going year-round, APAP students will begin their clinical experience with a special primary care program between the first and second years, then complete a concentrated series of clinical clerkships in year three designed to increase the medical knowledge they bring from their PA careers.

In 2008, 37% of PAs chose to work in primary care. Growth in demand for primary care physicians will increase by more than 15% over the next decade. Dr. Kauffman and LECOM have identified PAs as excellent candidates to become primary care physicians as they have demonstrated the ability to successfully complete demanding curriculum, have practiced clinically, and have expressed the desire to increase their medical knowledge. Providing an accelerated pathway for those PAs who wish to return to medical school will help to decrease projected physician shortages.


The Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine and LECOM School of Pharmacy offer innovative and affordable education in osteopathic medicine and pharmacy. From campuses in Erie, Pennsylvania, Greensburg, Pennsylvania and Bradenton, Florida, LECOM provides student-centered pathways to prepare the next generation of healthcare professionals. Prepare yourself for medicine as your life’s profession.

July 7, 2010
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