The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, in partnership with the Gundersen Medical Foundation of La Crosse and the Mayo School of Health Science of Rochester, Minnesota, established this physician assistant educational program in 1995. The program's initial Bachelor of Science program enrolled eight classes that have completed courses at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, at Gundersen in La Crosse, and at the Mayo School of Health Sciences, Rochester, Minnesota. Most graduates are now employed in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa.
In June of 2004 the program enrolled its first class in the Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies program. Students take classes on the campuses of all three partner institutions. Program instructors include renowned clinicians and scientists, along with dedicated UWL PA program faculty. Clinical rotation sites include primarily Gundersen, Mayo Clinic and Mayo Health System practices in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa.
The mission of our program is to educate highly competent
and compassionate physician assistants who excel in meeting the healthcare
needs of the regions served by the partner institutions.
We will continue to be a nationally recognized program by:
The program is accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). The last ARC-PA site visit was April 2010 at which time the program was granted full accreditation for seven years - the maximum allowed by the ARC-PA. The program will next go up for review in 2017.
All students complete 11, 4-week clinical rotations
during their second year (June through the following April). Seven rotations are in required or core areas of medicine and intended to provide a broad
foundation for a generalist PA: general
surgery, emergency medicine, obstetrics/gynecology, pediatrics, internal
medicine, family medicine and behavioral health. The remaining four selective rotations occur in practice environments intended to
broaden the student’s skill and base of knowledge as well as providing depth to
interest areas expressed by the student.
Selective choices are determined by the program based on preceptor/site
availability and student interest.
In keeping with the mission of the program, a majority of
the required clinical rotations are completed with our partner
institutions: the Gundersen and Mayo
Clinic Health Systems. Student
experiences are varied and take advantage of the many rural and suburban
clinics and hospitals within the respective health systems in Wisconsin,
Minnesota and Iowa. Family medicine rotations will typically occur
in rural sites outside of La Crosse and Rochester.
The student will be responsible for their own housing and
transportation during the clinical year.
Some clinical sites are able to provide housing, however this is highly
specific to the location and current availability. Students are encouraged to secure housing
through known contacts, personal connections, former students and the program’s
index of clinical housing opportunities.
The following presentation provides a summary of the clinical year experience - Clinical Rotation Presentation
Goal 1: The program
will attract highly qualified applicants with the academic background necessary
to successfully complete the rigorous training required to become a physician
Since 2010, the number of applicants received and the ratio
of applications to available spots has progressively increased. The pool of applicants remains strong
academically, as indicated by GRE scores and undergraduate GPA of those matriculating
into the program. Our graduation rate
over the past 5 years has been 97% with a first time pass rate on the PANCE of
Goal 2: The program
will ensure that its graduates attain the medical knowledge necessary to become
highly competent physician assistants.
The first time pass rate on the PANCE for our 5
most recent graduating classes has been 100%.
In addition, the classes have scored at or above the national average on
sub-scores of both the PANCE and PACKRAT.
The students consistently demonstrate excellent patient care as assessed
by preceptors during clinical rotations, formative and summative faculty
assessments, and employer surveys. To view PANCE performance please visit National Certifying Examination Five Year First Time Taker Summary Report.
Goal 3: The program
will ensure the development of excellent interpersonal skills essential for the
effective practice of medicine as a physician assistant.
During the didactic year, faculty members assess
professionalism and interpersonal skills during formative assessments of
history-taking skills as well as classroom interactions before students may
progress to the clinical year.
Preceptors of students during the clinical year and employers of
graduates have consistently rated our students’ interpersonal and communication
skills favorably on clinical rotation evaluations and employers’ surveys,
Goal 4: The program
will educate physician assistants who will meet the healthcare needs of the
regions served by the partner institutions.
The Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies was
first offered to the graduating class of 2006.
Since that time, 91% of our graduates have stayed and helped meet the
needs of the tri-state area served by the partner institutions.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the national median average salary is $86,410 in 2010. The 2010 median average salary in Wisconsin for 2010 is $87,100 and $88,800 in Minnesota , per the U.S. Department of Labor sponsored Career One Stop .
What is a Physician Assistant?
Physician assistants (PAs) are health professionals licensed to practice medicine with the supervision of a physician. PAs work in a variety of practice settings including hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and research centers. PAs are qualified to take medical histories, examine patients, order and administer tests, make diagnoses, treat illnesses, and assist in surgery. They are trained to provide care that otherwise would be administered by a physician. PAs can provide care as generalists in primary care situations, or in subspecialty areas of medicine. Common specialties in which PAs practice include family practice, internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, emergency medicine, surgery, and pediatrics.
Education Programs for PAs began in the mid-1960s to help offset a shortage of doctors. Many of the first PAs were former military medical corpsmen who wanted to use their training and continue in the medical field. Now there are over 180 PA education programs in a variety of academic and clinical institutions. PAs have become vital to bringing health care to underserved areas, such as rural communities, and enhancing efficiency in nearly every health care setting. In 1973 there were fewer than 1,500 practicing PAs. Today there are more than 100,000 PAs working across the United States.
What is the difference between a PA and a NP?
If you are the patient being cared for by either a PA or nurse practitioner (NP) and can't see your provider's name tag, you probably can't tell the difference. In any given practice setting the care provided will likely be indistinguishable based purely on the profession of the provider. Philosophically though, the approach each of these two professions takes in the care they provide their patients is different. NPs describe themselves as advanced practitioners of nursing, while PAs practice medicine with physician supervision. There is also some difference in specialty mobility. NPs are trained in only one specialty (e.g. Family NP, Pediatric NP, Geriatric NP) and usually require additional formal training in order to move from one specialty to another. PAs are trained in a broad-based, primary care curriculum that allows mobility between specialties, typically with on-the-job training.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of Physician Assistants is expected to grow 38% from 2012-2022, considerably faster than the national average for all occupations. To learn more about the current employment outlook please visit – Bureau of Labor Statistics