Program Requirements

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La Crosse Medical Health Science Consortium

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 diagnostic tests, make diagnoses, treat illnesses, and assist in surgery. The care they provide might otherwise be provided by physicians. 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, orthopedics, surgery, and pediatrics.

The PA program represents a partnership of UW-L, the Gundersen Lutheran Medical Foundation of La Crosse and the Mayo Foundation in Rochester, MN. The graduate-level professional curriculum is 24 months in length and involves classes on the campuses of all three partner institutions. The curriculum includes a 12-month pre-clinical year consisting primarily of classroom and laboratory activities. A 12-month clinical year follows and involves rotations in a variety of clinical specialties. These clinical experiences are provided primarily using Mayo, Gundersen Lutheran and other practice sites in western Wisconsin, southern Minnesota and northeastern Iowa.

Upon completion of all degree requirements, students are awarded a Master of Science degree in Physician Assistant Studies from UW-L and a certificate of completion from the program’s institutional partnership. The program is accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on education for the Physician Assistant, Inc. (ARC-PA). To be licensed for practice, graduates must pass the Physician Assistant National Certification Exam (PANCE) administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA).

The rigor and intensity of the program and the level of skills and responsibility necessary for practice as a physician assistant require the program to accept candidates who have demonstrated a strong academic background along with excellent interpersonal skills and maturity. Prior health care experience is expected as an indicator of a career commitment suitable to clinical practice. The program’s admission process considers each applicant’s strengths and selects for admission those best qualified to meet the program’s mission. Application to the program is very competitive with a class of 19 (nineteen) students accepted annually.

Application Process
To be considered for admission applicants must have all of the following completed:
1.  An application with the Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA) including three letters of reference.
    CASPA is a national application service that collects and verifies application materials and calculates various GPAs before
    forwarding the applicants file to the programs selected by the applicant. For details see
2.  A UW-L - Gundersen - Mayo PA Program Supplemental Application
3.  The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) with scores forwarded to UW-L and the PA program
4.  Additional requirements for international applicants can be found at

The program’s admission committee selects candidates for interview. Following interviews, offers of admission are made to selected outstanding candidates. Once offered admission to the program, candidates must make application for graduate admission to UW-L. Students are admitted to the program as full-time students.

Selection Factors
The selection factors for the MS PAS include the following: academic preparation; motivation, maturity, ability to work with people, and suitability for clinical practice; healthcare and other work experience; knowledge of the PA profession and the profession’s role in the healthcare system; background predictive of potential for future practice in the service areas of the program’s partner institutions; letters of recommendation; and personal and group interviews.

Prerequisite Requirements
Degree: An earned bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution.

Academic Aptitude: A minimum cumulative GPA on all post-high school courses of 3.00 calculated on a 4-point scale. A minimum science (as defined by CASPA) GPA of 3.00. Submission of Graduate Record Exam scores is required.  GRE scores are used as another measure of academic aptitude along with GPA. Thus, there is no minimum required score.

Course prerequisites (Course numbers shown in parentheses are UW-L course numbers)

Biology: At least 14 semester hours of biology in the following areas including at least two lab courses

Anatomy and Physiology: 1 semester of human anatomy AND 1 semester of human physiology; OR a 2- semester sequence of combined human anatomy (BIO 312 & 313) which must be at the 200/sophomore level or above.  Though vertebrate and mammalian anatomy and physiology are acceptable, human anatomy and physiology is strongly preferred.  (Note:  BIO 103 or 105, and CHM 103 are prerequisites for BIO 312.) Microbiology: 1 semester of microbiology (MIC 230) at the 200/sophomore level or above (Note:  BIO 103 or 105, and CHM 103 are prerequisites for MIC 230.)

Health related upper division biological science: 1 semester of any of the following at the 300/junior level or above:  genetics (BIO 306 or 466), immunology (MIC 406), vertebrate/mammalian embryology (BIO 408), endocrinology (BIO 424), histology, pathophysiology (BIO 443), neuroscience (BIO 465), parasitology (BIO 406), mycology (BIO 413), or biology of cancer (BIO 432).

Chemistry: A minimum of 11 semester hours of chemistry including the following courses, at least two of which must include a laboratory:

General Chemistry: 1 semester of general or introductory chemistry (CHM 103 or 104).

Note: both CHM 103 and 104 are required to take CHM 300 or 303.)

Organic Chemistry: 1 semester of organic chemistry (CHM 300 or 303 and 304) at the 200/sophomore level or above

Biochemistry: 1 semester of biochemistry (CHM 325 or 417 and 418) at the 300/junior level or above. Molecular (BIO 435) or cellular biology (BIO 315) at the 300 level or above is an acceptable alternative.

Mathematics: A minimum of two semesters of mathematics including: 

Pre-calculus/Calculus: 1 semester of college algebra with trigonometry or pre-calculus (MTH 151) or calculus (MTH 207)

Statistics: 1 semester of statistics (MTH 145 or 305)

Psychology: A minimum of one semester of general, introductory, developmental or abnormal psychology (PSY 100, 210, 212, 304, 310, 311, or 312)

Health Care Experience: Prior direct patient care health experience is expected.  Such experience provides evidence of a career commitment to healthcare as a PA. In the program’s competitive admission process, the length and depth of healthcare experience is a selection factor.

Technical Standards of Performance: Applicants must also meet the program’s technical standards of performance in the areas of observation, communication, motor function, intellectual/conceptual, integrative and quantitative ability, and behavioral and social attributes. These standards may be found on the program’s Web site at Applicants may have accommodations to meet these standards.

Special consideration: Applicants lacking no more than 2 of the 10 prerequisite courses, or having a cumulative or science GPA of less than 3.0 may request special consideration by justifying their consideration despite not meeting that prerequisite requirement. To receive this consideration, the applicant must have at least 3 years of full-time experience in healthcare. A PA Program Committee reviews the requests for special consideration.

The PA Program curriculum includes a total of 108 required credits including 58 credits of pre-clinical year courses, 44 credits of clinical rotations and 6 credits of Capstone Seminar in the clinical year. Pre-clinical year courses are only offered once a year and are taken as a cohort. The clinical year curriculum is only offered on a full-time basis with students in clinical sites 40+ hours per week. Thus, the entire curriculum is considered a full-time curriculum. The pre-clinical year curriculum must be successfully completed before a student can advance to the clinical year. Students must then complete clinical rotations including all of the required rotations, PAS 720 - 732, at least two of the selective rotations, PAS 740 - 746, and additional electives to have a total of 44 credits of clinical rotations. The capstone seminar series must be completed totaling 6 credits.

Course Schedule by semester:

Pre-clinical Year
Summer Term

PAS 511 Gross Anatomy 6
PAS 624 Medical Biochemistry 2
PAS 626 Medical Physiology 4
PAS 640 Introduction to the Physician Assistant Profession 2
  Total Credits    14
Fall Semester Credits
PAS 628 Clinical Infectious Disease  2
PAS 630 Medical Pharmacology    4
PAS 642 Medical History and Physical Exam 5
PAS 654 Clinical Epidemiology 2
PAS 702 General Pathology and Internal Medicine 1: Cardiology, Pulmonology, Hematology, Gastroenterology, Allergy and Dermatology        6
  Total Credits  19
Winter Intersession Credits
PAS 644 The Clinical Patient Exam 1
PAS 646 Law, Medicine and Ethics  1
PAS 648 Healthcare Systems and Administration 1
PAS 704 Internal Medicine 2: Endocrinology 1
  Total Credits
Spring Semester Credits
PAS 622 Neuroanatomy 1
PAS 650 Clinical Diagnosis and Reasoning   6
PAS 706 Obstetrics, Gynecology and Pediatrics 3
PAS 708 Surgical Medicine: Anesthesia, General Surgery, Otorhinolaryngology, Ophthalmology,Orthopedic Surgery, and Urology/Renal 6
PAS 710 Internal Medicine 3:  Oncology, Rheumatology, Neurology, Psychiatry 3
  Total Credits  19
Clinical Year
Summer Terms

PAS 652 Clinical Procedures 2
PAS 720-750 Clinical Rotations, three 4-week rotations scheduled individually by student 12
PAS 790 Capstone Seminar I 2
  Total Credits        16
Fall Semester Credits
PAS 720-750 Clinical Rotations, four 4-week rotations scheduled individually by student  16
PAS 792 Capstone Seminar II    2
  Total Credits 18
Winter Intersession and Spring Semester  Credits
PAS 720-750 Clinical Rotations, four 4-week rotations scheduled individually by student  16
PAS 794  Capstone Seminar III  2
  Total Credits  18
Total credits required for program 108