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University of Iowa News Release

March 23, 2005

PA Program Graduates Excel On National Certification Exam

The University of Iowa Physician Assistant (PA) Program has again achieved distinction with its 2004 graduates scoring among the best in the nation on their national certification examinations.

The Iowa program, based in the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine, achieved a 100 percent pass rate on the examination for its 27 graduates from the class of 2004, compared to a national average pass rate of 90 percent.

This achievement makes nine consecutive years without a single PA Program graduate from the UI failing this examination. This year's perfect achievement placed the UI above the 98th percentile -- the highest percentile reported this year -- of all PA programs with more than five people taking the exam for the first time.

From 1974 through 2004, the UI program has a first-time pass rate of more than 99 percent, compared to a national average of 86 percent for the same period.

"To achieve a perfect pass rate on a national certification exam is noteworthy in itself. For the Physician Assistant Program to achieve this distinction nine years straight is truly remarkable," said Jean Robillard, M.D., dean of the UI Carver College of Medicine. "This reflects not only the outstanding students in this program but also the dedicated faculty and staff who make the program such a success year in and year out. We're proud of their efforts."

The National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) releases the 2004 Cumulative Program Performance Report, which provides information on all graduates who completed the Physician Assistant National Certification Examination last year. Each PA program in the country receives a comprehensive report outlining the performance of its graduates, as well as data that allows programs to compare the performance of their graduates to other PA programs in the country. Passing the examination is a requirement for licensure in all states.

David Asprey, Ph.D., director of the PA Program at the UI, points to the program's curriculum as a key factor in its success. The PA curriculum is heavily integrated into the curriculum of the Carver College of Medicine. More than 60 percent of the didactic coursework completed by PA students is taken with second-year UI medical students, making the PA program unique among other institutions with physician assistant programs. In addition, the Iowa program's outstanding reputation attracts top students each year, Asprey noted.

"We are very proud of the tradition of excellence that our program has attained," Asprey said. "We are equally pleased to know that our graduates are well prepared to enter the profession and provide high-quality medical care."

PAs are health professionals licensed to practice medicine with physician supervision. PAs must graduate from an accredited PA educational program and/or receive certification from the NCCPA. As part of the physician/PA relationship, PAs exercise autonomy in medical decision-making and provide a broad range of diagnostic and therapeutic services. They take medical histories, perform physical exams and order tests. PAs often may serve as health care providers in smaller or rural communities that do not have physicians.

The UI program is one of 134 accredited PA programs in the country and one of the 129 programs with more than five exam-takers last year. The UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine established the 25-month program in 1972. Since that time, the UI has graduated 630 PAs.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Science Relations, 5139 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1178

MEDIA CONTACT: David Pedersen, (319) 335-8032, david-pedersen@uiowa.edu.