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Posted on Thu, Jul 5, 2012 : 5:57 a.m.

Increasing demand in health care prompts EMU to add physician assistant master's program

By Amy Biolchini

Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti has announced it will be adding a master’s degree program for physician assistants in response to the anticipated shortages in primary care providers in the coming years because of health care reform and aging baby boomers.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is said to extend insurance coverage to more than 30 million Americans - and the vast majority of its tenets were upheld last week in a Supreme Court ruling.

The EMU program will begin accepting applications in summer 2013, with the first student enrollment in May 2014. The program first must be accredited before it can accept students.

The two-year master of science program was approved by the school’s board of regents in June. It will be offered through the School of Health Promotion and Human Performance in the College of Health and Human Services at EMU.

Physician assistants can perform many of the same routine care duties as a doctor, including conducting physicals, counseling patients, prescribing medication, ordering tests and interpreting lab results -- all under the supervision of a doctor.

CNN Money recently listed physician assistants as the second-best job in the country, and a Forbes article named the career as the top master's degree for jobs.

According to a salary calculator from, the average annual salary in Ann Arbor for physician assistants is about $83,950.


Jay Peterson

Randy Mascharka | EMU Photographer

To develop the curriculum for the new degree, EMU hired Jay Peterson as the program director in May.

“The college and university saw the need for health care providers, particularly in primary care within the region and within the state of Michigan,” Peterson said.

Peterson formerly has taught at the University of Toledo in the physician assistant program. He was a physician assistant in practices at Oakwood Hospital in Dearborn, as well as a private sports medicine practice in Brighton with surgery centers in Howell, Brighton and Novi.

The demand for physician assistants currently outweighs the supply, Peterson said.

“With the aging populations and potential changes with health care in the U.S., the demand for primary care providers will be growing,” he said.

An initial two to three faculty members will be hired for the program - a number that will eventually grow to five or six, Peterson said. A medical director also will be hired.

“We’re looking to make a positive impact on the community by providing more physician assistants to practice more primary care medicine,” Peterson said.

The first year of the program will be primarily coursework and small group learning, and the second year will be clinical rotations in local hospitals and doctor’s offices.

The original plan listed on the program’s website lists 97 credit hours, but the number is subject to change, Peterson said. Costs and fees associated with the degree also are pending.

After completing the master’s degree program, a national certifying exam and a license from the state are required before a physician assistant can practice.

The university has reported that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the need for physician assistants will increase 30 percent from 2013 to 2020 because of the demand for primary health care providers.

Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for Reach her at (734) 623-2552, or on Twitter.



Thu, Jul 5, 2012 : 9:37 p.m.

Smart move by Eastern. A more logical choice than a medical school!

Atticus F.

Thu, Jul 5, 2012 : 1:53 p.m.

Very smart move by EMU! On a side note, GO Eagles!


Thu, Jul 5, 2012 : 12:34 p.m.

America's poor diet is big business for the medical industry.


Fri, Jul 6, 2012 : 2:22 a.m.

I could not agree more. Especially with the article from the Today show health section that mentioned diet soda creating weight gain. I never touch the stuff since it was the cause of my arthritis.


Thu, Jul 5, 2012 : 12:20 p.m.

Congratulations to EMU. It will be a wonderful fit between career and the EMU mission. It is a wonderful field, and a wonderful career. Wish it had been in place when I went to PA School.