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WVU School of Medicine announces new physician assistant program, names director

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To meet growing healthcare needs locally and statewide, the West Virginia University School of Medicine is launching a new physician assistant education program. The 26-month, full-time graduate program will lead to a master’s degree in health sciences. The program will begin accepting students in January 2020 and is comprised of four semesters of classroom instruction followed by a full year of clinical training.

“We know the healthcare system of the future is projected to be team-based with many different professions working at the top of their scope of practice to take care of patients’ needs,” MaryBeth Mandich, vice dean of professional and undergraduate programs in the School of Medicine, said. “The physician assistant is already an integral part of these teams, and large shortages are anticipated in the future.”

Physician assistants practice medicine as part of a collaborative team of physicians and other healthcare professionals. Demand in the profession is expected to grow by nearly 40 percent over the next 10 years with a median salary of $104,000.

Mandich also says that the commitment to the establishment of the new program reflects the mission of the School of Medicine in preparing a workforce to care for people and transform lives. At the core of the program’s mission statement is a specific focus on the health of people in West Virginia, and a community-based rural health experience is a required part of the clinical year of instruction.

Jennifer Momen has been named as director of the program. She will serve as assistant professor of professional programs in the Division of Physician Assistant Studies. As the founding director, she will oversee the degree approval process, plan and develop accredited curriculum and serve as a classroom instructor, mentor and advisor to students.

“The physician assistant program at WVU has the potential to make a significant impact on the health of West Virginians,” Dr. Momen said. “Graduates will have the knowledge and skills needed to advocate for patients, reduce disparities in access to health care, recognize and treat substance use disorders and partner with patients to prevent chronic disease.”

Momen earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Virginia, a medical degree from the State University of New York at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, and a master’s degree in public health from WVU. She completed residency training in pediatrics at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and is board certified in pediatrics.

Momen comes to WVU from Alderson Broaddus University, Philippi, W.Va., where she was medical director of the School of Physician Assistant Studies. She also serves as a content expert for the Physician Assistant Education Association Exam Development Board for Women’s Health, Pediatrics, Psychiatry and Behavioral Health End of Rotation™ Exams. Her first day is June 25. 

WVU has applied for Accreditation-Provisional from the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). WVU anticipates matriculating its first class in January 2020, pending achieving Accreditation-Provisional status at the September 2019 ARC-PA meeting. Accreditation-Provisional is an accreditation status granted when the plans and resource allocation, if fully implemented as planned, of a proposed program that has not yet enrolled students appear to demonstrate the program’s ability to meet the ARC-PA standards or when a program holding accreditation-provisional status appears to demonstrate continued progress in complying with the standards as it prepares for the graduation of the first class of students. 



CONTACT: Cassie Thomas, WVU School of Medicine; 304.293.3412

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