Making a difference
CCVMS partners with local PA program to support students and community
by Kate Alfano, CMS Communications Coordinator
The Clear Creek Valley Medical Society (CCMVS) has partnered with the Red Rocks Community College Physician Assistant Program to connect area physicians with physician assistants (PAs) early in their training and careers, and strengthen working relationships among the health care team.
During a strategic planning session, CCVMS board members expressed the need to put more of their resources toward supporting local community programs. Because neither of the Colorado medical schools is contained in the counties comprising the society, they turned to the RRCC PA program – a highly regarded institution with which they were already involved.
The RRCC PA Program is fully accredited and has graduated physician assistants since 2000. In the fall of 2017, they will matriculate their first Master’s degree cohort. The program previously offered Master’s level curriculum through a partnership with St. Francis University in Loretto, Penn., but Colorado legislation was changed in 2013 to allow the RRCC PA program to be the only community college in the nation to offer a Master’s degree. The RRCC PA program is housed on the Arvada campus of Red Rocks Community College, and the mission of the program focuses on primary care training and serving underserved populations.
There are two phases to the CCVMS/RRCC PA program partnership: a preceptorship program that brings PA students into local physician practices and a new annual CCMVS scholarship for a RRCC PA student. Students who enter the preceptorship program receive valuable, real-world experience in a local physician’s practice, and CCVMS physicians who agree to precept PA students receive help with introductory medical skills that frees up time for existing personnel.
“We can show that having physicians involved early in a PA student’s career, whether academic or professional, is great for not only future PAs but for the physicians themselves,” said Stephen Boucher, CCVMS executive director. “Especially in an advocacy light, physicians do an inadequate job of having good resources to connect with nurse practitioners or advanced practice nurses, so when we get to the legislative battles on scope of practice, it feels like we are two sides battling instead of all being on the same team. … We now know that it’s better for everyone if physicians have an earlier touch in these students’ careers.”
“This partnership provides more opportunities for our students to train with well-respected physicians in our community,” said RRCC PA Program Director Christa Dobbs, MPAS, PA-C. Students are required to have at least 2,000 hours of paid health-care-relevant experience prior to applying for the program and, as a result, are well prepared for clinical rotations.
“We are committed to providing the best clinical experiences with the best providers to uphold the reputation of our program, our graduates and students,” Dobbs continued. “I see our partnership providing more practicing PAs for the west-Denver metro area and building PA-physician partnerships that benefit patients and practices. The strength of our program is built upon the strength of our clinical partnerships.”
The scholarship, currently funded at $2,000 but with the potential for higher awards in the future, is available to any RRCC PA student and makes a difference in their educational expenses. Funds go directly to the awardee. The program has a non-traditional student base: Many are older with families, and who have a health care background but are starting their second or third career. Their cohort size is 32 students and typically 30-31 graduate. Boucher says the high graduate rate, as well as a higher likelihood of the student remaining in the area after graduation, reinforces the case for CCVMS investment.
“The administrators of the Red Rocks program keep tuition as low as possible but they do so much with it,” Boucher said. “The total cost of the degree is $65,000 – very much on the low end compared to other programs. Also, a typical PA program lasts two years but theirs is 27 months to allow for more flexibility for their students’ lives.”
“We knew with this scholarship we could have a big impact,” he continued. “The students, who are probably local area residents, know that local area physicians want to be involved with them and help put them through the program – we want to support them. And that’s pretty important.”
CCVMS will hold a dinner presentation on the preceptorship opportunity on May 18 at CCVMS offices in Lakewood, and they will hold a fundraiser for the scholarship program on June 4 at Addenbrooke Park in Lakewood. For more information on these events or how to get involved, go to www.ccvms.org or contact Stephen Boucher at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted in: Colorado Medicine