In the second year of UNC’s Physician Assistant Program, applications were up, with more than 1,000 applicants for only 20 slots.

The UNC Physician Assistant Program, part of the Department of Allied Health Sciences, recently accepted its second class of students, who will arrive in Chapel Hill to begin their coursework in January.

This year, the program received around 1,100 applicants for only 20 slots.

Paul Chelminski, MD, MPH, professor of medicine, and primary care physician at UNC, is the PA program’s director.

The program is designed to provide educational and career-development opportunities for nontraditional students, including veterans with medical experience, and reduce North Carolina’s health care workforce shortage in underserved areas.

This year’s class accomplishes both aims. Ten of the 20 admitted students are military veterans, and the members of the class are also older and more experienced than the national average. The group is also diverse, greatly exceeding the national average for students from ethnic or racial minority groups.

The program is made possible because of the unprecedented public-private partnerships that have been formed and the generous donations from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC), the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust, and the Eddie and Jo Allison Smith Family Foundation, and the leadership and support of Dr. Mary Susan Fulghum and her late husband Dr. James Fulghum. These gifts provide all military students scholarship support of either $7,500 or $10,000.