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UNC-Chapel Hill’s Department of Allied Health Sciences, housed within the School of Medicine, is pleased to announce its Physician Assistant Studies program received continued accreditation status on a 8-year review cycle.

“The great collaborative spirit of UNC-Chapel Hill has been a source of professional inspiration to me,” says Paul Chelminski, MD, MPH, FACP, Professor of Medicine and director of Physician Assistant Studies. “I am delighted by the positive accreditation review we’ve received and am incredibly thankful to the School of Medicine and Department of Health Sciences for their support. More than anything, I credit this accomplishment to the unfailing commitment to success shown by the program’s faculty and staff.”

The UNC PA program was founded to meet an urgent need for primary care medical services in underserved areas of North Carolina and matriculated its first class of students in 2016. Its mission-driven focus also centralizes around the recruitment of veteran applicants, especially those who have served in a medical capacity and have the potential to shift into careers in civilian service to the state and country.

Dr. Stephen Hooper, Associate Dean of Medicine and Chair of the Department of Allied Health Sciences, noted, “This is a major accomplishment for the Department, School of Medicine, and the larger University. There has been a plethora of activity on the part of the PA faculty and many, many others that has contributed to the successful development and current accreditation of this program, and I am confident that those positive forces will continue forward as we strive to make this one of the best PA training programs in the country. I am grateful for these efforts and look forward to this program contributing to the health care workforce infrastructure in our state—including rural regions—and ultimately improving the health care in North Carolina.”

In a true interprofessional and collaborative manner, the UNC PA program offers students the opportunity to learn from faculty and clinicians in four schools and 20 departments across UNC’s campus. The 24-month full-time program includes one year of pre-clinical instruction followed by one year of Supervised Clinical Practice Experiences (SCPEs) in a range of medical specialties.

“The UNC PA program’s 8-year accreditation is incredibly exciting news for the School of Medicine and the State of North Carolina. The program’s efforts in training physician assistants are critical to our mission to improve the health and wellbeing of people in our state and beyond,” said School of Medicine Vice Dean for Academic Affairs Jennifer M. Wu, MD, MPH. “Congratulations to Dr. Chelminski, Dr. Hooper and everyone associated with this wonderful program. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with PA students in my clinical Urogynecology practice, and I look forward to this program’s continued success.”

The excellence of the UNC PA Program is also reflected in student outcomes attained on the PA profession national certifying exam, the PANCE. The program’s class of 2021 had a 100 percent pass rate. Over the history of the program, every graduate has passed the exam.

Members of the program’s fifth graduating class received their degrees in December 2021 after two years of challenges and adjustments due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Their hard work and accomplishments, along with those of previous graduating classes, set the foundation for a bright future for the program. 

The UNC PA program’s mission is to promote high-quality, accessible, patient-centered health care for the people of North Carolina and the nation through excellence in education, scholarship, and clinical service. The UNC PA program is committed to the health care and workforce needs of North Carolinians and will use an inter-professional approach to prepare skilled and compassionate health care practitioners across the continuum of life.

Paul Chelminski, (’95 MD, ’03 MPH) is a longtime professor, educator, clinical physician, and researcher at UNC. He has directed the PA program since its inception in 2015. Stephen Hooper, PhD, has served as DAHS chair since 2013. Jennifer Wu, MD (’07 MPH) is a professor of obstetrics and gynecology and serves as Vice Dean for Academic Affairs in the UNC School of Medicine.