UNT Health Science Center Graduates Physician Assistants

September 21, 2000

FORT WORTH, Texas â?? The University of North Texas Health Science Center adds to the growing number of physician assistants when it holds commencement ceremonies this week for 13 physician assistant students.

Upon graduation, these students, who are all Texas residents, will place the designation â?? PA â?? after their names. Commencement takes place at 1 p.m. Saturday, September 23, 2000, at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden.

Commencement speaker will be Bill Kohlhepp, a physician assistant who serves as chair of the board of directors and immediate past president of the American Academy of Physician Assistants. The Academy is the national organization for physician assistants in all medical and surgical specialties.

Mr. Kohlhepp is the academic coordinator at the Quinnipiac University Physician Assistant Program in Hamden, Connecticut. He also works part-time as a physician assistant at Saint Raphaelâ??s Occupational Health Plus in New Haven, Connecticut.

The health science center launched its Physician Assistant Studies Program in 1997 as an undergraduate program. The program became the first state-funded masterâ??s PA Studies program in Texas this fall.

As licensed PAâ??s, many of the graduates will provide health care for Texans in rural locations. Students have received job offers from such towns as Wichita Falls, Lufkin, and Seven Points. Many communities faced with a shortage of physicians employ PAs to help meet their clinical service needs. In Texas, approximately 70 percent of the stateâ??s rural health clinics are staffed by PAs.

Physician assistants are health care professionals licensed to practice medicine with physician supervision. PAs are educated in the medical model, which is designed to complement the physician role. As part of their comprehensive responsibilities, PAs conduct physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, counsel on preventive health care, and assist in surgery. In Texas and 46 other states, physician assistants can write prescriptions.

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