Is Now the Time to Discuss a PA-to-Physician Bridge Program?

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Many of the opponents to the new PA clinical doctorate degree echo a similar sentiment: “If you want to be a doctor, go to medical school.�

It’s impossible to deny that wisdom. But there’s a problem, of course.

PAs can’t go to medical school without going all the way back to square one and starting medical school from the very beginning, regardless of their advanced PA education, rigorous clinical training and extensive clinical experience.

Just about everyone agrees that we are in the midst of a critical physician shortage that is only going to get worse, and many of the physicians the United States already has have chosen to avoid primary care specialties.

Maybe it’s time to talk about a PA-to-physician bridge program.

Should educated, experienced PAs have to return to Day 1 of medical school and start at the very beginning of medical education with a bunch of recent bachelor’s degree graduates—most of them with absolutely zero clinical experience?

When World War II created widespread physician shortages, the medical community responded with fast-track physician training programs. In fact, Dr. Eugene Stead based the curriculum of the first PA program at Duke University “in part on his knowledge of the fast-track training of doctors during World War II,� according to the AAPA.

The United States faces another serious shortage of physicians today. Would it make sense for the PA community to capitalize on its “medical model� of PA education and close relationship with the physician community and work for the development of an abbreviated physician training program for select, highly qualified PAs?
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