“Dean Robert Kreisberg’s leadership in developing our new Physician Assistant Studies program has been outstanding and we thank him. This program is needed throughout the region and is attracting students from all over the nation who are seeking a successful career in the health sciences.” – President Robin C. Capehart

The following article was written by Daniel Dorsch, education writer at Wheeling News-Register/The Intelligencer:

July 11, 2013 Special to the Herald-Star

WEST LIBERTY – The Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies program at West Liberty University is off and rolling as the first class begins training in the medical field and the second class began working in the classroom and laboratory.

PAs Kent Phillips, Griffin, Ga., Sarah Brammer, Wheeling and Natalia Doroshenko, Falling Waters, W.Va., enjoy a quick lunch in the College Union.

PA from the first class Kent Phillips, Griffin, Ga., Sarah Brammer, Wheeling and Natalia Doroshenko, Falling Waters, W.Va., enjoy lunch in the College Union.

“So far the program has run quite well,” said Allan Bedashi, department chair and program director. “I came from California three years ago to build a program and I’m very pleased at how it’s grown.”

Almost 600 people applied for the program, according to Bedashi. Interviews were conducted with 100 students for the 19 available seats.

For the first year in the program, students work in a classroom and laboratory atmosphere following a curriculum that encompasses all fields of clinical medicine. Teachers range from science professors to general medical internists to specialists in their fields.

When Bedashi came on board with the university in 2011 he immediately set to work coordinating the physician assistant program and recruiting students.

“It took us about three years to get the program up and running,” Associate Professor Dr. Derrick Latos said on Wednesday.

Academic coordinator Regina Jones said the idea to begin a physician assistant program came from local doctor Howard Shackelford, who practices in Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

“He recognized that this was a need in our community,” Jones said. “He utilizes and depends heavily on physician assistants in his own practice.”

Other area hospitals involved in the program include Ohio Valley Medical Center, Wheeling Hospital, Reynolds Memorial Hospital and Wetzel County Hospital.

Jones and Latos said the physician assistant masters program teaches students to do medical examinations and diagnose, treat, counsel and manage patient care while working alongside doctors. In West Virginia, physician assistants can write prescriptions and assist doctors on all the job aspects of medicine.

According to Jones there were 60 accredited physician assistant programs in the United States 12 years ago. Now she said there are 130 with at least 60 more seeking accreditation. West Liberty’s program is one of only three accredited in the state and the only one within the public education system.

Latos said the program currently has the highest percentage of people getting satisfactory jobs thanks to the national need for increased primary care. The U.S. Department of Labor predicted the physician assistant field will grow by 30 percent in the next 20 years, and Bedashi said the program will grow with it.

“We’re looking to move into the new health sciences building by the end of the year,” Bedashi said. “Within the next few years we will slowly expand the program. We’d like to see an increase in students in the class.”

Part of WLU’s College of Sciences, the physician assistant program is one of many options open to students interested in the growing field of health sciences. Dr. Robert Kreisberg, Dean of the College of Science, also was instrumental in the development of the successful program. Kreisberg reports that the College of Sciences has experienced a 54 percent increase in student numbers over the past five years, making it the largest College on campus. More than 99 percent of College of Science students applying for post-graduate programs have been accepted into their program of choice.

For more information on the physician assistant program, please call 304-336-5098 or email,  [email protected] For more information on the College of Sciences, please contact Kreisberg at [email protected]