Release Date: 5/31/2022
On May 7, 2022, Xavier University of Louisiana and Ochsner Health celebrated their inaugural Physician Assistant (PA) Program Class of 2022 commencement. U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D., served as the commencement speaker.
The 28-month, full-time graduate program, which leads to a master’s degree in health sciences, began in 2020 and is comprised of three semesters of classroom instruction followed by 16 months of clinical training within Ochsner Health.
In this inaugural Xavier and Ochsner PA Program class, 37 physician assistants graduated. Xavier is one of four universities in Louisiana and just one of five HBCUs in the nation to offer a PA program. Of the more than 500 applications received, 40 aspiring PAs were accepted for this inaugural class. According to the 2020 Statistical Profile of Physician Assistants published by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA), just 3.3% of PAs are African American. Xavier University’s inaugural graduating PA class is comprised of 13% African Americans and a total of 64% minority students. Fifty-six percent are Louisiana residents.
PAs are licensed healthcare professionals trained in general medicine who work in collaboration with a physician. The American Academy of PAs estimates there are more than 150,000 PAs in the United States today and, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for physician assistants is projected to grow 31 percent from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations. About 12,200 openings for physician assistants are projected each year, on average, over the decade.
“At Ochsner, we are committed to diversity and excellence when training the next generation of healthcare providers,” said Leonardo Seoane, M.D., FACP, Senior Vice President and Chief Academic Officer, Ochsner Health. “By collaborating and partnering with Xavier on this new PA program, we can train more healthcare professionals here in Louisiana. It is our hope that this new pipeline of physician assistants will make meaningful impact on the health of our state by positioning us to better advocate for patients, reduce disparities in access to health care, and advance the prevention of chronic disease.”
The long-standing relationship between Ochsner and Xavier dates to the early 1980s, when Ochsner and Xavier’s College of Pharmacy established an affiliation agreement to provide educational experiences to pharmacy students. Since then, the partnership has expanded with several shared programs and collaborations between the HBCU and the hospital system. These include the Ochsner Xavier Institute for Health Equity & Research, the Xavier Genetic Counseling Program, the Xavier Medical Laboratory Science Program, and the Xavier Speech-Language Pathology Program.