C of I, ISU partner to educate more PAs

The College of Idaho and Idaho State University will address the growing need for primary health providers in Idaho and the nation by educating more physician assistants beginning in fall 2014.

At a news conference today, leaders from both institutions signed an agreement to expand ISU’s two-year Master of Physician Assistant Studies Program  to a third campus at The College of Idaho in Caldwell. ISU's MPAS Program, which began in 1995, has graduated 16 classes and 508 physician assistants.

The joint ISU and C of I program will enhance the quality of health care in Idaho, said Marv Henberg, president of The College of Idaho. 

“Idaho needs more highly skilled medical professionals as its population continues to grow,” Henberg said. “The College of Idaho has a strong track record of educating students who go on to successful careers in medicine. Partnering with Idaho State University is a natural fit that takes advantage of both institutions’ strengths and resources.”

Physician assistants or PAs are highly skilled health practitioners who work under physician supervision to provide patient care services.  It’s one of the fastest growing occupations in the nation, with the Idaho Department of Labor estimating that the number of PA positions in the state will increase by more than 40 percent between 2008 and 2018.

A projected shortage of physicians, aging population and implementation of the Affordable Care Act of 2010 also are expected to drive the demand for physician assistants.

“We are delighted to expand our Master of Physician Assistant Studies Program to The College of Idaho campus,” said Idaho State University President Arthur C. Vailas. “This collaboration will enable ISU and the C of I to meet the increasing demand for physician assistants in Idaho and improve access to quality health care for citizens living in our underserved communities.”

PA students at The College of Idaho will be linked via immersive distance learning technology with students at ISU’s existing programs in Pocatello and Meridian. Full-time faculty based in each location will facilitate a high level of interactive and hands-on learning. During their second year in the program, PA students will participate in a series of clinical rotations in appropriate medical contexts, with guidance from faculty and clinical preceptors.

“I’m thrilled to be working with The College of Idaho. This partnership strengthens both of our institutions and will enable us to meet the health care demands of Idaho and the region,” said Paula Phelps, program director and chair of the ISU Department of Physician Assistant Studies.

Henberg noted that many doctors practicing in Idaho earned their bachelor’s degrees at the C of I, an asset for PA students needing clinical experience as part of their coursework.

“The College of Idaho’s strong connections to leaders in the medical and health care community will be a tremendous benefit for our PA students who need to gain experience in a clinical setting,” Henberg said. 

A public university and private college partnering to deliver PA education is unique, noted Linda Hatzenbuehler, ISU Division of Health Sciences associate academic vice president and executive dean. She said she wasn’t aware of any programs like it in the country.

“Developing this public-private partnership has been a lengthy process. We were all working on uncharted territory, but we stuck to our commitment and I am proud of our product. I appreciate all of the many individuals on both campuses who helped build this new partnership,” Hatzenbuehler said.

For more information about the joint PA program visit  

Founded in 1891, The College of Idaho is the state’s oldest private liberal arts college. It has a century-old tradition of educating some of the most accomplished graduates in Idaho, including six Rhodes Scholars, three Marshall Scholars, and another 11 Truman and Goldwater Scholars. The College is located on a beautiful campus in Caldwell, Idaho. Its distinctive PEAK curriculum challenges students to attain competencies in the four knowledge peaks of the humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field, enabling them to graduate with an academic major and three minors in four years. For more information on The College of Idaho, visit

Founded in 1901, Idaho State University enjoys the distinguished rating of Research University-High by the Carnegie Foundation, and is a leader in a broad range of innovative research, teaching and learning through its six colleges and Division of Health Sciences.  ISU is Idaho’s lead institution in health science education and offers more than 280 certificate and degree programs in numerous disciplines. Visit ISU today at and