Physician Assistant Program
In addition to oversight over the MD and MD/PhD Programs, Dr. Jay Rosenfield has academic oversight of the Medical Radiation Sciences and had oversight of the Physician Assistant undergraduate degree program until 2016.
U of T Physician Assistant trainees are providing care where it’s needed most
At U of T, Physician Assistants (PAs) are trained to deliver care in the rural and remote communities where they are needed most. The BScPA is delivered through distance and distributed education completed from home, blended with Toronto-based residential blocks and clinical rotations in northern and southern Ontario.
The Physician Assistant profession was introduced in Ontario by the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care in 2006 to help decrease wait times and improve access to primary care. “There’s a real need for PAs in northern Ontario,” asserts Myriam Legault, who graduated from the BScPA program in 2015. “The physicians in these communities see our value and our place in the health care system.”
Legault was completing her BHSc at the University of Ottawa when she heard about the PA profession at a career fair. “I thought it would be interesting to enter a profession that is just being established now,” she says. “I also liked that we graduate as generalists, so we can work in different disciplines depending on the opportunities available to us.”
PA trainees have access to over 500 clinical preceptors and more than 250 clinical sites in 90 communities across Ontario. “We are not only expanding the number of clinical sites students have access to, we have revised the clinical placement process as well to create schedules that most closely match student preferences,” says Dr. Maureen Gottesman, Medical Director of the Physician Assistant Program.
Through the program, students complete rotations both in their home communities and in their ‘swap’ community, either in southern or northern Ontario, depending on the student’s home location. This training prepares students for work in underserved communities, where more than 40 per cent of graduates work, according to the program’s 2015 Graduate Census survey.
“I come from Moose Creek, a small town east of Ottawa,” Legault says. “When I did my placements in rural bilingual towns, they reminded me of home. I think it's great that every student in the PA program at U of T gets experience in northern Ontario because they see how much they are needed out here.”
After graduation, Legault found a position through the HealthForceOntario Physician Assistant Career Start Program, which provides funding opportunities for new graduates, in the community of Sturgeon Falls, located about fifty kilometers west of North Bay. “It’s a small town, but it still feels like a big town to me,” Legault laughs. She works in the emergency department of the West Nippising General Hospital. “In a rural community, the ER also functions as a primary care centre because there are many patients without family doctors in the community," she explains. "I get to help provide continuous care for these patients, which is very rewarding."
Legault performs her duties under a supervising physician but has the ability to make her own decisions.
“Since we are not regulated medical providers, we work under medical directives. This means that there doesn’t have to be constant verbal orders from the supervising physician in order for me to do things like order medications and investigations in the form of diagnostic imaging, blood work and more. I like that autonomy.”
Physician Assistants are trained through the Bachelor of Science Physician Assistant degree (BScPA), a full-time professional, second-entry undergraduate degree program based in the Department of Family and Community Medicine. The BScPA is a U of T degree delivered in collaboration with Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) and the Michener Institute for Education at UHN. In 2009, the three institutions formed the Consortium of PA Education to collaboratively develop, oversee and deliver the education program.
- Dr. Maureen Gottesman’s expertise leveraging online learning is being put to work in her role as faculty chair of U of T’s Academic Toolbox Reference Group which has implemented a set of common criteria for U of T’s enterprise educational technology ecosystem.
- In 2015, two members of the Consortium of PA Education were recognized nationally for their outstanding contributions: Dr. Peter Tzakas (Course Director, Primary Care Medicine I & II) was added to the 2015 CAPA Honour Roll and Drew Gould, CCPA, MA, BScPA, BSc (Teaching Assistant, Behavioural Medicine; Class of 2013) was granted the 2015 CPAEA PA Educator Award by the Canadian PA Education Association.