OREM — Utah Valley University learned Monday that its Master of Physician Assistant Studies program, first announced last year and expected to take its first students in January 2020, did not receive accreditation from the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant.
The decision means that the university will not be able to accept students this spring as planned, even though it had already conducted an application, acceptance and hiring process.
In an emailed statement, university spokesman Scott Trotter called the commission’s decision “very disappointing.”
“After receiving the decision from ARC-PA, we promptly notified all students who were conditionally accepted into the program,” Trotter said. “Those students will receive a full refund of their seat deposits.
“We are aware of the critical need for physician assistants in Utah, and we are currently considering all options and will decide next steps in the near future. We regret any negative impact this may have on students who were hoping to begin school in January.”
He said the university’s College of Health and Public Service “spent considerable effort planning and establishing its physician assistant program, hosting site visits, working to fulfill accreditation requirements, and screening and conditionally accepting applicants” before learning on Monday it would not receive accreditation.
The Master of Physician Assistant Studies program was approved by the UVU Board of Trustees in November 2018.
Utah Valley is listed on the Accreditation Review Commission website as one of 56 programs in the application and development process of a physician assistant program. In an email to waitlisted students posted on an online physician assistant forum, UVU promised additional information on the situation by Friday.
By Wednesday, most of the UVU web pages involving the physician assistant program had been taken offline. But on the university’s course catalog site, UVU lays out the process of application and classes that would have been required to complete the degree.
The university required applicants to have a minimum of 1,200 hours of health care experience and said more “competitive applicants” averaged 4,000 to 5,000 “patient contact hours.” The process also involved personal interviews, letters of recommendation and more.
The Accreditation Review Commission website says accreditation is “a process of external peer review” and “is administered primarily by non-governmental, voluntary organizations that grant recognition to institutions or specialized programs of study that meet established qualifications and educational standards.”
The University of Utah and the Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions are the only two accredited physician assistant programs in Utah, according to the organization.