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Physician Assistant Program (Minnesota)

Curriculum

PA students reviewing anatomical structures on learning skeleton as part of their education

Curriculum centered on preparing you for the patient needs of tomorrow

This 24-month program is focused on small group interaction with instructors and hands-on patient care, our transformational education engages students through active learning.

A typical day in the life of a PA student at Mayo Clinic

During Year 1, the first 12-months focus on didactic studies and integrates classroom learning with clinical experiences. Classroom learning takes place at Saint Mary’s University Cascade Meadow campus and focuses on the knowledge, skills, and professionalism needed to provide evidence-based patient care to a wide variety of patient populations. Clinical integration and other learning experiences at the Mayo Clinic in downtown Rochester bring you into real-life, team-based care to maximize your education.

Studies involve most weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Formal courses do not fill all of that time, but outside of scheduled learning sessions, students take part in small group assignments, labs, and personal study time. Typically, PA students spend 2-4 hours most evenings in additional study and 4-8 hours of personal study on weekends.

Overview photo of students using technology and 3D models to examine a heart during their PA education

During Year 2, the second 12-months, you’ll dive into direct patient care with a consecutive series of 1-month clinical rotations at sites across the Mayo Clinic Health System, including southern MN, western WI, and northern IA. These experiences offer a remarkable breadth and depth of patient care delivery experiences.

During these rotations, PA students follow the same schedule as their preceptor/mentor. Some rotations will require morning patient rounds at 6 a.m., and some rotations may require the student to be on-call or seeing patients into the evening or through the night.

A clinical rotation often requires 40-50 hours of supervised patient care experience each week. If your preceptor/mentor is responsible for weekend or evening hours, you should plan to follow suit. PA students continue focused personal study during the clinical rotations to build on learning from daily patient experiences. Regular testing is required throughout the year of rotations with occasional added learning experiences that require study. Students personally study 1-2 hours most evenings.

PA student training with faculty member during a patient exam

Curriculum maps and course sequence descriptions

Year 1

Curriculum map

August-DecemberJanuary-AprilMay-July
Clinical Anatomy (August-October) Clinical Pharmacology  Advanced Clinical Therapeutics 
Biology of Disease (August-October) Adult & Pediatric Medicine I Adult & Pediatric Medicine II 
History & Physical Exam Diagnostic Procedures (January-February)  Clinical Skills II 
Health Systems Science I (Professionalism & Society) Clinical Skills (March-April)  Psychiatry/Behavioral Medicine 
Clinical Integration I  Clinical Inquiry Health Systems Science II (Team & Ethics)
  Communications in Medicine Clinical Integration III
  Clinical Integration II   

5110 Clinical Anatomy (6 credit hours): As an active learning dissection based course, instruction targets basic science concepts of anatomic structure and function in order to provide building blocks for clinical application within an authentic learning framework. The course emphasizes (1) application of clinically relevant human anatomy, in principle and practice, correlated as possible with concurrent pathophysiology and physical examination learning, and (2) team-based learning that facilitates development of non-traditional discipline independent skills reflective of the interprofessional and multidisciplinary health care team setting. For an idea of your first experiences with anatomy, check out The First Patient: Death, Dissection, Discovery.

5120 Biology of Disease (3 credit hours): Foundational human physiology principles are contrasted with physiology of disease and correlated as possible with concurrent anatomy learning. In the disorder of physiology, symptoms and signs are explored based on the disease mechanisms. Relationships between clinical manifestations of disease and their genetic and cellular basis lead the learner to interpreting the impact of various treatment regimens. Implications of illness management versus natural disease progression are compared, expanding into exploration of common disease states of neurology, allergy/immunology and introductory EENT patient care that continues in Adult & Pediatric Medicine I & II.

5130 History & Physical Exam (4 credit hours): Application of clinician-patient communication skills required for thorough medical histories and mastery of comprehensive physical exam techniques, adult and pediatric, including cultural respect and disability accommodation, correlated when possible with concurrent anatomy and pathophysiology learning. Small group learning exercises lead to the mastery of obtaining and reporting an appropriate medical history and associated physical examination, emphasizing typical findings with selected normal variants and abnormal findings associated with illness. 

5140/5340 Health Systems Science I & II (2 & 1 credit hours): By constructing the PA professional role integrated with the science of health care delivery, learning engages the synthesis of population-based, socio-ecological determinants of health, policy and economics, leading to improved health care quality, safety and value by effective team-based methods.  Section I includes the history and role of the PA alongside societal (social, government, cultural and economic) influences on health. Section II addresses operative team-based care, leadership skills, and medical ethics.

5150/5250/5350 Clinical Integration I, II & III (1 credit hour each): Seminar and experiential learning activities develop the PA student’s ability to engage and interact within the patient care environment with decorum, composure, compassion and respect. The PA student is assigned a health professional mentor in clinical practice to provide limited clinical experiences and advising sessions to grow the student’s capacity to apply principles of patient care. Seminars provide opportunities for reflection, exploring aspects of professionalism, team-based care, health care delivery, and personal wellness. Three sections complete this series that coincides with the didactic PA curriculum.

5210 Clinical Pharmacology (3 credit hours): Comprehensive application of clinically relevant pharmacology in principle and practice, correlated as possible with adult & pediatric medicine learning. Core principles of pharmacokinetics, drug metabolism and transport, assessment of drug effects, pharmacogenomics, and drug discovery and development are emphasized. Problem-based learning activities with case studies provide direct application of principles to develop a basis for rational disease therapy and prevention.

5220/5320 Adult & Pediatric Medicine I & II (5 and 3 credit hours): Thorough, primary-care-focused exploration of adult and pediatric patient care related to pathophysiology, epidemiology, diagnosis, prognosis, treatment and patient management divided by organ systems and specialties. Section I builds on prior learning of Neurology, Allergy/Immunology & EENT from the Biology of Disease course, continuing with Cardiology, Endocrinology, Gastroenterology, Infectious Disease, OB/Gyn, Pulmonology, and Renal/Urology. Section II includes Dermatology, Emergency Medicine (Trauma), Geriatrics, Hematology/ Oncology, Orthopedics/Rheumatology, Pediatrics (special topics), General Surgery, and advanced topics in Internal Medicine (Cardiology, GI and Pulmonology).

5230/5330 Clinical Skills I & II (2 and 3 credit hours): Exercising critical thinking, clinical skills are demonstrated toward mastery. Common skills in primary care medicine are emphasized through real and simulated health care situations, building on the foundation of learned physical exam skills, applications appropriate to more complex patient presentations are developed. Instruction expands into specific procedural skills used in primary care. Section I includes decision-making exercises, suturing, injection, surgical techniques and casting/splinting. Section II includes advanced critical thinking skills, integration of diagnostic strategies, bedside ultrasound and advanced technical skills including Advanced Cardiac Life support and Pediatric Advanced Life Support certification courses.

5240 Diagnostic Procedures (2 credit hours): Interpretation skills of laboratory and imaging evaluations used in patient diagnosis and treatment are emphasized, including blood and urine tests, genetic screening, microbiology and pathology exams, imaging to include x-ray, CT/MRI, PET and diagnostic ultrasound. Development of rational and cost-effective utilization of diagnostic procedures is emphasized, with consideration of access to services, severity of illness, measures of predictive value, accurate interpretation of results and impact on patient outcomes.

5260 Clinical Inquiry (1 credit hour): Clinical research appraisal focuses on appropriate best practice applications to patient care, including an individualized research review writing project. Common clinical research concepts and methodologies are explored related to evidence-based medicine with necessary skills to critique published articles that influence medical care. Randomized controlled trials, systematic reviews, meta-analyses, and translational research are among the topics as directed to improving health care delivery.

5270 Communications in Medicine (2 credit hours): With a foundation on clear and compassionate communication skills required in patient care, learning also elaborates on documentation of health records, interdisciplinary and team-based communications, primary care counseling skills, and quality care expectations and safety. Nonverbal, verbal, listening, and writing skills of communication are integrated into clinical exercises related to best patient outcomes, with applications in higher levels of complexity such as in emergency settings, with difficult personalities, under distress, and across cultures. Communication tools of inquiry, compassion, acknowledgement, clarity, advocacy, accuracy and problem-solving are emphasized.

5310 Advanced Clinical Therapeutics (2 credit hours): Using problem-based learning strategies, chronic conditions with co-morbidities as well as acute catastrophic episodes of care are explored to distinguish effective, cost-efficient, ethical, evidence-based disease management. Drug-specific and patient-specific pharmaco-kinetic and -genomic parameters are explored, with consideration of broader population-based implications. Students integrate treatment considerations beyond medications, including behavioral change, preventive health practice and patient education.

5360 Psychiatry/Behavioral Medicine (2 credit hours): Diagnosis and management of mental distress, psychosocial behaviors common to illness, and psychopathology in primary care medicine, fostering a biopsychosocial model of medicine and behavioral change strategies for healthier lifestyle practices. Concepts of normative behaviors are framed by influences of culture, environment, genetics and identity; patient care skills are described that support culturally-informed care. Psychiatric disorders in primary care are emphasized related to diagnosis, treatment and referral.

Year 2

Clinical rotations

Clinical competency is achieved through opportunities to practice and master clinical decision-making in patient care related to the various clinical disciplines of medicine under the guidance and direction of a clinical preceptor. Learning opportunities involve the six areas of professional competencies of the PA: medical knowledge, interpersonal and communication skills, patient care, professionalism, practice-based learning and improvement, and systems-based practice.

During the months of October, January, April, and July, please expect two-day required meetings for clinical rotation assessment, reflection, and workshops on employment strategies, patient-centered care, advanced clinical updates, PANCE preparation, and successful workforce deployment.

List of rotations (each one month in length)

Family Medicine I

Family Medicine II

Cardiology

Emergency Medicine

Internal Medicine

General Pediatrics

Psychiatry/Behavioral Medicine

OB/Gynecology

General Surgery

Three Electives

Please note: Order of clinical rotations will vary according to student needs, availability of preceptors, and effective sequence of learning.

Common electives include: Dermatology, Endocrinology, Geriatrics, Orthopedics, Otolaryngology, among many others.

Rotation descriptions

Each rotation is 4 credit hours.

6000/6100 Family Medicine I & II: Clinical competency is achieved through opportunities to practice and master clinical decision-making in patient care related to the clinical practice of family medicine under the guidance and direction of a clinical preceptor. Learning opportunities involve the six areas of professional competencies of the PA: medical knowledge, interpersonal and communication skills, patient care, professionalism, practice-based learning and improvement, and systems-based practice. Two sections of family medicine are required to appreciate the breadth and depth of primary care.

6200 Cardiology: Clinical competency is achieved through opportunities to practice and master clinical decision-making in patient care related to the clinical practice of cardiology under the guidance and direction of a clinical preceptor. Learning opportunities involve the six areas of professional competencies of the PA: medical knowledge, interpersonal and communication skills, patient care, professionalism, practice-based learning and improvement, and systems-based practice.

6300 Emergency Medicine: Clinical competency is achieved through opportunities to practice and master clinical decision-making in patient care related to the clinical practice of emergency medicine under the guidance and direction of a clinical preceptor. Learning opportunities involve the six areas of professional competencies of the PA: medical knowledge, interpersonal and communication skills, patient care, professionalism, practice-based learning and improvement, and systems-based practice.

6400 Internal Medicine: Clinical competency is achieved through opportunities to practice and master clinical decision-making in patient care related to the clinical practice of internal medicine under the guidance and direction of a clinical preceptor. Learning opportunities involve the six areas of professional competencies of the PA: medical knowledge, interpersonal and communication skills, patient care, professionalism, practice-based learning and improvement, and systems-based practice.

6500 Pediatrics: Clinical competency is achieved through opportunities to practice and master clinical decision-making in patient care related to the clinical practice of pediatrics under the guidance and direction of a clinical preceptor. Learning opportunities involve the six areas of professional competencies of the PA: medical knowledge, interpersonal and communication skills, patient care, professionalism, practice-based learning and improvement, and systems-based practice.

6600 Psychiatry/Behavioral Medicine: Clinical competency is achieved through opportunities to practice and master clinical decision-making in patient care related to the clinical practice of psychiatry/behavioral medicine under the guidance and direction of a clinical preceptor. Learning opportunities involve the six areas of professional competencies of the PA: medical knowledge, interpersonal and communication skills, patient care, professionalism, practice-based learning and improvement, and systems-based practice.

6700 Obstetrics/Gynecology: Clinical competency is achieved through opportunities to practice and master clinical decision-making in patient care related to the clinical practice of obstetrics/gynecology under the guidance and direction of a clinical preceptor. Learning opportunities involve the six areas of professional competencies of the PA: medical knowledge, interpersonal and communication skills, patient care, professionalism, practice-based learning and improvement, and systems-based practice.

6800 General Surgery: Clinical competency is achieved through opportunities to practice and master clinical decision-making in patient care related to the clinical practice of general surgery under the guidance and direction of a clinical preceptor. Learning opportunities involve the six areas of professional competencies of the PA: medical knowledge, interpersonal and communication skills, patient care, professionalism, practice-based learning and improvement, and systems-based practice.

6910/6920/6930 Clinical Elective I, II & III: Clinical competency is achieved through opportunities to practice and master clinical decision-making in patient care related to clinical practice in a student-selected elective area of medicine under the guidance and direction of a clinical preceptor. Learning opportunities involve the six areas of professional competencies of the PA: medical knowledge, interpersonal and communication skills, patient care, professionalism, practice-based learning and improvement, and systems-based practice. The elective may range from an additional experience in core rotation areas to other specialties and subspecialties of medicine and surgery. Three separate sections of electives are required to appreciate the breadth and depth of medical care.

Summary of academic credit offered by program

Semester

Credit hours

Fall 1

16

Spring 1

16

Summer 1

12

Fall 2

16

Spring 2

16

Summer 2

16

Total

92

 

Facilities

Cascade Meadow at Saint Mary’s University – Rochester 

The Saint Mary’s University campus in Rochester serves as the main learning facility for students during their first year of graduate studies. This Cascade Meadow expansion, ten minutes from the downtown Mayo complex, includes new, state-of-the-art classrooms, clinical skills and simulation labs, and offices. The setting features 100 acres of meadows and wetlands with walking trails and green space to maintain thriving ecological and social communities.

Mayo Clinic Health System

Mayo Clinic Health System is comprised of facilities in more than 60 communities across southeastern Minnesota, southwestern Wisconsin, and northern Iowa. These facilities combined with those in Rochester, offer students broad and diverse learning experiences in both inpatient and outpatient care.

Mayo Clinic Hospital – Rochester

Mayo Clinic's campus in Rochester, Minnesota includes an extensive outpatient complex, as well as substantial research and education facilities. This Mayo Clinic site is among the largest and most advanced medical centers in the world.

Mayo Clinic Hospital — Rochester has one of the largest surgical suites in the nation with more than 120 operating rooms. Each year, Mayo Clinic surgeons perform nearly 50,000 surgical procedures — about 200 a day — at the hospital's two campuses. The vast number and type of surgeries, in combination with a highly educated faculty, make Mayo Clinic an ideal educational setting for physician assistant students to master their surgical skills.

Grading and evaluation

Mayo Clinic School of Health Sciences uses these evaluative tools:

  • Objective examination
  • Demonstration of skills
  • Self-assessment exercises
  • Self-reflection
  • Faculty reviews

Mayo Clinic's system of evaluation provides students and faculty with a comprehensive look at individual performance. This allows faculty and administrative staff to direct students who are experiencing academic difficulty to the appropriate support resources, including tutoring programs and counseling opportunities.

Graduation and certification

After successfully completing this program, you will receive a Master of Health Sciences degree in PA studies from Mayo Clinic School of Health Sciences.

Graduates are eligible to take the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE) administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants, Inc. (NCCPA).

Facilities used for PA Program at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science: Cascade Meadow at Saint Mary’s University – Rochester, Minnesota