HRSA Boosts UND Physician Assistant Program’s Service To Underserved North Dakota

The Health Resources and Services Administration awarded almost $1 million to the Physician Assistant Program in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences. The purpose of the five-year, $999,416 grant is to fund curriculum development, learning enhancement and faculty development in training physician assistants who provide primary care for rural communities in North Dakota.

“We are delighted to be awarded a grant project that so closely aligns with the PA Program’s mission and goals,” said Jeanie McHugo, Ph.D., PA-C, program director for the Physician Assistant Program. “The UND PA Program seeks to improve North Dakotans’ access to health care by helping to alleviate shortages of primary care providers in rural areas.”

The federal government has designated 94 percent of North Dakota counties as either health professional shortage areas or medically underserved areas, indicating that patients must travel significant distances to reach health care services in rural areas and this reduces their access to care.

The PA Program’s goals for the grant are to help UND PA faculty develop curriculum that will enrich and expand the knowledge and skills of their graduates to deliver high quality primary care in rural and underserved areas of the state. In turn, the grant will fund professional development of current and new faculty to enhance their ability to educate highly skilled PAs to deliver first-level care to underserved North Dakotans.

Through distance-learning technology, PA faculty will work with students in their physician partners’ clinics across North Dakota to improve quality, access and availability of care for patients. Physician assistants are health professionals who practice medicine collegially with, and under the supervision of, physicians, especially in primary care in rural areas of North Dakota and other rural and underserved areas within the United States. Over the course of the program, students rotate between the classroom on the UND campus in Grand Forks and a physician’s practice in the student’s home community.

The University of North Dakota Physician Assistant Program is one of 164 PA programs in the United States and is the only PA program in North Dakota. Since its inception in 1970, the PA Program has educated more than 1,600 graduates.

Denis MacLeod
assistant director, Office of Alumni and Community Relations
UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences
(701) 777-2733