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Students at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota will soon have a five-year pathway to become a physician assistant thanks to a collaboration between Saint Mary’s and the Mayo Clinic School of Health Sciences.

Said Brother William Mann, president of Saint Mary’s: “This collaboration continues the Saint Mary’s University tradition of excellence in preparing students to lead and serve in the health and sciences professions.”

The Mayo Clinic board of governors recently approved plans to develop a new physician assistant master’s degree program that will be available to students beginning in 2019. The program, which will also accept students from the University of Minnesota Rochester, is being created to meet future patient needs in the area.

“Innovative educational collaborations will play an essential role in creating the highest quality, patient-centered care,” said Fredric Meyer, M.D. and the executive dean for education at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science. “We are committed to developing educational pathways for students that empower them to meet the needs of area patients.”

To house the physician assistant program, Saint Mary’s later this spring will begin adding onto its Cascade Meadow facility in Rochester.

The program will accept its first students in the fall of 2019, and a new cohort will be jointly selected for freshman admission each year.

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Students will be able to become a physician assistant in as little as five years — spending three years at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota in Winona or at the University of Minnesota Rochester, followed by two years of graduate study at Mayo.

Bachelor’s degrees will be awarded to students by their undergraduate school, and master’s degrees will be awarded by Mayo.

According to Mayo, physician assistants might soon become a growing part of the medical workforce. Experts predict a shortage of 124,000 primary care physicians by 2025 — a shortage expected to hit rural areas the hardest.

The new program, however, will give students the option to focus their studies on rural care settings.

“Creating pathways for students in high-demand, high-growth fields is critical to ensure healthy, vibrant communities,” said Lori Carrell, Ph.D. and vice chancellor for academic affairs and student development at the University of Minnesota Rochester.

“This collaboration continues the Saint Mary’s University tradition of excellence in preparing students to lead and serve in the health and sciences professions.” Brother William Mann, Saint Mary’s president

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