Utah Valley University will celebrate the first graduating cohort of its new physician assistant (PA) program at its commencement and convocation ceremony on May 2.

The UVU PA program is a full-time, 28-month, year-round graduate program, consisting of 95 credit hours completed over seven semesters. The curriculum structure is specially designed to prepare students with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to become competent PAs who demonstrate interpersonal and communication skills that result in more effective and compassionate patient care.

The mission of the PA program at Utah Valley University is to graduate academically and clinically prepared compassionate providers who strengthen Utah’s regional healthcare workforce through exceptional patient care.

“Our graduates are fantastic,” said Karen Mulitalo, UVU PA program director. “I’m proud to have them go out there and represent our program in the community. Most of them have gotten jobs already since they were recruited on rotation. I’m really proud of all of them.” 

As shortages of primary care medical providers grow across the state and the nation, the need has never been greater for physician assistant graduates. About 12,200 openings are projected each year nationally over the next decade. The median annual wage for physician assistants is more than $130,000.

According to the Utah Medical Education Council, in order to meet community need, more than 300 licensed physician assistants must enter the workforce over the next 10 years. UVU’s PA program is strategically positioned to prepare students to respond to this demand in Utah. 

In addition, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics website shows employment of physician assistants is projected to grow 27% from 2022 to 2032, a faster rate than the average for all professions. The most common places where PAs work are in physician’s offices, 51%; hospitals, 23%; outpatient care clinics, 10%; educational services, 4%; and government, 2%.

“Growing up running the halls of Utah Valley State College, I never imagined a Physician Assistant program here,” PA program graduate MaeLin Sorensen said. “Now, as part of the first cohort, I feel blessed to contribute to the university’s history. Despite challenges, our program has thrived, thanks to the commitment of faculty and students, making us a community of successful healthcare providers eager to go and make a difference in our communities.”

“We are dedicated to providing students the things that they need to be a successful PA,” Mulitalo said. “We’re here educating the future of healthcare providers along the Wasatch Front.”