THEC-approved MTSU physician assistant program see...

THEC-approved MTSU physician assistant program seeks final accreditation

MTSU will host an information session for anyone interested in its newly developing Physician Assistant Studies Program at 4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 10, in Room 1006 of the Science Building on campus.

For those who prefer to attend remotely, the videoconferencing link is

The Tennessee Higher Education Commission has given final approval to the program, clearing the way for the university to pursue program accreditation approval later this year. 

With a proposed implementation date of May 2022, the Master of Science program through the College of Graduate Studies will help provide professionals for a high-demand field that has only grown in urgency with the COVID-19 pandemic. Applications are currently being accepted in the Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants, or CASPA.

Dr. Marie Patterson, assistant professor, College of Behavioral and Health Sciences and director of Physician's Assistant Program (MTSU photo)

Dr. Marie Patterson

“We are thrilled to be one step closer to implementing a physician assistant program here at MTSU,” said Dr. Marie Patterson, director of the program and an assistant professor in the College of Behavioral and Health Sciences. “We are still in the process of achieving accreditation, but we are confident in the strength of our proposed program.”

Physician assistants are licensed to diagnose and treat illness and disease, prescribe medication, and perform procedures. They work in collaboration with licensed physicians in a variety of settings including hospitals and clinics.

“This program would be great for MTSU and the community,” Patterson said. “We hope to have an affordable option for aspiring PAs in the state and region.

“We anticipate hundreds of applications for our program every year. If accredited, we look forward to being able to add to the high quality of the College of Behavioral and Health Sciences.”

Dr. Mark Byrnes, university provost

Dr. Mark Byrnes

Dr. Mark Byrnes, university provost, pointed out in his presentation to THEC that Tennessee will be the sixth best market in the nation for physician assistants over the next five years. 

In its written description of the program submitted to the commission, the university stated that student demand is already high.

Citing 2018-19 figures from the Central Application Service for Physician Assistants, MTSU was the school of origin for 97 people who applied to a physician assistant program.

Prospective employers such as Ascension Saint Thomas Health, the Tennessee Valley Healthcare System, and HCA Healthcare submitted letters of support for the MTSU proposal.

In addition to a fulfilling profession helping others, Byrnes said that the likelihood of a lucrative career is also a lure.

“Graduates will walk into a job that will likely pay six figures,” Byrnes said.

The 27-month, full-time program will require 108 credit hours with an emphasis on primary care medicine and clinical methods. Courses will include clinical medicine, history and physical examination, pharmacotherapy, clinical problem solving and diagnostic testing and clinical procedures.

Twelve months of supervised clinical practice experiences are built into the curriculum. They consist of four primary care clerkships in family medicine, pediatrics, women’s health and behavioral/mental health, as well as three critical care clerkships of general surgery, internal medicine and emergency medicine; and one elective clerkship.

The MTSU Board of Trustees gave its stamp of approval to the program in December 2020.

About the accreditation-provisional process

MTSU’s Physician Assistant Studies Program has applied for accreditation-provisional status from the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, or ARC-PA.

MTSU’s program anticipates matriculating its first class in May 2022, pending achieving the accreditation-provisional status at the September 2021 ARC-PA meeting.

College of Graduate Studies logoAccreditation-provisional is an accreditation status granted when the plans and resource allocation, if fully implemented as planned, of a proposed program that has not yet enrolled students appear to demonstrate the program’s ability to meet the ARC-PA standards, or when a program holding accreditation-provisional status appears to demonstrate continued progress in complying with the standards as it prepares for the graduation of its first class, or cohort, of students.

If MTSU does not receive the provisional accreditation, the PA Studies Program won’t begin, and any students offered places in the inaugural class will have their fees and deposits returned.

For more information about the physician assistant program at MTSU, visit, send an email to or contact Patterson at 615-494-7790 or

— Gina K. Logue (