About Our Program


The mission of the South College Masters of Health Science in Physician Assistant Studies program is to educate highly qualified physician assistants, preparing them to become competent, compassionate, and comprehensive healthcare providers for clinical practice in rural and urban areas, focusing on underserved communities.

Endeavoring to provide students with a comprehensive evidence-based medical education that focuses on the future delivery of excellent healthcare, the program promotes the importance of health maintenance, health education, the prevention of disease, and the need for a lifelong path dedicated to continuous learning and self assessment. The faculty strive for educational excellence as they prepare physician assistant students to think critically, communicate compassionately, and understand the importance of collaborating in interdisciplinary healthcare teams to meet patient and family needs within an ever changing healthcare delivery system.


Our vision is that our graduates will be leaders in the healthcare community, continuously striving for excellence in their professional endeavors.


The program has six primary goals that are designed to achieve our mission and vision for educating the next generation of highly qualified physician assistants.

  1. Evaluate and select highly qualified applicants for admission into the program.
  2. Provide students with a rigorous didactic curriculum that promotes lifelong learning skills and prepares them for clinical rotations.
  3. Provide students with a comprehensive clinical curriculum that prepares them to pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam and become competent, compassionate, and comprehensive healthcare providers.
  4. Prepare students to make significant contributions in the communities that they serve, foster their ability to improve patient care practices, and promote the PA profession.
  5. Recruit and select highly qualified faculty to provide innovative education and training of students, and ongoing assessment and improvement of the program.
  6. Maintain program accreditation from the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) through a process of continuous program self-assessment.

The South College Masters of Health Science Physician Assistant Studies Program is committed to excellence in education. As in any learning process, the content and methodology in our program reflect a mixture of objectivity, intuition, and good faith. Our faculty and staff want to provide a creative environment for individual learning and growth, within a curriculum that by necessity is highly structured and intense. Viewing learning as a reciprocal, collaborative interaction between faculty and students, we endeavor to be responsive to perceived needs for change and welcome comments and suggestions from all who participate in the program for its ongoing evaluation and continued growth. Our program continues to strive for educational excellence focusing on preparing our graduates to become lifelong learners.

Cohort Demographics

Cohort Demographics Knoxville Campus

Roles, Competencies, and Performance Criteria

Each student is expected to achieve and demonstrate mastery of the following entry-level core competencies of the physician assistant upon graduation. There are six areas that support a well-educated new PA graduate, which contain having a patient-centered focus, highlighting the role society plays in determining individual and population health, emphasizing communication and team-focused care, and delineating the larger systems that impact health and well-being.1 Cultural humility, self-assessment, and ongoing professional development are also targeted across the six domains. 1 Each graduate of the program will demonstrate successful attainment of the competencies and skills listed.

1. Patient-Centered Practice Knowledge

Focuses on emphasizing the essentials of medical knowledge and clinical care in the context of the knowledge needed to care for individual patients.


1.1  Recognize normal and abnormal health states

1.2  Discern among acute, chronic, and emerging disease states.

1.3  Elicit and understand the stories of individual patients and apply the context of their lives

(including environmental influences, cultural norms, socioeconomic factors, and beliefs)

when determining healthy versus ill patients.

1.4  Develop meaningful, therapeutic relationships with patients and their families (PA Comp. PC, FMM).

1.5  Partner with patients to address issues of ongoing signs, symptoms, or health concerns that
remain over time without clear diagnosis despite evaluation and treatment (PA Comp. PC).

1.6  Demonstrate active listening skills for all patent interactions (cultural humility).

1.7  Demonstrates they have a system for ongoing learning in their discipline, to refine their knowledge throughout their career as practitioners (self-assessment and professional development).

1.8  Demonstrate awareness of limitations of themselves with the development of plans and interventions to address those gaps (self-assessment and professional development).

Essential Skills

1 a: Information gathering

1 b: History-taking

1 c: Physical examination

1 d: Discernment of important versus extraneous information

1 e: Prioritization of actions and clinical care decisions based on information available and the

patient’s beliefs about their care

1 f: Empathetic listening

1 g: Relationship building

1 h: Evidence-based decision-making

1 i: Basic clinical procedural competence

1 j: Therapeutic management and planning

2. Society and Population Health

Focuses on understanding how the health of individual patients may be affected by and contribute to the health status of the larger community, as a population health approach is required for improving health outcomes and reducing health disparities.


2.1  Recognize the cultural norms, needs, influences, and socioeconomic, environmental, and

other population-level determinants affecting the health of the individual and community

being served

2.2  Recognize the potential impacts of the community, biology, and genetics on patients and

incorporate them into decisions of care

2.3  Demonstrate accountability and responsibility for removing barriers to health, such as health


2.4  Understand the role of structural disparities in causing illness

2.5  Engage members of the healthcare team in the surveillance of community resources to

sustain and improve health

2.6  Engage the healthcare team in determining the adequacy of individual and community


2.7  Reflect on personal and professional limitations in providing care

2.8  Elicit and hear the story of the individual and apply the context of the individual’s life

(including environmental influences, culture, and disease) when determining healthy versus

ill patients

2.9  Understand and apply the fundamental principles of epidemiology

2.10  Recognize the value of the work of monitoring and reporting for quality improvement

2.11  Use appropriate literature to make evidence-based decisions on patient care

2.12  Demonstrate openness, understanding, and respect for other cultures (cultural humility).

Essential Skills

2 a: Patient advocacy

2 b: Shared decision making

2 c: Self-advocacy

2 d: Self-agency

2 e: Active community engagement

2 f: Resourcefulness

2 g: Relationship development

2 h: Self-awareness

2 i: Interpersonal skills including influence, empathy, and humility

2 j: Awareness of unconscious biases

2 k: Information gathering

2 l: Discernment of important versus extraneous information

2 m: Prioritization of action steps based on information available

2 n: Awareness of biases and attitudes towards others

2 o: Empathetic listening

3. Health Literacy and Communication

Focuses on the importance of the patient’s capacity for understanding information about their health and the ability of the health care provider to communicate with patients to ensure they understand their health and the care they are receiving.


3.1 Establish meaningful therapeutic relationships with patients and families that allow for a

deeper connection and create space for exploration of the patients’ needs and goals to

deliver culturally competent care (PA Comp. PC, FMM)


Interpret information so that patients can understand and make meaning out of the

information conveyed to them

3.3  Recognize the need for and governing mandates that ensure patients have access to

unbiased, professional interpreters and appropriate resources when barriers to

communication arise

3.4  Demonstrate insight and understanding about emotions and human responses to emotions
that allow one to develop and manage interpersonal interactions (PCRS 4.7)

3.5  Communicate effectively with patients, families, and the public

3.6  Provide effective, equitable, understandable, and respectful quality care and services that

are responsive to diverse cultural health beliefs and practices, preferred languages, health

literacy, and other communication needs (CLAS)

3.7  Organize and communicate information with patients, families, community members, and

health team members in a form that is understandable, avoiding discipline-specific

terminology when possible, and checking to ensure understanding (IPEC CC2)

3.8  Demonstrate awareness of personal biases, beliefs, attitudes, and actions that impact patient

care (cultural humility).

Essential Skills

3 a: Self-awareness

3 b: Knowing when to consult

3 c: Awareness of unconscious biases

3 d: Interpersonal skills

3 e: Active listening

3 f: Patient education

3 g: Cultural competency

3 h: Health literacy

3 i: Trust-building

3 j: Emotional intelligence

4. Interprofessional Collaborative Practice and Leadership

Focusing on teamwork is key to delivering safe, quality health care that meets the goals of the provider-patient partnership.


4.1 Articulate one’s role and responsibilities to patients, families, communities, and other

professionals (IPEC RR1)

4.2  Advocate for the focus of the health care team being on the needs of the patient

4.3  Assure patients that they are being heard

4.4  Ensure patients’ needs are the focus over self and others

4.5  Contribute to the creation, dissemination, application, and translation of new health care

4.6  Recognize when referrals are needed and make them to the appropriate health care


4.7  Coordinate care

4.8  Develop relationships and effectively communicate with physicians, other health

professionals, and health care teams (PA Comp. Comm)

4.9 Use the full scope of knowledge, skills, and abilities of available health professionals to

provide care that is safe, timely, efficient, effective, and equitable (IPEC RR5)

4.10 Use unique and complementary abilities of all members of the team to optimize health and

patient care (IPEC RR9)

4.11 Engage diverse professionals who complement one’s own professional expertise, as well as

associated resources, to develop strategies to meet specific health and health care needs

of patients and populations (IPEC RR3)

4.12  Describe how professionals in health and other fields can collaborate and integrate clinical

care and public health interventions to optimize population health (IPEC RR10)

4.13  Demonstrates they have strategies for self-assessment and reflection to determine their

level of understanding and confidence in knowledge, skill, and practice for patient care

(self-assessment and professional development).

Essential Skills

4 a: Interpersonal skills including humility and beneficence

4 b: Self-awareness

4 c: Effective communication

4 d: Empathetic listening

4 e: Advocacy

4 f: Teamwork

4 g: Relationship building

4 h: Care planning

5. Professional and Legal Aspects of Health Care

Focuses on the importance of practicing medicine in ethically and legally appropriate ways and the need for graduates to demonstrate professional maturity and accountability for delivering safe and quality are to patients and populations.


5.1  Articulate standard of care practice

5.2  Admit mistakes and errors

5.3  Participate in difficult conversations with patients and colleagues

5.4  Recognize one’s limits and establish healthy boundaries to support healthy partnerships

5.5  Demonstrate respect for the dignity and privacy of patients while maintaining confidentiality

in the delivery of team-based care (IPEC VE2)

5.6  Demonstrate responsiveness to patient needs that supersedes self-interest (PCRS 5.2)

5.7  Demonstrate accountability to patients, society, and the profession (PCRS 5.4)

5.8  Exhibit an understanding of the regulatory environment

Essential Skills

5 a: Interpersonal skills including humility, compassion

5 b: Empathetic listening

5 c: Ethical decision-making

5 d: Integrity

5 e: Accountability

5 f: Humanism

6. Health Care Finance and Systems

Focuses on the essential knowledge and skills needed to successfully navigate the healthcare system to deliver high-quality, patient-centered care where one can articulate the essential aspects of value-based health care and apply this understanding to the delivery of safe and quality care.


6.1  Recognize financial implications to the provision of healthcare.

6.2  Articulate individual providers’ value-add to the health care team in terms of cost.

6.3  Appreciate the value of the collaborative physician/PA relationship.

6.4  Understand different types of health systems, funding streams, and insurance, including the

role of Medicare and Medicare as payors.

Essential Skills

6 a: Systems thinking

6 b: Adaptability

6 c: Leadership

6 d: Stewardship of resources

6 e: Help-seeking behaviors

6 f: Reimbursement

6 g: Coding

6 h: Care coordination