CLINTON, Miss. (WJTV) – Add Physician Assistants to the list of health care workers on the front line in the fight against Covid-19. For now, there is only one place in our state where you can earn a Physician Assistant degree. 12 News’ Andrew Harrison visited the top floor of the Baptist Healthplex at Mississippi College to find out more.

If title Physician Assistant doesn’t ring a bell, it might be because it’s a distinction that has only been around since the Vietnam era.  Mississippi was also the last state to start licensing PA’s. So who are they?

Dr. Steve Martin is a certified Physician Assistant himself and head of Mississippi College’s program.

He explains, “We are medical professionals. We are able to treat. We assist in surgeries. We perform procedures. We write prescriptions.”

It’s an important job, so how do you get it? First off, you’ll need an undergraduate degree that’s heavy on Science. With those boxes checked, you can apply for the program at Mississippi College for 30 months of training in the medical model: 15 months in the classroom and 15 months making clinical rotations. It’s not easy, but it is much faster and less expensive than medical school. PA’s work as part of Physician led teams, but they have the flexibility to move from one specialty to another.

Dr. Martin says, “We do our best to prepare them for any eventuality, but this is unprecedented.”

Dr. Martin is talking about the pandemic. Several recent M-C grads volunteered for assignments in hard hit New York and New Jersey.

“There is a lot of courage involved. They are working long, long, hard hours. There is an emotional toll.”

Sometimes that’s the price for  making a positive difference in the world.

“It’s an awesome feeling to know that we had a hand in helping train them.”

Since earning accreditation for its program in 2011, Mississippi College has graduated about 200 Physician Assistants. It’s a growing field with high job satisfaction. Applicants from rural areas are encouraged to apply, so they return home and, one day, help their communities.

More information is available on the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants website.