November 14, 2007

All physician assistant graduates earn certification

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Simply perfect. That's the pass rate for August 2007 graduates of the Southern Illinois University Carbondale Physician Assistant Program.

"We just received news that 100 percent of the graduates of the PA class of 2007 have passed their Physician Assistant National Certification Exam," said Laurie Dunn-Ryznyk, director of the program. "We're very excited that the graduates continue to do extremely well on the national exam. It attests to their hard work and the hard work of our faculty and staff. I also attribute it to the problem-based learning and the rigorous nature of our program."

It's not the first time either for this remarkable feat. In fact, the program is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year and since the first class graduated from the program in 1999, there have been a total of 240 graduates. All but two of those 240, including the recent 21-member class, aced the exam on their first attempt. Those two subsequently passed on their second attempt.

"We were of course pleased but not surprised to hear that we had another 100-percent pass rate on the national certification exam," said Paul D. Sarvela, dean of the College of Applied Sciences and Arts, of which the program is a part. "A 100-percent pass rate is becoming a tradition at the SIUC PA program! These test results are a direct reflection of the quality of teaching that takes place in the program, as well as the quality of the PA students we are able to attract at SIUC. Excellent teachers and excellent students produce excellent results!"

Dunn-Ryznyk said the national average pass rate on the test is just about 89 percent. Graduates of the SIUC program don't just pass the test though, according to Dunn-Ryznyk. They quickly obtain employment and contribute much-needed medical care throughout the United States and even around the globe.

"Program graduates enjoy a 100-percent employment rate three months after graduation and have an average income of about $78,700," Dunn-Ryznyk said. "Moreover, many of our graduates go on to serve in rural areas and provide much-needed service to their communities. Some have completed medical mission work in other countries or are serving our country as graduate PAs in the military. Many of our students are the first in their families to graduate from college. Our graduates work in all areas of medicine including family medicine, cardiology, internal medicine, neurosurgery, pulmonology, psychiatry, plastic surgery, emergency medicine and nephrology, to name a few."

The School of Allied Health, within the College of Applied Sciences and Arts, in cooperation with the SIU School of Medicine offers the SIUC Physician Assistant Program. The program, which recently became a master's degree program, incorporates two educational options. A full 26 months (seven semesters) of on-campus study and clinical rotation work at various Illinois sites capped by an eight-week preceptorship earns the master's degree. In addition, certified PAs with bachelor's degrees can, utilizing distance learning and a supervising preceptors, finish the master's completion program in one year.

"One of our goals as a program is to become a leader as a change agent in health care in the region, the United States and internationally," Dunn-Ryznyk said. "We are very proud of the achievements of our graduates and their contribution to health care in underserved and rural areas. We believe our students and graduates can and do make a difference in the lives of the people for whom they provide medical care."

For more information about the SIUC physician assistant program call 618/453-5527, e-mail or look online at