Health Care News, Health Center News, Uncategorized

Growing Our Own: A New Physician Assistant Master’s Degree Program

illustration of health providers

The well-documented shortage of primary health care providers can be acute for Community Health Centers, which depend on a reliable supply of dedicated, motivated, and qualified community-minded health care staff healers. NACHC is involved with several initiatives to support the training of the next generation of health center healers to meet this demand. And in mid-July we received the good news that one of these initiatives – a “grow our own” Physician Assistant Program – has received provisional accreditation to begin a new program.

Innovative physician assistant program places students on-site at health centers

The Central Coast Physician Assistant Program (CCPAP) master’s degree is an innovative, learning-in-place PA training program created through a partnership between NACHC, the College for Health Communities and the Under-Served (CHC-U), and A.T. Still University (ATSU).

An essential component of this program is the Hometown Scholars Program ( which allows health centers to nominate candidates whom they feel have the heart to serve in a health center.  The inaugural class of 90 students will begin their education this fall in Santa Maria, CA, for their first year.  For their second year of training, they will move in cohorts of five to health center clinical learning hubs for their clinical experiences across the country.

As stated on the program’s website, students will receive a rigorous training grounded in Community Health Center values:

“From their first day, CCPAP students are immersed in engaged scholarship, threading the philosophy of whole person healthcare and serving the underserved through classes and activities designed to foster critical thinking.”

Health centers gain another pathway to develop clinicians from the community

The PA program will also provide health centers across the nation with the opportunity to identify, attract, recruit, educate, and nurture PA clinicians from their community. The health center model is unique in its emphasis on recruiting health care providers from the community and who are representative of the patient population served. This new program contributes to that goal.

“We now have a model to identify, train and retain Physician Assistants (clinicians) in their hometowns and health centers where they grew up and have their roots,” said NACHC Chief Medical Officer Ron Yee, MD, MBA.

This new physician assistant program provides another opportunity for A. T. Still University to ally with NACHC to train healers from health center communities, provide whole-person health care to meet the needs of the underserved, and to change medical education for the future.

To learn more about this new program, visit the ATSU website for details: