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Friday, March 6, 2015

Why I Chose UT Southwestern's Physician Assistant (PA) Program

Why Did You Choose UT Southwestern’s PA Program?
This is a commonly asked question. I get this question about once a week from my blog or in-person when I give campus tours. It is a very difficult question to answer. Mainly because it's difficult to answer without making one PA program shine and all of the others look inferior. There are plenty of wonderful PA programs available, so I won’t spend any time criticizing them. Instead, I will say a few things about the program I did choose. These are in no particular order.

  1. Excellent rotation sites: When I was looking into UTSW, they were building 2 new major hospitals within walking distance of the university (William P. Clements and Parkland Memorial Hospital). Those hospitals are now complete and are some of the largest in the southwest region, they offer state of the art facilities, and will include many new rotation sites for our program allowing it to grow in size. In addition, our program phases out bad rotations if they find any not up to high standards (which does occasionally happen) and they find new rotations for students if that does happen. Some programs require you to find your own rotations. Many of our rotations are within the DFW area, requiring less travel and eliminating the need for you to find housing. When you do have to travel out of city, students before you often have apartments in those areas that you can rent from them. You have the option for an international rotation and the school will pay 50% of the costs.
  2. Outstanding faculty: Our school, including our PA program, has some of the most incredibly intelligent and well known faculty you'll find anywhere. They are specialists that are most sought after in their field of study and authors of texts, etc. Our school is known for having the most Nobel prize winners than any other school in Texas. The guy who discovered G-protein coupled receptors went to our school! You can tell just from our history that this school has a well-developed program founded on the most up-to-date technology and research. Our motto is, “The future of medicine, today.”
  3. Research: We are a school founded on research and innovation and if that is your thing, you most definitely want to find yourself here. Everything we learn here is the most current and innovative information available and that's what I love about the people here - they are so enthusiastic about what they teach. Additionally, our program has people like Dr. Eugene Jones, who used to be the PAEA journal editor and has been with ARC-PA as an auditor of PA programs. Other faculty have done the same and our program knows exactly what ARC-PA looks for in a program and it makes me feel more confident that we will be ready for accreditation when examined and that we always know our program is doing exactly what we should be. “Trust the process” as our upper classmen say. We even have people come in and look at our program materials from time to time to make sure everything we are learning/being taught is correct and up to standard with ARC-PA's accreditation standards. They are really on top of things here.
  4. PANCE scores: We are 1 of maybe 5 programs that have 100% first time pass rate for the last 8 years now (as of January 2015). Not many programs in the nation can say that and it takes a lot of hard work to make a program that good. I am confident that what my program teaches me and the methods they use will prepare me for the PANCE and for the real world.
  5. Reputation: Not every program around here has a solid reputation. Our program has one of the best reputations in Texas and the surrounding states. People love the PAs who come from our program and we are always told that when our students get into clinic or hospitals that they are above average and of superb quality compared to other PAs or medical students.
  6. Program length: The program length and start date for me was an issue at other programs. Other programs started later in the year and it didn't align well with moving, etc. I also had to consider my significant other's job, etc. The program length was perfect - 15 months didactic and 15 months of clinical rotations. Being in the program now, I honestly don't think at this point I could handle taking this program any faster than it's going now. Looking back at my 2 year options - no way. Those are the people you read about that have no free time other than studying. The 3 year programs I could have done, but I might have been miserable knowing that I had more didactic education or half a semester longer in clinicals. I think by 30 months, I will be so tired of school, I will be ready for the real world.
  7. Tuition: This is the BEST “bang for your buck” you can find anywhere. The value of the education for the price. You won't find it anywhere. To be honest, what most currently practicing PAs told me was that it doesn't matter where you go, just find a school that you are confident will get you past the PANCE with the least amount of debt and that's exactly what I did! I could not imagine going to a school twice or even 3 times the cost of my program. For what?!? Those programs didn’t offer me any additional benefit I am not receiving here. Plus, my program offers scholarships within the PA program, within the School of Health Professions and many scholarships within the school itself (UTSW).
  8. Full cadaver dissection: Despite what other programs told me at interviews elsewhere, full cadaver dissection is not offered everywhere, but when it is, GO FOR IT! You'll learn so much more from it and it's so worth it to have it. It's one of those things where if it was available to me I would most definitely want it, and if it wasn't, I wouldn't know what I was missing out on. You'll have to trust me on this one. You will not regret it. Our anatomy program has 40 cadavers available for you to see variability between males, females, overweight, Hispanic vs. non-Hispanic, etc. No where else would you have this many opportunities to see the differences between patients, internally. You also work in groups of 4 per table and have medical students and professors perusing the tables to ensure you understand everything you need to know. We also receive free tutoring for our anatomy course until 5 PM and tutors are available after hours for private sessions. We have practice practicums and our program releases old exams for practice.
  9. Free Tutoring: Free tutoring is available through our School of Health Professions for any course that is designated HCS. See the curriculum for examples. This is a huge benefit for courses like anatomy, physiology, neuroscience, pathology, etc. Those courses you need adequate foundation for other courses later. If you require tutoring for other PA related coursework, our program will find a tutor for you to set up a session. Our program truly cares about the progress of its students.
  10. Cameraderie: Our class and the class above us have a wonderful connection. We do have a “big” and “little” program that we use to offer guidance for one another throughout the program. We also have many social events, as our class social coordinators organize events to Social House and Sand Bar. Next year, we will hopefully have a volleyball tournament to bring together all of the incoming health professions students (PA, PT, PO, clinical nutrition, and rehab counseling). Our social chair also organizes monthly “birthday celebrations” in class where we bring treats to celebrate the birthday’s for each month. Overall, we are very involved in each other’s lives and it helps to maintain our own sanity. In addition, our school promotes camaraderie, offering free Dallas Stars (hockey team) tickets and discounted Mavericks tickets (basketball). Just another reason I love this school!


  1. Great post, well written. What are your thoughts on the new U.S. News rankings of PA schools? In addition to the methodology being a complete joke, can we all agree that Baylor College of Medicine, UT Southwestern, Yale, Northwestern, Cornell, and Stanford being outside the top 10 is laughable?

    1. Most definitely. There are lots of programs that deserve to be in the top 10, though. It is tough to create any ranking system that is without any sort of bias toward one type of program versus another. Honestly, if ARC-PA would mandate that all information about programs become transparent then there would be no need for any sort of ranking system. But yes, the rankings are complete trash. They are based on surveys of the opinions of those at the institutions themselves! Talk about biased!

  2. Hi, you are doing great in PA.. I just want about job outcome after completing PA program. Will there be enough job available in states or few job at all??
    Because recession hit everyone very bad and everyone is afraid to take risk of being unemployed !!

    1. I can guarantee that will not be the case. There are numerous reports of increasing demand for physician assistants in the coming years. Just google it!

  3. What are your thoughts on the multi interview process and how you need to perform in order to get accepted. What interview group were you in and when did you get an offer of acceptance?

    1. Hi anonymous,

      The MMI interview process is fun and feels kind of like a obstacle course. There really isn't any way to prepare for it because the questions and scenarios are not geared at learning whether you are knowledgeable --- your application has already shown this. The MMI process is more about character and helps to determine what type of person you are, how you react to different situations, and shows a little bit about your personality.

  4. Hi Paul,
    You know, I actually think you lead the campus tour when I visited the campus last year with my Pre-PA Society. I'll be interviewing there this upcoming Fall and hope I am able to attend this amazing program! I absolutely love your blog; it has helped me so much throughout the application process. Just wanted to say thank you! -Aila

    1. Thanks Aila,

      I hope I was somewhat helpful - I know I can ramble a lot. :)

      Good luck at your interview!!