Just talk to any graduate of the Miami Dade College physician assistant program, and you’ll hear a flood of gratitude for their quality education. The program was launched two decades ago and is now a much sought-after degree among those interested in a medical career. Students enrolled in MDC’s PA program obtain an Associate in Science and a Bachelor of Science in Health Science with an option in Physician Assistant Studies.
Physician Assistants are health care professionals licensed to practice medicine in collaboration with their physician partners. As part of their comprehensive responsibilities, they conduct physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, provide counsel on preventive health care, assist in surgery, and write prescriptions. Physician assistants have a close working relationship with physicians and are educated in the medical model designed to complement physician training.
As students transition from didactic to clinical training, they participate in a White Coat Ceremony where they receive their coats and take an oath of practice.
The academic challenging program also provides an opportunity for good-natured mental combat as students routinely compete against Ivy League universities such as Yale, Stanford and Cornell in the annual American Association of Physician Assistant (AAPA) National Medical Challenge Bowl. MDC students have proudly claimed the title twice. They’ve also won the statewide competition six times and placed in the top three multiple times.
“It’s an honor to bring light to Miami Dade College, which has given us an opportunity to obtain an education in the physician assistant program at a very reasonable cost,” said Michael Conception, a recent MDC PA graduate and AAPA Challenge Bowl competitor. Program alumnus and current MDC professor, Dr. Nicolas Massimini, has been coaching the Challenge Bowl teams for more than a decade and is proud of his students’ accomplishments.
Aside from accolades, Massimini said one of the program’s best attributes is that its participants bond like a family. “My first time at Medical Campus, I felt like, ‘This is my home, this is my place,’ ” he said. Apparently many physician assistant graduates feel that way, as many wind up staying in South Florida. More than 750 students from 18 classes have graduated from the program over the years, and roughly 95 percent of them stayed and have practiced in the area. Interim PA Program Director Antonio Rivas, also a program graduate, said the level of support that the faculty gives students is what makes the College stand out. “We really get to know our students and help them get through this very intense program,” he said.