White coat ceremonies launch Creighton PA students in Phoenix, Omaha
Creighton University’s inaugural physician assistant class at its Phoenix campus shows that a promise to enhance medical services in the southwest United States is bearing fruit.
Of the 36 students who will begin their 28-month studies Aug. 7, fully 25 hail from Arizona. That figure constitutes 69% of the class, with seven states contributing the remaining 11 students. Those states are Nebraska, California, Minnesota, Maryland, Texas, Iowa and Colorado. Nine are first-generation college students.
On Creighton’s Omaha campus, the incoming 2023 physician assistant class consists of 28 students, only seven of whom are drawn from Nebraska, displaying the wide reach of Creighton’s medical programs. Other states include Colorado, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota and Tennessee. Seven are first-generation college students.
All 64 students will don their white coats Aug. 4 in separate ceremonies in Omaha and Phoenix. The Phoenix ceremony will be held at 2 p.m. in the Doris S. Norton Ballroom at the Creighton University Health Sciences Campus-Phoenix, 3100 N. Central Ave.; while the Omaha ceremony will be held from noon to 1 p.m. at the Mike and Josie Harper Center Ballroom, 602 N. 20th St., on Creighton’s Omaha campus.
During the ceremony the students receive a white coat, recite an oath of service and receive a blessing of the hands.
Physician assistants are healthcare professionals empowered to diagnose illness, develop and manage treatment plans, prescribe medications and serve as principal healthcare providers. The profession was ranked among the fastest growing in the nation in the 2023 U.S. News & World Report Best Jobs rankings, released on Jan. 10, 2023. The survey ranked physician assistant as the #2 healthcare job and among the top five jobs across all occupations.
“PA has consistently been ranked at #1 or #2 in healthcare,” says Emily Babcock, DHSc, PA-C, associate professor of health professions and the woman tasked with building the Phoenix PA program. “Our national society did research looking into job satisfaction, and well over 85% of PAs reported high satisfaction with their jobs.”
The physician assistant programs in Omaha and Phoenix fall under the umbrella of the Department of Health Professions at the Creighton University School of Medicine, which has provided medical education since 1892 from its historic downtown Omaha campus. The $100 million Phoenix health sciences campus opened in 2021, with the PA program winning accreditation in the spring of 2023.
Stephane VanderMuelen, MPAS, MA, PA-C, associate professor of health professions and director of the Omaha PA program, says the third cohort of students will graduate in December.
“The program is staffed by faculty with well over 100 years of experience in PA education, and we have had a 100% first-time pass rate for the national certifying examination,” she says. “This early success reflects the tremendous support Creighton provides to ensure that PA students are provided a quality educational experience that prepares them with the knowledge, skills and competencies to enter clinical practice.”
That academic excellence, Babcock says, is complemented by an approach to medicine that reflects Creighton’s Jesuit-guided commitment to service.
“What makes a Creighton PA special is that we are always looking for individuals who display a spirit of service to others,” Babcock says. “That is something that we look for when considering applicants — not just that they are academically sound and capable of taking on a rigorous curriculum, but that they already have that spirit of service.”