Physician Assistant Training in Primary Care Program to Give Priority to Veterans

Earlier this month, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced a grant of $2.3 million to both train primary care physician assistants (PAs) and to help veterans transition to civilian PA positions at home. As Secretary Sebelius was quoted as saying, “[t]hese grants will help ensure veterans who served our country can use their military medical training and get good jobs serving patients.”

These grants fall under the Physician Assistant Training in Primary Care Program (the Program), administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), which are meant to plan, develop, and operate (1) a PA education program to train PAs in primary care and (2) a program for training those who will teach PA programs in providing primary care training. The need for the Program is evident due to the fewer numbers of PAs seeking to practice primary care or leaving primary care to practice specialty care, despite the country’s growing and aging population requires high quality, diverse, and well-distributed primary care clinicians throughout the country. The Program aims to improve access to quality health care and to “increase efforts in recruiting and retaining new faculty, minority students, and minority faculty and adding new clinical sites in community based-settings.” The Program will continue for a period of five years.

Organizations must be accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) to have been eligible to apply for a grant. 

According to the HHS press release, in determining grant funding, priority will be given to grantees having “strong recruitment, retention, and education programs for veteran applicants and students, including academic recognition of medical training and experience gained during military service.” This current announcement awarded grants to 12 institutions: University of South Alabama, Midwestern University, Northern Arizona University, Georgia Health Sciences University Research Institute Inc., Bay Path College, University of North Dakota, University of Nebraska, Pacific University, Baylor College of Medicine, University of Texas Health Science Center of San Antonio, Eastern Virginia Medical School, and University of Washington. The goal of the grants is to prepare trainees to enter primary care practice settings by supporting educational programs that train PAs in primary care settings and helping those individuals that will teach in the programs.

On the heels of this announcement came a speech by Vice President Joe Biden at the Disabled American Veterans’ National Convention where, as part of the Administration’s committment to American veterans, Biden outlined President Obama’s promises to veterans. Specifically, with regard to jobs, Biden noted the President’s committment to find jobs for every returning veteran, to which the Administration may cite the Program as evidence of its efforts. Among other promises of the President were: (1) increasing the Department of Veteran Affairs budget; (2) expanding health care for veterans; and (3) improving access to treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.