Mercer to Introduce Physician Assistant Program


ATLANTA — Mercer University’s College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Atlanta is currently developing a Physician Assistant program in conjunction with its educational partnership – Piedmont Healthcare of Atlanta. The graduate program is set to matriculate its inaugural class in January 2008 following successful provisional accreditation by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant Inc.

The program will be the fourth in Georgia and the second in the Atlanta area.

 “Mercer University has a proud history of developing professional education programs to address the work force needs of Georgia, including the establishment of its medical school and engineering school,” said Brad Schwarz, MS, PA-C, the director of the College’s Physician Assistant Program. “I’m honored to continue that tradition by helping to develop this important program.”

“As the U.S. population ages, there will be fewer health care providers and greater patient care needs,” he explained. “We hope this program will help meet the medical needs of our state and our nation by providing highly qualified physician assistants over the ensuing years.”

The master’s degree program is part of the University’s College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, formerly known as the Southern School of Pharmacy, which is home to a nationally ranked Doctor of Pharmacy program and a growing Ph.D. program in pharmaceutics. The new physician assistant program helped to cultivate the change of Mercer’s 104-year-old pharmacy school, which officially became the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences on July 1, 2006.

The 28-month physician assistant program will be based on Mercer’s Cecil B. Day Graduate and Professional Campus in Atlanta and will eventually enroll up to 50 graduate candidates per year. “The initial class will be 25 students followed by a slow growth over the next four years,” said Schwarz, who joined Mercer in October 2006 following a national search. He previously served as the associate director at the Emory University Physician Assistant program.

The program is designed with 12 months of initial classroom instruction, followed by 16 months of professional didactics and clinical rotations.  The clinical rotations will consist of nine core and two elective five-week clinical experiences, interspersed with a series of professional didactic sessions,” Schwarz said.  At the conclusion of the PA student’s clinical rotations, they will return to the campus for a final three-week capstone experience prior to graduation.

There will be nine required clinical “core” rotations, which include: family practice, pediatrics, women’s health, emergency medicine, surgery, internal medicine-outpatient, internal medicine-inpatient, behavioral medicine and orthopedics. Students will also be allowed to take two elective clinical rotations.

“The University is moving steadily toward securing provisional accreditation,” Schwarz said, “and will be undergoing our site visit in July 2007.”  The expected outcome of the program’s application for provisional accreditation will be announced in September 2007.
Schwarz has hired one full-time faculty member and one staff member and is currently interviewing candidates for the position of medical director.  The medical director is a licensed physician who serves in a part-time capacity for the physician assistant program and functions as a liaison to the medical community, assists in developing clinical rotations, as well as provides input concerning curriculum development and instructs in his or her respective area of specialty. There will be an additional faculty position starting this spring; a clinical coordinator, who will be charged with development and oversight of clinical rotations.

Patricia Kelly, the program’s second faculty member, serves as clinical assistant professor and academic coordinator. Ms. Kelly has an extensive background as an athletic trainer and was an adjunct sports medicine faculty member at Ball State University and Southeastern Missouri State University. She holds a master of education degree from Northern Illinois University, a master of physiology degree from Ball State University and a master of medical science degree from Emory University.

Laura Baumgarten, LPN, is the program specialist. Ms. Baumgarten most recently worked for the North Georgia United Methodist Foundation in its marketing department and financial department and was an LPN with Pru Care.

In addition to the graduate program, Mercer will have a bachelor’s degree pre-physician assistant program on its Macon campus, home to its traditional undergraduate schools and colleges. Undergraduate students successfully completing a minimum of 90 hours of pre-requisite coursework in the program, including all College of Liberal Arts general education requirements and the designated number of hours of direct patient care experience, will be considered for admission into the highly-competitive master’s program in Atlanta.

For more information about the Physician Assistant Program at Mercer, please contact Brad Schwarz at (678) 547-6085 or

About Mercer University:
Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. The University has 7,300 students; 11 schools and colleges – liberal arts, law, pharmacy, medicine, business, engineering, education, theology, music, nursing and continuing and professional studies; major campuses in Macon and Atlanta; four regional academic centers across the state; a university press; teaching hospitals in Macon and Savannah; an educational partnership with Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Warner Robins and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta; an engineering research center in Warner Robins; a performing arts center in Macon; and a NCAA Division I athletic program. For more information, visit