This spring Marshall B. Ketchum University celebrated long-expected news that represented many years of discipline, devotion and commitment to hard work. The School of Physician Assistant Studies received notice that it was granted “Accreditation Continued” status by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, which means the program is accredited for the next 10 years.
While this development was by no means a foregone conclusion, it was not unanticipated, as early returns on MBKU’s School of PA Studies have been universally excellent. The faculty, staff and administration have built an elite, student-centered program dedicated to interprofessional medical education, and the students this program has attracted have been succeeding since its inception.
A Long Process
Among the many individuals at Ketchum who are able to enjoy the news of continuing accreditation for the opportunity to look back with a sense of accomplishment is Dr. Kevin L. Alexander, Marshall B. Ketchum University’s founding President and the man whose vision of an interprofessional university made the School of PA Studies a reality. “While there are many daily satisfactions in a job like mine,” says Dr. Alexander, “the real satisfaction for a job well-done comes in a longer time frame. Sometimes we really don’t know whether we’re doing a good job for years. So when you’ve finally graduated a few classes, they’ve all done well in their board exams and the accreditors come in and say ‘You’re the real deal’ – that’s when we can sit back and know that we have done a good thing. But that’s a process that took nearly 10 years.” From the earliest stages of the program, when consultants were brought in to discuss which discipline would be ideal to add and inquiries were made to determine which of the area’s health care institutions would welcome MBKU students for their external rotations, to the most recent stages, when PA students achieved a 100% pass rate on their boards, Dr. Alexander and his team have had to keep their eyes on the prize, so to speak. And while Dr. Alexander is proud of his role in casting a vision and seeing its fruition, he is quick to point out that he’s not doing this without an incredible team of dedicated people. “The great coach Woody Hayes said, ‘You win with people.’ The most important part is the people. For me, the key to success is having the right person, in the right place, at the right time, with the right plan.”
One such person is Allison Mollet, MMS, PA-C, the current Program Director for the School of PA Studies, and a part of the leadership of the program since the very beginning. As a PA herself for 17 years, Mollet is an expert not only in best practices and core curriculum, she is also intimately familiar with the mountains of data required to achieve the program’s accreditation status. “We work hard to meet and exceed the standards,” she explains. “But we also have to prove that to the accreditors. We conduct ongoing and frequent self-assessment and are developing reports to show how we’re meeting each of the standards.” Starting a new program from the ground up is exciting but also creates added pressure, because everything – from the reports for the accreditors to the curriculum for the professors – is being created and established for the first time.
Another of the individuals crucial to the success of the SPAS was its director through the majority of the accreditation process, Dr. Judy Ortiz, who now serves MBKU in the role of Vice President for Educational Effectiveness & Institutional Research. Dr. Ortiz credits the program’s commitment to Ketchum’s core values. “As the former Director of the School of PA Studies, I’m extremely proud of the faculty and staff who have built an excellent educational program and have fully embraced the program’s values of integrity, compassion, respect, and service,” says Dr. Ortiz. “The success of the students and the PA school are the result of their collaborative efforts. Through their teaching and mentoring, the next generation of PAs is becoming qualified, capable, community-engaged health care providers.”
None of the faculty, staff or administrators in the School of PA Studies is using the accreditation as an opportunity to rest on any laurels, however. Each of them is more dedicated than ever to the whole point of it all: admitting and then training a select few students who are able to use their MBKU education to deliver high-quality interprofessional health care all over the world. “In academics, your impact grows exponentially,” says PA Allison Mollet. “You’re helping to shape the next group of PAs who are themselves going to touch hundreds of lives. I’ve never forgotten what it was like to be a student, which was a big part of my motivation to help create a program that was student-focused. Accreditation is hugely important, but our motivations go beyond that. In the end, there’s going to be a patient in front of that student. We don’t lose sight of the fact that our students will be taking care of people.” Dr. Alexander keeps the success of these students at the center of his ambitions as well. “We maintain our small class size so that we can continue to give students superb rotations and create a year’s worth of experiences where our students get a high-caliber education,” he says. “I’m really proud of the students who took a chance to come here. Not only did they come here, they dove into it. We have an exceptional program because we have exceptional students.”
The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc. (ARC-PA) has granted Accreditation-Continued status to the Marshall B. Ketchum University Physician Assistant Program sponsored by Marshall B. Ketchum University. Accreditation-Continued is an accreditation status granted when a currently accredited program is in compliance with the ARC-PA Standards. Accreditation remains in effect until the program closes or withdraws from the accreditation process or until accreditation is withdrawn for failure to comply with the Standards. The approximate date for the next validation review of the program by the ARC-PA will be March 2029. The review date is contingent upon continued compliance with the Accreditation Standards and ARC-PA policy.