The grand opening of Point Loma Nazarene University’s new campus, the Balboa Regional Center, which houses the newly launched Physician Assistant program and most of the graduate programs in the College of Health Sciences, will occur on Oct. 1 at 10 a.m.
Some of the graduate programs that will be offered there are: physician assistant education, kinesiology, athletic training and integrative wellness. According to Jeff Sullivan, dean of the college of health sciences, the new campus is a big move on PLNU’s behalf to get more into the health sciences world. This has been a slow process which the university has built up for the past five years. Sullivan said a new program that’s coming in fall 2023 is occupational therapy.
In regards to how this new campus and new physician assistant program can help current and future students, Sullivan said, “We’re providing health sciences education for these rapidly growing careers that we think will lead directly to really great jobs.”
According to Sullivan, students thinking about these different health science fields that require a graduate program should consider first if health or wellness is the way they want to serve others. They should know that these programs are very competitive because it’s a rewarding field and well paying. It’s important to get in touch with individual programs, Sullivan says, such as those offered at PLNU, in order to correctly match an individual with a specific program or career.
Kerry Fulcher, PLNU’s provost and chief academic officer, said that when certain graduate programs become popular or thrive, it allows the overall faculty expertise in a particular area to increase as PLNU gets more faculty into a program. An influx of faculty means more teachers to both undergraduate and graduate programs, which boosts the overall expertise and instruction that’s available for students.
Fulcher said that the new campus and graduate programs acts as a resource support for PLNU’s undergraduate programs. Students who are wanting to enroll in a physician assistant program may complete their undergraduate degree at PLNU because they might think they’ll have a better chance of getting accepted into PLNU’s physician assistant program. This is a similar situation to the new athletic training graduate program operating at the new campus.
“It’s creating pathways from our undergraduate programs into those graduate programs and that’s the advantage to some of these undergraduate programs which are linked to particular graduate programs,” Fulcher said.
In regards to how the new campus will increase job prospects for current and future students, Fulcher said that PLNU is hoping that the relationship they establish with the overall health sector in San Diego and through the College of Health Sciences will also open up job and internship opportunities for students who are in other majors.
PLNU is attempting to connect graduates to the different industry sectors of San Diego by creating partnerships that will help both the majors who have a straight line into a particular sector and the majors who might not have such a straight pathway.
According to Dana Sayre-Stanhope, professor and chair of PLNU’s physician assistant program, choosing the health sciences as a career is central to the expression of one’s Christian faith due to the call of service these workers display. Sayre-Stanhope said 118,000 health care workers have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic began in 2020.
“They were willing to use their skills to care for others when doing so jeopardized their own health and that of their families. Yet persisted by going where they were needed and caring for those in need, caring for themselves as best they could but ultimately placing their service to others ahead of themselves,” Sayre-Stanhope said.
Not all of those choosing health care careers will be front-line providers but all of them will contribute their knowledge, skills and abilities to the service of others.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics currently lists the physician assistant profession as one of the fastest growing fields with approximately 12,200 positions opening every year. PLNU has an active pre-physician assistant program that ensures applicants from PLNU are prepared for acceptance into any U.S. physician assistant program and, in particular, their program in the College of Health Sciences.
Grayson Kelle, a PLNU senior applied health science major, said PLNU’s physician assistant graduate program is his first choice of graduate programs. Kelle said he chose this major after doing some research about the medical field.
“I always wanted to be a doctor, but after reading up on their experiences I ended up choosing the PA route. PA’s are better for me because I really want to have time for family and I didn’t want to go to 7+ years of medical school,” Kelle said.
Kelle said as a physician assistant he can practice high level medicine and have a flexible schedule.
Additionally, Sayre-Stanhope said along with Dr. Brandon Sawyer and the chairs of chemistry, Dr. Rouffet and Biology, Dr. Page, are launching a Physician Assistant Scholars program. Sayre-Stanhope said this program will provide an avenue for PLNU freshman in certain majors who meet the criterion to embark on a well-defined curriculum that, when complete, will guarantee admission to PLNU’s physician assistant program. Freshman students interested in this program must apply before Dec. 1.
By: Ashlee Owings