UD to Celebrate Inaugural Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies Commencement

Nov 28, 2018 | University Relations staff

DUBUQUE, Iowa – University of Dubuque will celebrate the inaugural Master of Science in Physician Assistant (PA) Studies Commencement Ceremony with 23 graduates on Friday, Dec. 7, 2018, at 10:00 a.m. in John and Alice Butler Hall, Heritage Center.

“The UD PA program inaugural cohort commencement marks the culmination of achievements and efforts of many since the inception of the program,” said Natalie Weber, program director and assistant professor of the physician assistant studies program. “PA school is extremely challenging and even more so when you are part of the inaugural class. The Class of 2018 has set the bar high. We are very proud of their work and how they will represent UD and the PA profession.”

PAs, who are certified and licensed medical professionals, are among the top five fastest growing occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statics. UD’s graduates are pursuing careers in family medicine, orthopedics, emergency medicine, psychiatry, surgery, and sub-specialties.

“PAs serve a critical role in team-based healthcare which allows for greater access to care. Located in the heart of Iowa surrounded by rural communities, the UD PA mission focuses on developing clinicians who are educated in all aspects of healthcare with special emphasis on primary healthcare in rural and underserved areas to meet this ongoing need,” Weber said.

Ruth Ballweg, MPA, PA-C, professor emeritus at the MEDEX Northwest–University of Washington’s Department of Family Medicine, School of Medicine, will deliver the commencement address, titled “May You Live in Interesting Times!” Ballweg practiced in family medicine in Ashland, Oregon, as the community’s first PA. In 1981, she joined the MEDEX faculty and eventually became the program director. During her tenure as director from 1985 to 2014, the program grew from accepting 20 students for a one-year certificate program to a multiple-training site program that admits 120 students annually in four training sites.

Ballweg currently serves as director of international affairs at the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) and historian at the Physician Assistant History Society. She also is an advisor to the Washington State Medical Quality Assurance Commission. Ballweg was the editor and contributor to the first American textbook written on physician assistant training, now in its sixth edition.

In 2012, Ballweg was presented with the Eugene A. Stead Jr. Award of Achievement, which is the most prestigious award offered by the American Academy of Physician Assistants. In 2015, she received the first Lifetime Achievement Award from Physician Assistant Education Association.

UD’s physician assistant studies program consists of a 27 month, year-round curriculum with 15 months of academic coursework followed by 12 months of clinical rotations. Now in its third year, the program has an enrollment of more than 70 graduates.