All 25 of the 1998 graduates of the cooperative Physician Assistant Studies program at The University of Texas-Pan American passed the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination administered in October 1998 by the National Commission of the Certification of Physician Assistants.
The program, which is a cooperative endeavor between The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and UTPA, is the only one in Texas to have a 100 percent pass rate on the exam. It is also the only program in Texas not located at a medical school.
"It (pass rate) demonstrates that, despite the fact that we are not on a medical school campus, we are still capable of training didactically and clinically competent physican assistants who can practice and deliver quality health care in the Rio Grande Valley," said Dr. Jack Runyan, UT Pan American project chair.
He said that three of the 25 students reportedly scored in the top two percent in the nation, and two other graduates scored in the top 10 percent. All 25 are currently working as physician assistants.
"They formed a lot of study groups post-graduation," Dr. Runyan said. "Even the ones who moved out of town joined study groups and met once or twice a week, and I think that made a big difference.
The exam has a 12 to 16 percent failure rate nationally, he said.
The cooperative program accepted its first cohort of students in July 1994 and has had three graduating classes so far. Graduates of the program receive a diploma from UTMB-Galveston.
The certification exam spans two days, with four sections and more than 900 questions covering the basic medical sciences and primary care practices. Successful completion of the examination is mandatory for licensure and prescriptive authority as a physician assistant in Texas.