Physician Assistant Program earns reaccreditation

Document Type

News Article

Publication Date


Campus Unit

School of Medicine & Health Sciences


GRAND FORKS, N.D.—The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) has granted Accreditation-Continued status to the University of North Dakota Physician Assistant Program sponsored by the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences for 10 years, the maximum length of time allowable before another on-site review. 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remains in effect until the program closes or withdraws from the accreditation process or until accreditation is withdrawn for failure to comply with the Standards.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 September 2026. The review date is contingent upon continued compliance with the Accreditation Standards and ARC-PA policy.

The ARC-PA is the recognized accrediting agency that protects the interests of the public, including current and prospective PA students, and the PA profession by defining the standards for PA education and evaluating PA educational programs within the territorial United States to ensure their compliance with those standards. The accrediting agency determines the standards for education and evaluation of all PA educational programs within the United States.

“The intensive external peer review process ensures the value of high-quality education for all PA students. The process and preparation is truly a team effort, and I applaud all faculty, staff, preceptors and students who contributed to this success,” said Associate Professor Jeanie McHugo, PhD, PA-C, chair of the Department of Physician Assistant Studies at the UND SMHS. “The accreditation review process begins with a self-study report that is due two to three years before the on-site visit and includes a robust process of ongoing self-assessment of data collection, analysis, modifications, and conclusions generated using a continual assessment process. The on-site visit includes a full accreditation application along with another robust self-study assessment report. The extensive process is very detailed and truly focuses on continual program improvement as the foundation for improving quality in the content and educational progression of PA education. The ultimate goal is to provide a quality education for all students to become competent medical providers for their clinical practices.”

The Department of Physician Assistant Studies offers a Master of Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS) degree for individuals yearning to learn the knowledge and skills to enter the PA profession. It is the only PA Program in North Dakota and has held continuous accreditation since 1976. The PA Program’s unique dual track admission structure is geared toward clinically practicing health professionals or applicants with an educational background in science and healthcare. This innovative curricular design of basic science content online followed by a dynamic sequence of alternating didactic and clinical experiences provide distinctive value to comprehensive physician assistant education.

“We stress the importance of interprofessional team-based care here at the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, and the physician assistants trained here are an important part of that team,” said Joshua Wynne, MD, MBA, MPH, UND vice president for health affairs and dean of the SMHS. “We are pleased with this reaffirmation of the quality of the program that is celebrating its fourth decade of continuous accreditation.”

The PA Program at the UND SMHS welcomes applicants from North Dakota and surrounding states with an interest in serving rural and underserved populations. In fact, nearly half of all of the practicing PAs working in North Dakota come from the UND program. The following statistics are from the most recent survey regarding the mission of the program (average of past three graduating classes):

  • 74 percent reside in the same community where they graduated (trained and retained as medical providers in home areas);
  • 66 percent practice in primary care including family medicine, urgent care, internal medicine, and women’s health; and
  • 51 percent practice in a rural area (defined as 25,000 or less population).