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Richard 12-04-2012 09:00

UNC To Train Special Forces Vets As Physician Assistants
And so it goes...


UNC To Train Special Forces Vets As Physician Assistants
HeraldSun, 4 Dec 2012

During multiple deployments as a U.S. Army Special Forces medical sergeant, David Costa said he provided care for civilian children with cuts and bruises, worked to stop bleeding from gunshot wounds and prepared patients for transport.

“I’ve pretty much seen the country from one dust pile to the next,” Costa said of Afghanistan. He said he was been deployed eight times to the country or Iraq, and would “easily” do it again. He said he found the work rewarding.

He’s now a master sergeant at the Tactical Human Operations Rehabilitation and Reconditioning Program at Fort Bragg.

To build on the training of Special Forces medical sergeants like Costa, the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and the state’s largest insurer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, announced Monday a plan to create a two-year master’s degree program. The program would prepare veteran medical sergeants to be physician assistants.

“They deserve opportunities to continue their healing work when their military service ends, and when they get that chance, we will all benefit,” said Holden Thorp, chancellor of UNC-Chapel Hill, at a news conference at the Rizzo Conference Center in Chapel Hill.

The program would enroll its first class in 2015. It would start with about 15 students, said Dr. Amelia Drake, executive associate dean of academic programs at the UNC School of Medicine. The program needs approval from the UNC Board of Governors, and Drake said they’ll be seeking accreditation.

To help plan the curriculum and to hire full-time staff for the program, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina pledged to pay $1.2 million across the next four years. Part of the funding will be dedicated to scholarship funds.

The U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg is also expected to give input into the program’s design.

UNC system President Tom Ross emphasized the existing relationship between the public 17-school system and the military.

He spoke about an agreement reached about three years ago between UNC and the U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg.

The agreement allowed soldiers to take advantage of university programs in Chapel Hill. The system is “actively engaged” with the military, he said.

Sgt. 1st Class Eric Strand, an instructor at the Joint Special Operations Medical Training Facility at Fort Bragg, said Special Forces medical sergeants get unconventional warfare, survival, small unit tactics and language training, but they also have training in emergency, clinical, veterinary and dental care.

Strand said there are soldiers trained as medical sergeants who are approaching eligibility for retirement who have a lot of “skills and experience” to bring back to North Carolina.

Dr. Bruce Cairns, director of the N.C. Jaycee Burn Center and a professor of surgery, microbiology and immunology at the UNC School of Medicine, also said the program will help address what will be an “enormous health care provider shortage” coming as result of federal health care reform.

According to a news release, the program will include rotations at UNC Hospitals as well as at free clinics around the state. It’s planned to focus on primary care to help prepare students to meet the needs of underserved areas.

Cairns added schools can start physician assistant programs with limited infrastructure. He said he expects there will be opportunities for the new program to draw on existing resources of the university’s health programs.

Dr. Bill Roper, dean of the UNC School of Medicine and CEO of the UNC Health Care system, said training physician assistants is a “much faster” way to provide needed health care services in the state.

Brad Wilson, president of CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, also said it’s a cost effective way of expanding the labor market.

He also spoke about the expected influx of people with health care coverage.

“It is a relevant and important question to ask: Are we ready?” he said.

Physician assistants provide care under the supervision of medical doctors in North Carolina. There are other physician assistant programs in the state, including at the Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, whose program originated in the mid-1960s.

longrange1947 12-04-2012 09:26

Richard, if I am not mistaking, the original Duke program came from the POI of the SF medical course, leaving out dental and vet care.

Of course my mind is old and can't remember well, but I seem to remember them around watching and taking notes during med lab. :munchin

Richard 12-04-2012 09:42

Duke and Baylor were both involved - MSG Jim Scully, the NCOIC of the Med Lab over in the old hospital area, had a lot of input into their programs and was one of the first to enter into the PA program.


JJ_BPK 12-04-2012 10:37

This is good.. :lifter

medic&commo 12-04-2012 10:46

Better late than never.
Really glad to see 18D's afforded the continuation of training & service through the medical community.
Now, it would be great if more colleges / universities follow suit.

MR2 12-04-2012 14:10

Sign as you entered Med Lab in the Old Hospital Area
1 Attachment(s)
Sign as you entered Med Lab in the Old Hospital Area.

MtnGoat 12-04-2012 14:33

Great idea.. SF guys like this stuff!!!

So is this a undergraduate education, bachelor's degree, with graduate program leading to the award of master's degrees in Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS)? I just wonder how many SF guys have the bachelor's degree.

Hopefully the JSOMTC is tell guys of this too.

Beef 12-04-2012 16:16

That is great news! While attending SERE school in the '80's, I lacerated a tendon (EPL L thumb) and was sent to Womack. I met a guy in scrubs in the ER that said he'd repair it. He took me into a treatment room, did a Bier block and fixed the tendon. Good as new to this day. He told me to come back in 10 days and see him. "What's your name, Doctor?" " I'm a PA!" came back. I don't recall his his name, but he was an old SF medic. The PA program and 18Ds are a natural fit. IF UNC will give substantial credit towards a BS degree, this will be an incredible opportunity for guys reaching the end of their SF careers. Today's medical landscape is wide open for physician extenders. I am a Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA.) The only reason I did not go the PA route is that in the '80's PAs were not as know or utilized. When in 300 F-1 (1-83), CWO-4 Richard "Dick" Chamberlain (III Corps Mike Force, BMT and 25th ID Rangers, GOD REST HIS SOUL) was one of our instructors. He and I got to be fair friends and I said I was interested in becoming a PA. He advised me to go the CRNA route. So I did. The SF Medic training and experience made nursing school a piece of cake and anestesia school much easier. The PA program is even more similiar to today's 18D training and background. Again, a perect fit! And my thanks again to Chief Chamberlain!

Eagle5US 12-04-2012 17:28

I'm very interested in what this really is that is so different from any other PA program that has the MPAS as the standard for the 2 year PA program (which is becoming the norm).

I asked on the other site and there really wasn't an answer.

Are they going to facilitate some of the pre-reqs to allow easier entry for SOF Medical personnel? Are they going to grant tuition breaks? Actively recruit, and give preference to SOF Medics?

The article really doesn't say much other than it is a new PA program close to Fort Bragg.

I'd like to see some consideration provided to the SOF Medical community, there simply isn't any reference to it in the article. Lots of cool guy references and name dropping - no substance.:confused:

Eagle5US 12-04-2012 17:37


Originally Posted by Beef (Post 477155)
The PA program is even more similiar to today's 18D training and background.

Perhaps in the past...But right now I would have to strongly disagree...especially with the significant changes to the 18D POI that have occurred over the past 5 years. We just re-wrote the POI in August and I was astonished as to what was and WAS NO LONGER being taught - not to mention the time aloted for "new smart guy thingy A" but had to be taken away from "old Smart guy thingy B".

The number of mid-level education programs has EXPLODED over the past much so that we are schooling ourselves out of jobs and stagnating our salaries. Some area are SO saturated you are lucky to make what an RN makes. I was recently in a discussion with some very well networked companies and programs and they were unanimous in their vision:
Mid-levels are going to suffer harshly with the affordable care act. Private Practice and hospital group reimbursement is going to take a serious hit. And with it, the ability to bill for mid-level services is going to go down. Much of what mid-levels do in family practice settings are preventative medicine measures...that are going to become free of charge.

Further - add 24million new patients and no funds to increase your pool of supervising physicians - doctors are getting out of medicine, and with them go their supervisory role for the (maximum) 6 PA's that work for them. SO for every doc that quits - there goes SIX PA jobs with him.

This is the future we face in the profession -

Off the soapbox.

MR2 12-04-2012 22:56


Originally Posted by Eagle5US (Post 477173)
you are lucky to make what an RN makes.

As so it should be...

Beef 12-05-2012 10:49

Eagle5US, I can't speak for the POI for 18D after the 1980's, so I am sorry to hear about the recent changes to a stellar course. I can only say that I'm sorry to hear that. I can say that Everything else that you said is dead on. There is a CRNA program on every corner. The market is completely glutted. Salaries are being pushed down for new grads and old guys like me. In my region, that is not yet so with PAs. Yet. And it will be worse, as you noted, with ACA. I did some research here in the OR this morning regarding PAs. We have a U of FL July grad working here. Her tuition was 18k per year. 80K in student loans. We have 2 Philadelphia University PA School ( Phila., PA) students here doing clinical in VICKSBURG, MISSISSIPPI! Reason: overcrowded clinical sites in Phillie. Tuition: 34K per year. Both are in the hole 100k + on student loans. Average new grad CRNA student loans in MS- $150k and up. Take home points for guys interested: public school is way cheaper than private. Borrow as little as possible, since your salary will not be what was paid 5 years ago. And watch this trend: educational cost up, salaries down will invariably lead to a loosening/lowering of admission standards. I've seen that with the CRNA programs because every class WILL be totally filled.

MILON 12-07-2012 01:24

I am in the process of applying to PA schools now and have been reading about the push for veterans, especially medically trained servicemen and women, to enter programs. The link below is to the Physician Assistant Educaation Association's veterans information page.

My applications have been in for a while, but knowing which schools are eager to accept vets certainly would have influenced my application pool. Anyway, opportunities are out there!

Eagle5US 12-07-2012 05:12

Good luck Milon!!!:lifter

Beef 12-07-2012 08:11

Milon, it sounds like you have applied to multiple programs. That's a huge plus! Almost every program has its own "flavor" and looks for its own special individual criteria. This increases the chances that you'll end up in a program that you "match" well. It will also give you options to choose one with cheaper tuition, at the risk of continuing to sound like Dave Ramsey. Good luck!

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