PA to DO – What Route Should YOU Take and Questions to Ask

Session 63

Session 63

In today's episode, Ryan talks with Dr. Mark Kauffman, the Assistant Dean of Graduate Studies at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM), who was previously a PA. If you're a student struggling with the decision of whether you should be a doctor, go to medical school and give up 4 years of your life, 3 years of residency, plus the debt that comes with it versus taking a PA program and then going straight out in the workforce with less debt, then this episode is surely worth listening to.

Learn from Mark as he made his leap from being a PA to going to medical school and now working at LECOM where they offer an impressive 3-year medical school program LECOM for current PA's who want to go back to medical school.

Here are the highlights of the conversation with Mark:

Mark's initial path to medicine:

  • Wanted to become a doctor since he was a kid
  • Having doubts and fears about going to medical school
  • His dad finding the PA profession for him
  • His thought that he can always do more later even if he does the PA route

Mark's PA journey and his switch to medical school route:

  • Working as a PA in pediatric transplant surgery at the Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh
  • Having the desire to fully accept the challenges and disappointments and to be recognized for the services he was providing
  • Contacting the schools and scheduling his interviews
  • Getting his acceptance in Lake Erie College so he canceled his other interviews

The PA practice versus physician practice:

  • Lack of pathophysiology in PA
  • Full autonomy as a physician

When to consider being a PA:

  • If you don't want to have the expense of medical school
  • If you want less commitment at the end of the day
  • If you want more flexible responsibilities

Specialty limitations of a PA:

  • You can do anything under the scope of your practicing physician
  • Your residency is like a work in training

3 common reasons for PA's to go back to medical school:

  1. Increase depth of knowledge
  2. Autonomy
  3. Ability to do more for their patients

2 things that stop PA's from going back to medical school:

  1. Expense
  2. Time away from clinical practice

Lake Erie's special program for PA's:

  • Mark took a Master's in Medical Education course
  • Part of his curriculum was a thesis in developing curriculum
  • Brought his knowledge in both PA curriculum and medical school curriculum together
  • Mark's proposal of a 3-year accelerated pathway where PA gets to keep their DO degrees in 3 years instead of 4
  • In PA curriculum, only 50% of colleges require organic chemistry while 7% of colleges require physics

Developing the curriculum in a 3-year format:

  • Shortening their clinical rotations
  • No need for electives and selectives
  • No vacation
  • Accelerating their clinical years to allow them to do it in a 3-year format

A brief overview of their 3-year program:

12 seats per year (6 seats reserved for primary care applicants while the other 6 seats are undeclared which means you can do any osteopathic residency)

Some pieces of advice for premed students:

  1. The PA career is a career as a mid-level practitioner. Do not use a PA program just as a stepping stone. But if you want get the medical knowledge before you come in as a premed program, go for it.
  1. Have a knowledge of patient care in clinical setting. Get exposed to shadowing and find a place where you can become a scribe.

Links and Other Resources:

If you are currently a PA, check out LECOMs Accelerated Physician Assistant Pathway.

Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine

LECOM Accelerated Physician Assistant Pathway (APAP)

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