April 26, 2023

UCalgary Master of Physician Assistant program funded by province

Alberta government’s promise follows budget plan for new nursing seats
UCalgary President and Vice Chancellor Dr. Ed McCauley, PhD, speaks at a Foothills Campus press conference, while Jason Copping, Minister of Health (L) and Demetrios Nicolaides, Minister of Advanced Education look on
Ed McCauley speaks at a Foothills Campus press conference, while Jason Copping, seated, left, and Demetrios Nicolaides look on. Michael Platt, Advancement

Funding for 40 seats to create the Cumming School of Medicine’s Master of Physician Assistant program is among the highlights for UCalgary as part of an Alberta-wide post-secondary targeted enrolment expansion.

Unveiled at a Foothills Campus press conference led by Demetrios Nicolaides, minister of advanced education, and Jason Copping, minister of health, the province’s previous budget plan included $20 million over three years for 120 physician seats at UCalgary and University of Alberta, as well as 96 new spaces for UCalgary’s Bachelor of Nursing.

Welcome investment to answer demand

The new funding was welcomed by UCalgary President and Vice Chancellor Ed McCauley, PhD, who welcomed the two provincial ministers at the April 13 event.

“With today’s announcement we’ll be able to start our first master’s program for physician assistants and expand our already exceptional Bachelor of Nursing program to produce more nurses,” said McCauley.

“UCalgary is grateful for the province’s recognition of our essential role in improving health care for Albertans, and we are grateful for their assistance in helping us expand our enrolment in these key areas.”

High demand for post-secondary seats

With a graduate employment rate of over 94 per cent and a steady increase in demand for academic seats, the previous budget announcement and this latest funding are badly needed investments to provide post-secondary training in this province

It’s been projected that over 40 per cent of projected post-secondary enrolment growth in Alberta will be in the Calgary area by 2031, with UCalgary experiencing a shortage of over 9,500 seats if operating grants do not keep up to demand.

Planning now moving to reality

The announcement made by Nicolaides adds $6.8 million to fund 40 seats for UCalgary’s long-awaited Master of Physician Assistant program.

UCalgary’s physician assistant program has been in the planning stages for a number of years, as a key strategy in easing a shortage of doctors in the province.

“Graduates of the program will provide support to physicians in acute and primary care. They will be part of a multidisciplinary team that will ultimately enhance patient care,” says Dr. Bev Adams, MD, vice-dean, Cumming School of Medicine.

“The program will provide an uplift to the health-care workforce that allows all members to work to their scope of practice.”

Physician assistants, or PAs, are equipped to examine, diagnose and treat patients under the supervision of a doctor, and are able to order lab tests and imaging, and perform minor procedures, among other duties.

Work is underway to get final approvals in place to launch the program as soon as possible.

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