It wasn’t exactly a long-distance move. Only a few blocks, actually. But it definitely marked a major step forward for the nationally ranked Department of Physician Assistant Studies.
Earlier this year, Physician Assistant Studies’ faculty, staff and students relocated from cramped quarters on North Chestnut Street in downtown Winston-Salem to 525@vine in Wake Forest Innovation Quarter. The department, which was established in 1969, now occupies a 32,000-square-foot suite on the fifth floor of the former R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. factory that was renovated and revitalized by Wexford Science & Technology, a BioMed Realty company.
“Our previous site served us well for many years but we simply outgrew it,” said Reamer L. Bushardt, PharmD, PA-C, chair of the department, which is part of Wake Forest School of Medicine.
“This new location is simply fantastic. The facilities are superior to what we had in every way, and they definitely enhance every aspect of our department’s teaching, research and clinical services.”
Another benefit of Physician Assistant Studies’ new home is that another School of Medicine component, the Division of Public Health Sciences, is also now based at 525@vine.
“Public Health Sciences does important work, such as research that helps us understand better how to support a healthier community, and a lot of it is directly relevant to what Physician Assistants do,” Bushardt said. “I know tremendous collaborations focused on population health will result from our being in such close proximity.”
Physician Assistant Studies is a graduate-level program that awards a Master of Medical Science degree after a year of inquiry-based classroom and laboratory instruction and a year of clinical rotations. Physician Assistants are nationally certified and state-licensed medical professionals who obtain medical histories, conduct physical examinations, diagnose and treat illnesses, prescribe medications and devices, order and interpret lab tests, perform procedures, assist in surgery, provide patient education and counseling, and make rounds in hospitals and skilled nursing facilities.
The department’s new quarters at 525@vine contain the specially designed and equipped spaces needed for comprehensive medical education and training. Among them are an auditorium-classroom with permanent seating for 140, a fully equipped laboratory with adjacent classroom space, three clinical assessment labs, a clinic with five exam rooms, 10 rooms designed for inquiry-based learning and four conference rooms, plus recreational spaces for students and offices. Most of the instructional spaces have real-time video and image-sharing capabilities, both within the building and with remote locations – particularly Physician Assistant Studies’ new second base of operations, Appalachian State University in Boone.
In addition to the “regular” complement of 64 students who will be based in Winston-Salem for both years of their studies, the program’s Class of 2016 includes a cohort of students who will complete their preclinical training at Appalachian State’s College of Health Sciences and do their clinical rotations in the predominantly rural region around Boone. All 96 first-year students were together at 525@vine from June 4 to July 3 for an intensive anatomy and physiology course.
The curriculum, standards and quality of instruction for the Boone cohort – 24 students this year, but expected to be 32 in coming years – are exactly the same as for the Winston-Salem-based group.
“Our experiences so far in many Appalachian counties are helping us better understand the best assets and biggest challenges related to access and quality of health care as well as disease prevention,” Bushardt said. “We are adapting our training model regularly to optimize our graduates’ capacities to meet regional needs.
“Physician Assistants are in demand around the country but they’re especially needed in rural areas such as western North Carolina. We’re confident that many of the graduates of our Boone campus will choose to practice in that region, where they can have a tremendous positive impact.”
Detailed information about the Department of Physician Assistant Studies is available online at WakeHealth.edu/physician-assistant-program.