In its ongoing mission to increase access to health care for underserved communities, the MEDEX Northwest Physician Assistant Program at the University of Washington School of Medicine has been approved for a distant campus on the Island of Hawaii.
Final approval for the new Hawaii site was announced on July 14, 2020 by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). Onsite classroom instruction for the 17 students in the inaugural cohort of the new MEDEX Kona campus begins on September 14, 2020, pending any local restrictions per COVID-19. This new campus will educate local Physician Assistants (PAs) to work within the Hawaiian Islands to address significant health care provider shortages statewide.
The MEDEX Hawaii expansion has received enthusiastic local support from individuals like Lieutenant Governor Josh B. Green, MD, and regional funders.
“I’m excited to see a solution for our provider shortage becoming a reality in my old hometown of Kona,” says Lt. Gov. Green, who is also an Emergency Department doctor. “The MEDEX team has a great track record of training PAs. This will be a game changer for the Big Island and all of Hawaii.”
“The UW School of Medicine has a long tradition of educational innovation,” said Dr. Paul Ramsey, CEO of UW Medicine and Dean of the UW School of Medicine. “Expanding the MEDEX Program is an important step toward addressing Hawaii’s health care workforce shortage that many rural communities face. UW Medicine’s mission has always been to improve the health of the public and we are pleased to work with Hawaii to help meet their needs.”
This is an important step for the UW School of Medicine, which is home to the MEDEX Northwest PA Program and educates health practitioners across a five-state region. Dr. Misbah Keen, Professor and Vice Chair for Education in the Department of Family Medicine at the UW School of Medicine, explains:
“The MEDEX Kona Campus starts an exciting partnership that will expand our mission of educating physician assistants in a proven tradition of excellence and improve access to high-quality health care in Hawaii. I look forward to welcoming Hawaii to the MEDEX Northwest family.”
Dr. Paul James, Professor and Chair of the Department of Family Medicine at the UW School of Medicine, is also enthusiastic about the impact of this expansion to Hawaii.
“The UW School of Medicine is committed to improving the health of the public and we are excited to partner with the citizens of Hawaii to train a new generation of physician assistants who are committed to improving access to and quality of health care in team-based models supported by our best science,” says Dr. James. “MEDEX has a long tradition of placing its graduates across the Pacific Northwest and this opportunity in Kailua- Kona allows us to support the state of Hawaii as it strives to improve the health of its citizens.”
Dr. Suzanne Allen, Vice Dean for Academic, Rural and Regional Affairs at the UW School of Medicine, further emphasizes that, “MEDEX is successful because of partnerships with communities to educate future physician assistants, improving local health care access. This model has been successful for over 50 years across the Northwest, and the UW School of Medicine looks forward to our partnerships in Hawaii that will help meet local health care needs.”
And such needs are greater than many who visit the Hawaiian Islands may realize.
“For most people the first impressions of Hawaii are of beautiful settings,” explains MEDEX Program Director Terry Scott, MPA, PA-C, DFAAPA. “It’s paradise. People go for a week and have a great time. But for those that look beyond the usual tourist activities, they see a real need for health care providers in the state. It’s a broad need that’s been well documented for many years by the state legislature. For those who understand this need, it is very clear why MEDEX should expand to the state. PAs are a part of the solution. The MEDEX Program is well- positioned to deliver this education.”
A historically significant consideration is that Dr. Richard A. Smith, the founder of the MEDEX Program, established The MEDEX Group in the 1970s with Hawaii as its base.
“Dr. Smith traveled throughout the Pacific Basin and the world, training local individuals to deliver basic health care,” says Scott. “His impact was phenomenal. Fifty years later, the MEDEX Program that he founded can play a role in delivering much-needed care to the state he loved. This opportunity for PAs to contribute to the Hawaii health care workforce is a privilege.”
Betty L. Stewart, MPAS, PA-C, DFAAPA has been named as the Site Director for the new Kona campus.
“We at MEDEX are thrilled to welcome the Kona campus into our Ohana,” says Stewart. “This is the culmination of six years of incredible support and collaboration with Hawaii leaders in health care, government and the local community to address the health care provider shortage. We know our PA graduates will make a significant impact on access to quality health care.”
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