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First Students Begin Classes in Cumberlands’ New Physician Assistant Program


A welcome dinner was recently held at Cumberlands for the first cohort of Cumberlands new MPAS program . Pictured from left to right, beginning at the bottom of stairs: Amanda Baker, Melissa Day, Brittany Perkins, Jennifer Harrington, Ken Reed, Kelly Cozmanciuc, Dr. David Williams; Crystal Massengale, Andrea Hale, Dr. Sonia Young, Joseph Reed, Dr. Eddie Perkins; Bethany Begley, Nikki King, Troy Clark; Nae Hall, Kari McKnight, Jared Nix; Lesley Tipton, Christina Sutton, Adam Adkins; Laura Whitney Burchette, Gloria Kim, Kevin Caddell; Jennifer Duckett, Whitney Lawson, DeWayne Brinkman, Kendall Gilbert; Matthew Webb, Wesley Faulkner, Tye Prewitt.

WILLIAMSBURG, KY – The first cohort of students has begun classes in University of the Cumberlands newest program, Master of Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS). Twenty-eight graduate studies from a variety of backgrounds comprise this inaugural group.

MPAS is led by Eddie Perkins, DO, FACOOG, program director and department chair. Supporting faculty include Jennifer Harrington, PA-C, academic coordinator; David Williams, MD, medical director; Sonia Young, PT, DPT, assistant to the director and course instructor; Joe Reed, PA-C, clinical coordinator; and Peter Geissler MD PhD, department vice chair.


Gloria Kim, one of the first 28 students enrolled in Cumberlands’ new PA program, practices taking blood pressure.

With this program, Cumberlands continues its commitment to meet the educational and professional needs of the Appalachian region, and the MPAS curriculum is designed to prepare clinicians to work in medically underserved areas. The profession is one of the ten fastest growing professions, and according to the Department of Labor, employment opportunities are expected to grow for physician assistants by 27 percent through 2016. Cumberlands’ MPAS is one of only two such programs currently offered in the state of Kentucky.

Among the students in the current MPAS class are a chiropractor, a registered nurse, a dietitian, a phlebotomist, a surgical tech, a lab assistant, a teacher, an AmeriCorps volunteer, a nurse’s aide, an EMT, a hospice volunteer and a pharmacy tech, as well as representatives of other occupations.

One PA student is Gloria Kim, a December 2009 Cumberlands graduate who initially wanted to become a dentist. Because of difficulties and financial concerns for international students to attend American dental and medical schools, Kim, who is from South Korea, felt this was the right choice for her. “I love it. The professors really care about you, and you know that they really want to help you succeed,” said Kim.

Perkins is pleased with the caliber of students in this first class. “We have been blessed with students from a variety of backgrounds, each possessing unique skills and life experiences that will enhance the learning opportunities of the program. Each has completed a bachelor’s degree and core course requirements that will prepare the student for an intensive postgraduate course of study,” he said. “Students are positioning themselves as future members of a health care team practicing medicine under the supervision of a physician in a variety of settings.” Physician assistants are trained in a medical model and are defined by Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA) as health professionals licensed to practice medicine with the supervision of a physician. Within the physician/PA relationship, physician assistants exercise autonomy in medial decision making and provide a broad range of diagnostic and therapeutic services.

The first year is an intense study of basic sciences and clinically related didactic course work. The clinical year provides students with experience in emergency medicine, surgery, women’s health, pediatrics, psychiatry, family medicine, internal medicine and long term care. This master's degree is designed to meet the needs of students by providing them with exposure to various health care settings. Students are allowed to participate in clinical rotation sites regionally located and have the opportunity to complete rotations at large tertiary care centers throughout the nation. This will provide broad clinical exposure. Cumberlands’ MPAS is open to qualified college graduates who have completed specific core science courses and it will prepare students to meet the ever increasing healthcare needs of this region and nationally.