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Pfeiffer welcomed 36 students last month as part of its second PA class

Pfeiffer University’s Master of Physician Assistant Studies program, which is located in the new Center for Health Sciences in downtown Albemarle, welcomed 36 new students last month as part of its second inaugural class.

That’s a marked increase from the 20 students who began the program last January.

As one of the panelists during a presentation Monday morning about downtown Albemarle, Pfeiffer President Scott Bullard said that the university saw triple the number of applicants who applied to be a part of this year’s cohort.

The students in the 2021 class, which is comprised of 29 females and seven males, have come to Pfeiffer from a variety of undergraduate institutions. Though the majority of students graduated from North Carolina colleges (NC State, Wake Forest, Appalachian State, UNC Chapel Hill), others have come from as far away as Brigham Young University in Utah and the University of Washington. Only one of the students previously attended Pfeiffer.

The plan is to have 45 new students enroll each January, capitalizing on the high demand for PAs in rural communities. Only 15 percent of PAs actually practice in rural areas.

Of the 36 students in the second cohort, 23 live in Stanly County.

In order to entice more PA students to relocate to the area, Bullard said the university recently partnered with the Stanly County Family YMCA to allow students to join at no costs. To further acclimate the students to the downtown area, many local churches have developed an “Adopt a Pfeiffer Student” program; Bullard said more than half the students living in the area have expressed interest in the program.

Once the students complete the 27-month program, they will receive a certificate of rural medicine (Pfeiffer is one of two PA programs in the state which offers this); students can also pursue a certificate in curbing opioid addiction.

Growth for physicians assistant is expected to increase 31 percent over the next 10 years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Pfeiffer’s new Master of Occupational Therapy Program received accreditation last summer and enrolled 30 students, who began the 27-month program in August. They are also taking classes in downtown Albemarle.

Similar to the PA program, 77 percent of the class is female.

By applying to Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) to increase the OT program’s enrollment, the class size should increase to 45 students by 2023.

The current group of OT students hail from 14 states, ranging from as far north as Massachusetts to as far west as California. Ten students are from North Carolina.

Citing data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bullard said the number of occupational therapists working in America is projected to increase by 18 percent between 2018 and 2028.

“By 2030, other than nursing, this field represents the greatest labor shortage in American healthcare,” Bullard said.

Bullard said by the spring of 2022, the university estimates it will have around 167 students in downtown Albemarle enrolled in the two programs, and by spring of 2023 the university estimates it will have 237 students.

Once both programs are full, the university will have around 180 students each summer in Albemarle.

The city has surveyed students to learn more about their housing, parking and amenity needs and is working to accommodate them. As more students live and work in the downtown area, the city will continue to survey them to make sure their needs are being met.

 

 

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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