Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
Physician Assistant Program
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Program Goals

The vision of the Northwestern University Physician Assistant Program is to strive to be the national leader in PA education and to prepare physician assistants of the highest quality to practice medicine, with the supervision of a physician, in this ever-changing healthcare environment. The goals below are based on this vision — review them to learn more and find out how we're progressing.

 Goal 1

Prepare graduates to be successful physician assistants by providing them with the knowledge and skills to be culturally competent and compassionate providers of high-quality healthcare.

  • A graduate survey is conducted annually to determine employment rates, medical specialties of graduates, location and practice setting.
  • The program conducts continuous analysis of didactic curriculum.
  • Analysis of supervised clinical practice experience (SCPE) to ensure breadth of exposure to lifespan and diverse populations.
  • Analysis of student and graduate performance data on standardized tests.
    • PACKRAT Scores
    • End of Rotation Examination
    • PANCE Scores


Graduating Cohort First-Year Students Second-Year Students
NU Mean National Mean NU Mean National Mean
Class of 2016 149 130 182 162
Class of 2017 156 144 179 161
Class of 2018 152 139 175 153

PAEA End of Rotation Exams
Class of 2018

Specialty NU Mean National Mean
Emergency Medicine 80% 76%
Family Medicine 81% 78%
Internal Medicine 81% 77%
General Surgery 77% 77%
Pediatrics 82% 77%
Psychiatry 88% 84%
Women's Health 83% 76%

PANCE Exam Scores

Graduating Class
NU Overall Class
Pass Rate
NU 1st Time
Pass Rate
NU Mean
Exam Score
2012 97% 93% 487
2013 100% 97% 475
2014 100% 100% 516
2015 100% 100% 534
2016 100% 100% 557
2017 100% 100% 528
2018 100% 100% 557


 Goal 2

Prepare graduates for a lifelong career of continuous self-directed learning and self-assessment.

  • Problem-based learning (PBL) curriculum:
    • PBL, organized by organ system, is the centerpiece of the curriculum. 
    • The PA students develop skills required for a career of self-directed and lifelong learning.
    • Learning goals are established by individuals and members of small groups.
    • Students then practice team-teaching during three weekly small-group sessions.
    • Within each team, information is exchanged, patients assessed, problems identified and management plans determined.
  • Student must complete a variety of self-assessments throughout the didactic year.
  • The Mastering Medical Information course provides the students with the skills to be intelligent consumers of medical literature and translate the information into the care of patients.
  • The students complete an evidence-based medicine Capstone Project.
  • During every clinical rotation each student is required to complete a midpoint self-evaluation of clinical performance.

 Goal 3

Prepare graduates to collaborate on interprofessional teams in providing patient-centered care.

  • Students complete online patient-centered communication learning modules.
  • Instruction is provided by individuals representing a wide variety of health professions.
  • Interprofessional education and learning activities throughout the didactic year:
    • Pharmacy students
    • Medical students
    • Prosthetics and Orthotics students
    • Physical Therapy students
    • Nursing students
  • Clinical year fosters interprofessional teamwork during SCPEs.
  • Students are members of various Feinberg-based medical special interest groups.
  • Students take part in a variety of campus-wide learning opportunities.

 Goal 4

Prepare students and graduates to make significant contributions to the communities they serve, advance the PA profession and enhance their personal development.

  • National, state and specialty PA organizations leadership, recognition and participation:
    • NU PA students developed and maintain by-laws, policies and procedures as a chartered and recognized student society of the AAPA. Within this organization, each cohort of students elect class members to serve in a variety of leadership roles. In these roles they serve: the interests of their classmates and the PA profession, to collaborate with other Feinberg School of Medicine student organizations; and to liaise with PA Program faculty and staff.
    • Students have served as the NU PA representative to the Assembly of Representatives (AOR) of the Student Academy of the American Academy of Physician Assistants (SAAAPA). The NU PA Program provides some funding to assist students elected to serve in SAAAPA’s AOR.
    • Each class elects a member to serve as a student representative to the Illinois Academy of Physician Assistants (IAPA).
    • Students have served on various AAPA and IAPA subcommittees and specialty organizations, including the AAPA Mental Health Task Force Committee.
    • Three students from the Class of 2016 had posters accepted for presentation at the Illinois Council of Health System Pharmacists Annual Conference.
    • Students participate in state and national PA Challenge Bowls.
    • National, regional and local PA leaders are invited to NU for speaking engagements each year. 

  • Community Service and volunteering examples include:
    • NU PA Program students engage in community service and outreach annually as part of "PA Week" celebrations every October.
    • Volunteering for the Chicago Marathon Medical Unit.
    • Northwestern Devon Community Clinic.
    • Dr. Jorge Prieto Family Health Center Back to School Health Fair.
    • The Class of 2020 created PA Career outreach sessions for high school, college and other students throughout Chicagoland.
    • Girls in the Game: a leading girls' health and fitness organization in Chicago. Throughout the academic year, PA students worked with students to empower them to make healthier choices and develop the confidence and leadership skills needed to succeed on and off the field.
    • NU PA students are closely involved in a number of special interest groups on the Feinberg School of Medicine campus. These special interest groups allow the students additional opportunities to learn more about specific areas of medicine and healthcare. Students participate in the Women’s Health, Family Medicine and a wide variety of other clinical interests. Working with medical students, faculty and others the physician assistant students obtain additional experiences and opportunities in these select areas.
    • The Chicago Night Ministry, providing services and care to homeless and at-risk populations.
    • Keep Your Heart Healthy volunteers.
    • Spark Mentorship volunteers.
    • Chicago Youth Programs tutoring and free clinic volunteering.
    • Chicago Recovery Alliance, volunteering with needle exchange programs.
    • Feed My Starving Children volunteering.
    • Chicago Aphasia Network volunteering.
    • Muchin College Prep HS, student mentoring program.
  • Scholarship and Fellowship awards:
    • A member of the Class of 2013 was a National Health Service Corps scholar.
    • A member of the Class of 2013 was accepted into the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) of the U.S. Navy.
    • Northwestern Medicine annually awards one full tuition scholarship to former employees of the organization. Six students have received this award since its inception.
    • Graduate fellowships were awarded students by the Alumnae of Northwestern University in 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016.
    • A student was a PA Veterans Caucus Scholarship recipient.
    • A student was selected as a recipient of the American Academy of Physician Assistants in Asthma, Allergy and Immunology scholarship.
    • Members of the Class of 2016 and 2019 were selected as a recipients for the PAEA Future Educators Fellowship.

 Goal 5

Provide ongoing support of faculty and staff development through graduate study, PAEA programs and university-sponsored workshops.

  • To maintain high faculty standards, the NU PA Program assists the faculty in development of educational and clinical skills.  Northwestern University Searle Center for Teaching Excellence offers a number of workshops and materials to assist the faculty in enhancing and developing teaching and evaluation skills.
  • Two NU PA Program faculty members were inaugural members of the Feinberg Academy of Medical Educators (FAME). FAME plays a critical role in supporting initiatives in faculty development, educational innovation and the recognition of outstanding teaching.
  • NU PA Program faculty was awarded the Physician Assistant Education Association's 2018 Don Pedersen Research Grant for landmark Online Point-of-Care Ultrasound Training for Physician Assistant students, in collaboration with faculty from Mount Union PA Program.
  • PA faculty and staff members attend a number of local and national meetings to enhance their knowledge in both clinical and educational topics. Faculty and staff members may attend annual meetings of the American Academy of Physician Assistants, Illinois Academy of Physician Assistants, American Society of Nephrology, and meetings of the Physician Assistant Educator Association. 
  • NU PA Program faculty and staff are also members of a number of national organizations including: AAPA, PAEA, American Public Health Association, Society of Critical Care, Society of Hospital Medicine, American Association of Anatomists, ACOG, STFM, ACP, SEMPA, American Society of Health Systems Pharmacists, IL Council of Health System Pharmacists.

 Goal 6

Advance awareness of the value and the key role of the PA in healthcare.

  • Program personnel participate in legislative efforts within the Illinois government.
  • The NU PA Program collaborates with the IHHSA and other professional associations.
  • Students engage in PA profession promotional activities during PA Week.
  • A number of regional colleges and universities are visited annually to describe and discuss the benefits of the Physician Assistant career. Past visits include University of Illinois-Chicago, Northeastern Illinois University, Benedictine University, DePaul University, Loyola University Chicago, Chicago State University, Michigan State University, University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign, University of Michigan, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Notre Dame and others.
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