Jun 08, 2023  
2013-2014 Graduate Catalog 
2013-2014 Graduate Catalog [Archived Catalog]

Physician Assistant Studies

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Wade Nilson, MPAS, PA-C, Chairman
Physician Assistant Studies Program
Julian Hall, Room 120
Phone: 605-677-5128
Fax: 605-677-6569



H. Bruce Vogt, Medical Director, MD, University of Nebraska Medical Center

Associate Professor:

Wade Nilson, Program Chairman, MPAS, PA-C, University of Nebraska Medical Center
Louise Papka, MPAS, PA-C, DFAAPA, University of Nebraska Medical Center
William Schweinle III, Ph.D., University of Texas

Assistant Professor:

Melissa Alexander, MSPAS, PA-C, University of South Dakota
Corey Anderson, MS, MSPAS, PA-C, University of South Dakota
Betty Hulse, MSPAS, PA-C, University of South Dakota


Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies (MSPAS)

Program Description

The mission of the Physician Assistant Studies Program at the University of South Dakota is to provide a comprehensive primary care education that prepares graduates to deliver high quality healthcare to meet the needs of patients in South Dakota and the region.

To accomplish this mission, the USD PA Program:

  • Promotes and supports the ideal of a competent, caring, and compassionate physician assistant
  • Promotes and supports excellence and professionalism
  • Fosters an evidence-based approach to patient care
  • Expects students to be accountable for individual learning
  • Expects faculty and students to be partners in the educational process within an environment of mutual respect
  • Empowers students to be lifelong learners
  • Selects individuals likely to practice in South Dakota and the surrounding region
  • Fosters interest in primary care to rural and underserved populations
  • Selects individuals who have the interpersonal aptitudes and maturity that are necessary for successful practice as a physician assistant

Physician Assistants and students should demonstrate the following core beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors at all times:

  • Professional and personal ethical behavior
  • Honesty and integrity
  • Compassion
  • Service to those in need
  • Advocacy for a team approach to healthcare
  • Commitment to lifelong learning
  • Sensitivity to cultural and individual differences
  • Promotion of the physician assistant profession and its ideals

Physician Assistants (PAs) are health care providers who practice medicine with physician supervision. The University of South Dakota Physician Assistant Studies Program is a 24-month program, half as a Preclinical Phase in Vermillion and a half as a Clinical Phase at practice sites around South Dakota and the region. At the conclusion of the 24 months and successful completion of course work, students are awarded a Master’s Degree. The USD PA Studies Program received national accreditation in April 1995 and has been awarded continued accreditation. 


Students in the program are selected through a competitive application process. One class of students is selected each year. The USD PA Program participates in the Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA). This service collates application materials and grades and transmits the information to all PA Programs designated by the applicant. The service takes no part in the evaluation or selection of applicants. Applicants can utilize this service by contacting them at their web site, www.caspaonline.org.

The complete, verified CASPA application, including references and official transcripts, must be received by the program no later than October 1. We highly recommend submission of your application by no later than September 1 in order to meet the October 1 deadline.

For Graduates of Foreign Institutions and Non-U.S. Citizen Applicants, please visit the PA program website.

In addition to completion of the CASPA application, the program requires all applicants to (please note, these are the minimum requirements for admission – see our Admissions Guide for more detailed information):

  1. Complete a baccalaureate degree from an accredited college or university.
  2. Applicants must be a US citizen or permanent resident with a degree from an accredited US institution in order to apply.
  3. Obtain a cumulative and pre-requisite GPA of 3.0 or better on a 4.0 scale. (please see selection criteria at www.usd.edu/pa).
  4. Complete the graduate school application and send in along with the $35 (Due October 1). Any additional application materials deemed necessary by the program will be emailed to the applicant upon receipt of their CASPA application. Due dates for these materials will be included in the email. 
  5. Complete the following prerequisites with a grade of C or better:
  • 2 Semesters Biology with lab  8 credit hours
  • General Chemistry I   4 credit hours (lab required)
  • General Chemistry II or Organic Chemistry   4 credit hours (lab required)
  • 2 Semesters of Anatomy and Physiology with Lab  8 credit hours*
  • Microbiology  4 credit hours (lab required)**
  • Biochemistry  3 credit hours***
  • General Psychology  3 credit hours
  • Abnormal Psychology  3 credit hours
  • Statistics 2 credit hours; e.g., Biostatistics, General Statistics, Calculus is acceptable

*If Anatomy and Physiology are taken separately, a minimum of one lab is required if not offered with both courses.

**USD graduates – please note USD’s MICR 230/232 (Basic Microbiology) are not accepted for this requirement. Only MICR 420/421 are accepted from USD; MICR 320/321 will be accepted from previous catalogs.

***Combined Organic/Biochemistry courses are not recommended, but if taken must be 300 level (Junior) or above.

Although not required it is highly recommended that courses be taken within the last 10 years. While prior health care experience is not required for entry, it is expected and an attribute of most successful applicants. Additional requirements exist for international students.

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