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New Austin College Health Campus opens
By Austin College
Dec 18, 2023
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Austin College announces PA program and accreditation

Sherman, Texas -- Austin College has taken a major step to expand its academic programs while helping meet the need for more healthcare providers. College officials and area dignitaries gathered Tuesday, November 14, for a ribbon cutting and open house at the Austin College Health Campus, home of the College’s new Master of Medical Science-Physician Assistant program.  

“The Austin College Health Campus is here to address two significant needs,” said President Steven P. O’Day. “We work with many students who want to meaningfully contribute to the healthcare profession, but not necessarily as physicians. We also know that the Texoma region needs healthcare providers who can address the growing shortage we see in our community. Our new PA program should address both.”

Dr. Diana Noller, founding director of the program and Associate Professor of Medical Science, shared updates on the program’s accreditation status. “We’ve been working for the last year and a half to lay all of the groundwork for accreditation and for a successful program,” she said. “This symbolic Grand Opening of the Health Campus is a wonderful time to reflect on that work and where we stand today.”

Austin College Board of Trustees Chair Scott Austin and Vice Chair Gail Utter join PA Program Director Diana Noller, Austin College President Steven O’day, Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Beth Gill, and Vice President for Institutional Advancement Gillian Locke for the ceremonial ribbon cutting at the new Austin College Health Campus in Denison, Texas.

The ARC-PA (Accreditation Review Commission on the Education of Physician Assistants) has granted Accreditation-Provisional status to the Austin College Physician Assistant Program. Accreditation-Provisional is an accreditation status granted when the plans and resource allocation, if fully implemented as planned, of a proposed program that has not yet enrolled students appear to demonstrate the program’s ability to meet the ARC-PA Standards or when a program holding Accreditation-Provisional status appears to demonstrate continued progress in complying with the Standards as it prepares for the graduation of the first class (cohort) of students. 

The Austin College PA program is approved by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. With this accreditation in place, Austin College will begin admitting the first cohort of students.

“We have received over 1,100 applications for only 34 spots, and they have come from all across the U.S., from coast to coast. We are now in the challenging stage of reading those hundreds of applications and interviewing candidates to build our first class, which will start in June of 2024,” Noller said.   

“The reputation of Austin College in the medical community for producing some of the brightest and best-prepared graduates has opened many doors, and everyone on the PA faculty and staff look forward to further enhancing that reputation by educating some of the finest PAs in the field,” she continued. 

More than 100 medical partners have contracted with Austin College to act as clinical sites for rotations and preceptors including Texoma Medical Center, Medical City, UT-Southwestern, Baylor Scott & White, and many independent practices. 

The Austin College Health Campus is at 4616 S. Hwy 75 in Denison, next to Texoma Medical Center. Thirteen-thousand square feet of the former Cigna office  building was renovated and reconfigured to include two large classrooms, observation rooms for training in clinical procedures, conference rooms, common space and kitchen area, and offices. The facilities also include state-of-the-art technology with patient  simulators, a virtual dissection table, and holographic lenses for virtual “tours” inside the body.

The $1.25 million renovation was made possible by generous gifts from the Hillcrest Foundation, Texoma Health Foundation, Clara Blackford Smith and W.  Aubrey Smith Charitable Foundation, M.B. and Edna Zale Foundation, and individual donors. 

O’Day said, “At Austin College, we transform students so they can transform the world. This satellite campus and the PA Program are a part of that same  Austin College, and I look forward to seeing the ways that the students and graduates of this program will impact the healthcare landscape of the region. I am proud that Austin College can make a difference in that way.” 

Austin College, a private national liberal arts college located north of Dallas in Sherman, Texas, has earned a reputation for excellence in academic
 preparation, pre-professional foundations, committed faculty, and hands-on, adventurous learning opportunities. One of 44 schools profiled in Loren Pope’s influential book Colleges  That Change Lives, Austin College boasts a welcoming community that embraces diversity and individuality, with more than 50  percent of students identifying as persons of color. The residential student body of approximately 1,300 students and an expert faculty of more than 100 educators allow a 13:1 student-faculty ratio and personalized attention. Related by covenant to the Presbyterian
 Church (USA), Austin College cultivates an inclusive atmosphere that supports students’ faith journeys regardless of religious tradition. The College, founded in 1849, is the oldest institution of higher education in Texas operating under its original name and charter.