Admissions Process Now Underway for New Physician Assistant Program

May 26, 2020


BUFFALO, NY – The New York State Department of Education has granted permission for Canisius College to begin the process of admitting the first cohort of students to its new Physician Assistant (PA) Program.  The program is scheduled to start in January 2021, pending achievement of Accreditation-Provisional status in June 2020.  The profession of physician assistant consistently ranks in the top percentile of overall “100 Best Jobs” with U.S. News and World Report and Forbes. 

“In a healthcare industry that has and continues to see constant change, the role of physician assistants is more important than ever,” says Program Director Aimee Larson, MPAS, PA.-C. “At Canisius College, our PA program is designed to develop dedicated and skilled clinicians who follow the highest professional standards and also discern a greater purpose for their occupational service.  They will be trained to become leaders in the medical profession and in their communities.”            

The PA program at Canisius is a 27-month master’s degree program comprised of two main phases: didactic (classroom training) and clinical training.  In the didactic phase, students spend the first 12 months on campus with access to some of the latest medical education technology and more than 120 of the most widely used medical textbooks and popular medical journals.  Lectures and seminars are offered by program faculty and distinguished guests who have extensive experience in their fields.  In addition to classroom instruction, the college’s state-of-the-art simulation lab provides students with a diverse set of opportunities to practice skills in patient interviews, physical exams, and diagnostic testing and procedures. The lab is equipped with simulation mannequins, four simulated examination rooms with audio and visual recording abilities, and multiple Anatomage virtual human anatomy tables, often used at the finest teaching facilities in the country.

The second phase of training consists of 15 months of clinical experience.  During this phase, students attend 8-week clinical rotations in family medicine and inpatient internal medicine, and 4-week clinical rotations in emergency medicine, general surgery, women’s health, pediatrics, outpatient internal medicine and behavioral health.  Two elective rotations are also available to students in areas such as orthopedics, critical care, neurology, cardiology and rheumatology.   

Further distinguishing the PA program at Canisius College is its class size.  “While most similar programs in Western New York enroll up to 60 students in each cohort, Canisius students will benefit from a much smaller cohort size,” explains Larson.  “Our average cohort will consist of 30 students to ensure a more intimate learning environment and greater interaction between students and faculty.”

The Physician Assistant Program at Canisius is supported, in part, by the generosity of three local charitable foundations: The M&T Charitable Foundation awarded Canisius a five-year, $500,000 grant.  The Vincent and Harriet Palisano Foundation provided Canisius with a four-year, $100,000 grant and the James H. Cummings Foundation awarded the college a $150,000 grant.  Funds from all were used to support the construction of new instructional space for the PA program and the purchase of laboratory equipment. 

Housed on the lower level of Science Hall, the Physician Assistant Program is comprised of 3,240 square feet of space and equipped with Anatomage virtual dissection tables for student instruction.  This technology successfully replaces the use of cadavers in gross anatomy laboratories and enables learners to navigate through life-size, 3D images of full-body male and female anatomy.  The table’s digital library contains more than 200 pre-loaded anatomic pathology cases but any medical imaging data can be downloaded and configured. 

Also housed within the Science Hall space is a 2,070 square foot learning laboratory that includes four examination rooms equipped with gurneys, hospital beds and high-fidelity patient simulators (HPS).

“Practicing clinical skills on HPS enables students to learn in a highly adaptable, safe and educational environment that fosters autonomy, the development of sound analytical skills and better prepares students for the rigorous clinical assignments they’ll encounter across the healthcare continuum,” adds Larson.

Canisius College has applied for Accreditation - Provisional from the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). Canisius College anticipates matriculating its first class in January 2021, pending achieving Accreditation - Provisional status at the June 2020 ARC-PA meeting and New York State Department of Education approval.

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. In the event that ARC-PA withholds accreditation, the Canisius College PA Program will not admit students to begin in January 2021, and will continue development and pursuit of accreditation in the next available cycle. 

To learn more about the graduate program in physician assistant studies, Email, call 716-888-8550 or visit the website at:

One of 27 Jesuit universities, Canisius is the premier private university in Western New York. Canisius celebrates its sesquicentennial anniversary during the 2019-20 academic year, marking 150 years of Jesuit education and leadership in the city of Buffalo and Western New York. Visit for more information about Canisius’ milestones and celebratory events.