Master of Science in Physician Assistant
The South University Savannah Master of Science (MS) in Physician Assistant program offers fundamental medical concepts and theories, provides students with the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to function with physician supervision, as medical professionals who will serve as valued members of the health care team. Physician assistants perform medical functions that include, but are not limited to, evaluation, monitoring, diagnostics, therapeutics, counseling, and referral. The scope of the practice varies according to state laws, the medical setting, and the training of the physician assistant. In many states, physician assistants can prescribe and/or dispense medicine. The MS in Physician Assistant program at South University, Savannah is designed to provide students with effective learning opportunities that will prepare them to perform their expected competencies in an ethical, legal, safe and effective manner upon graduation.
Accreditation Review Commission on Education for Physician Assistant
The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) has granted Accreditation-Continued status to the South University-Savannah Physician Assistant Program sponsored by South University. Accreditation-Continued is an accreditation status granted when a currently accredited program is in compliance with the ARC-PA Standards. Accreditation remains in effect until the program closes or withdraws from the accreditation process or until accreditation is withdrawn for failure to comply with the Standards. The approximate date for the next validation review of the program by the ARC-PA will be September 2025. The review date is contingent upon continued compliance with the Accreditation Standards and ARC-PA policy. The program's accreditation history can be viewed on the ARC-PA website at: http://www.arc-pa.org/accreditation-history-south-university-savannah/
Procedure for Admission to the Master in Science Physician Assistant (MSPA) Program
Entrance to the Master of Science in Physician Assistant (MSPA) program is gained through a formal application review and an interview. Application to the program is made through the Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA). Applicants must specifically designate the South University campus(es) to which their application should be submitted within the CASPA system.
A completed application must be submitted through CASPA in order to be reviewed by any of the South University campuses. The application cycle for the January start will begin in April annually. The deadline for all application materials to be complete* in the CASPA application portal is August 1st annually.
To apply for the Master of Science in Physician Assistant degree program at South University, Savannah, individuals must:
- Complete CASPA online Applications including submission of all transcripts and GRE scores.
- Official GRE scores for the General Test (verbal, quantitative, and written essay) are required to be electronically submitted to CASPA through ETS (Educational Testing Service) using the Savannah program GRE Code: 0467. Paper copies are not accepted.
*This is the date your application became complete and was placed in the verification queue. Your complete date is the day your final required item - a transcript, reference letter, payment, or e-submitted application - posted to your CASPA account.
**Please do not send transcripts directly to South University. Transcripts should be sent to CASPA.
Individuals whose applications are deemed competitive will be invited for a required interview. Therefore, those who apply early in the admission cycle are more likely to be granted an interview than those who apply later. Each program concludes interviews for the admissions cycle upon filling all available seats. Not all qualified applicants will receive an interview.
Students who are offered a seat into the Physician Assistant program are only permitted to reserve a seat at one campus. Within 14 days of the applicant signing and submitting the acceptance form, it is the responsibility of the applicant to notify any other South University Physician Assistant program(s) of his/her intent to withdraw. Seat acceptance fees are non-transferable to other South University programs.
Note: Applicants should refer to the Physician Assistant Program policy on Acceptance Fee for more details.
Selection for the Master of Science in Physician Assistant program is highly competitive. Meeting the minimum requirements does not guarantee an interview or admission. Successful applicants will generally exceed the minimum criteria. The following criteria represent the minimum conditions established for students interested in applying to the South University Master of Science in Physician Assistant degree program:
- Applicants must have an earned bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution.
- Applicants must have an overall GPA as calculated by the CASPA service of 3.0 or greater (on a 4.0 scale) (including undergraduate, post-baccalaureate, and graduate coursework). Preference will be given to those with an overall GPA at or above 3.3.
- Applicants should have a Biology-Chemistry-Physics (BCP) science GPA of 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) as calculated by the CASPA service. Preference will be given to those with a prerequisite (BCP) GPA at or above 3.2.
- Applicants must submit scores from the GRE general exam directly to the CASPA service using the South University PA program code 0467. Preference will be given to those with GRE scores (Quantitative and Verbal Reasoning) at the 50th percentile or above.
- At least three letters of reference on the CASPA application must be submitted
- At least one reference on the CASPA application must be from a physician (MD/DO), Physician Assistant, or Nurse Practitioner with whom the applicant has worked or shadowed and to whom the applicant is not related. Impressive, well- articulated, and unequivocal letters attesting to the applicant’s motivation, communication and interpersonal skills, professionalism, and future contribution towards health care are considered competitive. Preference is granted to applicants with letter(s) from a PA.
Clinical experiences should provide the applicant with a knowledge of and orientation to the presentation, signs, and symptoms of a variety of ill or injured patients. Although clinical experience is not required, preference is given to applicants who have direct patient care experience (i.e., care that involves personal interaction with patients such as: physical therapist, respiratory therapist, emergency medical technician/paramedic, nurse, or certified nursing assistant, or other similar professions). However, there is no requirement for a predetermined number of hours (or months) of health care experience to be earned by an applicant.
Admissions Committee Selection Factors
Applicants for admission are considered and ranked using multiple factors. Applicants are awarded preference points based upon the following selection factors:
Academic achievement (overall GPA, BCP, GRE).
- Preference will be given to those with GRE scores (Quantitative and Verbal Reasoning) at the 50th percentile or above.
- Preference will be given to those with an overall GPA at or above 3.3.
- Preference will be given to those with a prerequisite (BCP) GPA at or above 3.2.
Quality of letters of reference.
- References from Physician Assistants (PAs) are preferred.
- Letters from personal acquaintances are discouraged.
Quality hands-on patient care.
- Preference is given to applicants with clinical experience that requires direct patient care, such as: Physical Therapist, Respiratory Therapist, EMT/Paramedic, Nurse, or Certified Nursing Assistant.
Healthcare provider mentorship/shadowing experiences.
Community service hours.
The Admissions Committee assesses evidence of an applicant’s interpersonal skills, problem-solving ability, professionalism, motivation, academic potential, communication, knowledge of the PA profession and the health care system with an alignment to the mission and vision of the program. The Master of Science in Physician Assistant Program adheres to the South University Non-discrimination policy.
Accepted applicants will be required to complete the following items in order to obtain approval for matriculation in January:
- Satisfactory Criminal Background and Drug Screen Report
- Health/Immunization Requirements
- Health Insurance Documentation
- Baccalaureate Diploma Verification
- American Heart Association (AHA) Approved Basic Life Support (BLS) Certification
- FAFSA application (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) submission for those applying for financial aid
Applicants seeking admissions to the Physician Assistant program must abide by the College of Health Professions Background Check Policy and Substance Abuse and Screening Policy. Acceptance into a South University program or its completion does not guarantee that a student will be able to obtain subsequent licensure or certification.
All Physician Assistant program students are responsible for meeting matriculation deadlines and requirements as published within the campus-specific Enrollment Guide.There is a non-refundable $1000 acceptance fee for those applicants accepted into the Physician Assistant programs at South University, Savannah. Acceptance fees are applied towards tuition.
Applicants must complete all prerequisite courses listed below with a grade of C or better at a regionally accredited U.S. college or university prior to submission of his/her application. The PA program accepts prerequisite coursework completed in an online, virtual, or on-ground format from a regionally accredited U.S. college or university.
Anatomy and Physiology
2 courses (sequenced)
No course substitutions are accepted for this requirement.
Alternative Substitution for Biology II ONLY:
General Chemistry and Labs
Microbiology with Lab
No course substitutions are accepted for this requirement.
Organic Chemistry or
Lab recommended, not required.
In general, prerequisite coursework with titles that include "Essentials of," "Survey of," or "Introductory to," unless specifically designed for science majors, are considered less competitive.
Basic science courses should be those for science majors. The General Biology and Biochemistry courses are recommended to include a lab, but it is not required.
Only courses (excluding General Biology, Biochemistry, and Organic Chemistry) with an associated lab will be given credit for fulfilling prerequisite requirements. In the event that a laboratory is not offered with a prerequisite course, applicants may request the lab requirement for that course be waived by contacting the program. Lab waivers and/or course substitutions are granted at the discretion of the Admissions Committee. Applicants requesting such should be prepared to submit supporting documents, including, but not limited to, course descriptions.
The South University Master of Science in Physician Assistant program accepts credit for Advanced Placement (AP) courses. AP courses taken and successfully completed will be counted as one course credit towards completion of the respective prerequisite subject. Grades earned in AP courses are not used in the calculation of the applicant's overall or prerequisite GPA.
The South University Master of Science in Physician Assistant program does not accept College Level Examination Program (CLEP) credit for any prerequisite requirements.
South University Master of Science in Physician Assistant programs do not accept a transfer of credits from other physician assistant programs or provide enrolled students with a waiver of credit (i.e., advanced placement) for any component of the required curricular coursework. All students must complete each course in the South University Master of Science in Physician Assistant curriculum.
Admissions Calendar 2023-2024
CASPA begins accepting applications for 2023 matriculation.
June 2023 - November 2023
August 1, 2023
Application Deadline for which application must be in “Complete” status with CASPA.
No physician assistant credits from another institution may transfer into the didactic or clinical phase. Master of Science in Physician Assistant students must complete the entire 27 month program (174 credit hours) at South University.
Please click here for information on our Physician Assistant program and effectiveness in achieving program goals.
The following are program goals for the South University, Savannah Physician Assistant program:
- The program will recruit a highly qualified, diverse student cohort that will foster success in the program.
- The program will strive to adequately prepare graduating students to achieve a first-time pass rate that exceeds the national average upon completion of the Physician Assistant National Certification Examination (PANCE).
- The program will provide students service learning opportunities that allow them to use their skills and education to demonstrate compassion and commitment to the community.
(Note: Requirements for NCCPA Certification are determined by the NCCPA and are subject to change without notification to South University. Graduation from the South University, Savannah Physician Assistant program does not guarantee certification or employment.)
PANCE Certification and Attrition
Graduates of an accredited Physician Assistant program must pass the national Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE) in order to acquire state licensure to practice. This exam is developed jointly by the National Board of Medical Examiners and the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). The South University, Savannah Physician Assistant Studies program has a 96% aggregate pass rate from the inception of the program. Below are the percentage pass rates for the first time test takers of the PANCE for the past five South University Savannah, Physician Assistant Studies graduating classes.
Click the link below to view the pass rates of South University, Savannah students
Tuition and Fees
Estimated Tuition for the Master of Science in Physician Assistant (MSPA) Degree (effective January 2023)
Per quarter: $10,550.00
Total tuition: $94,950.00
Required Fees for the MSPA Degree
Acceptance Fee: $1,000.00 (Non-refundable/Applied to Tuition)
Registration Fees: $225 ($25.00 per term)
Graduation Fee: $125.00
American Academy of Physician Assistant (AAPA) Student Membership Fee: $75.00
Other Estimated Costs for the MSPA Degree
Professional Instruments: $1,100.00 (Approximate)
Textbooks: $2,610.00 ($15 per credit hour)
Technology Fee: $3,480.00 ($20 per credit hour)
Surgical Scrubs: $55.00 (Approximate)
Laptop Computer and privacy screen: $1,500.00
Background Check: $200.00-400.00 (Additional fees may apply to the base package fee contingent upon credentialing requirements of the hospital.)
State Association Fees: GAPA currently does not charge a fee.
American Heart Association approved Provider BLS: $100 (Approximate)
Estimated Total for the MSPA Degree
Tuition and Fees: $104,620.00
Tuition and fees are subject to change. The tuition for in-state and out-of-state residents is the same. Acceptance fee is non-refundable and upon acceptance is applied toward the student’s tuition. If a student decides not to attend after accepting, the fee will not be refunded.
All students are required to have a laptop computer with wireless internet access for use in the multimedia classroom. Purchase of these items is not recommended prior to acceptance into the program because of these very specific requirements.
Students may be scheduled for rotations outside the local campus geographical area.
All students should plan to travel/commute and/or relocate for some clinical rotations. Students are given the opportunity to share their scheduling preferences during their pre-clinical meetings. This will provide the Clinical Education Team with information which may have a bearing on their rotation assignments. Students are responsible for their credentialing, transportation, housing, and living expenses during their clinical year. Expenses will vary depending on the location of each rotation site.
Payment of Tuition and Fees
All charges are due and payable on or before the registration date for each quarter. Circumstances which prevent a student from adhering to these dates should be discussed with the financial aid office. Students attending school under grants and/or loans should confer with the financial aid office concerning payment of fees. Students attending school under the G.I. Bill may discuss payment of school fees with the Director of Financial Aid. Failure to make proper payments, unless otherwise cleared with the financial aid office, will result in dismissal from the university. Grades will not be issued, degrees granted, or academic transcripts furnished until all financial obligations have been satisfied and all university property returned. For refund policies, please see the academic catalog HERE.
Policies and procedures for student withdrawal, refunds of tuition and fees, policies that limit or prevent students from working during the program and policies and procedures for processing student grievances can be found in the South University catalog.
Student Handbook and Employment
For the South University, Savannah Master of Science in Physician Assistant (MSPA) program Student Handbook click here. All Physician Assistant program policies apply to all students, principal faculty, and the program director regardless of location, i.e., didactic and clinical settings.
Student EmploymentDue to the rigorous nature of the Physician Assistant program, employment during a student's course of training is strongly discouraged.
Employment must never interfere with academic or clinical assignments.
At no time is a South University Physician Assistant student allowed to or required to work for the South University Physician Assistant program or program clinical sites.
Physician Assistant at South University
South University is committed to creating career opportunities for our students, so we provide the relevant coursework for you to meet your career goals in a position as a Physician Assistant as well as the ethical and legal competencies and effective communication skills that are integral for this profession. In addition, we instill the value of continued education in our students so you can continue to create more opportunities for success in your career.
Mission & Vision
Physician Assistant Program
The South University Physician Assistant (MSPA) exists to educate a diverse student population as providers of high-quality, cost-efficient health care who will make a positive impact while practicing the art and science of medicine with physician collaboration.
The South University Master of Science in Physician Assistant (PA) degree program strives to provide educational experiences where faculty, staff, clinical instructors, students, and other health care providers work together in an atmosphere of mutual respect, cooperation, and commitment. The program’s primary focus is on the development of physician assistants capable of expanding into clinical leadership roles by demonstrating proficiency in critical thinking and creative problem solving, utilizing evidence-based skills gained through innovative approaches.
In order to ensure that patients receive the best medical care possible, the faculty of the South University Physician Assistant program has identified certain skills and professional behaviors that are essential for successful progression of physician assistant students in the program. A student must possess skills and behaviors at a level of capability to perform a variety of duties required of a physician assistant as a health care professional.
Students with disabilities who can perform these skills and successfully execute professional behavior either unassisted, with dependable use of assistive devices, or by employing other reasonable accommodations are eligible to apply for enrollment in the program. Minimum performance standards include critical thinking, communication skills, observation skills, motor skills, and interpersonal abilities. Interested parties may contact the Physician Assistant program office for additional information about South University performance standards. These skills and behaviors include, but are not limited to;
Critical Thinking: A student must possess the intellectual, ethical, physical and emotional capabilities required to undertake the full curriculum and to achieve the levels of competence required by the faculty. The ability to solve problems, a skill that is critical to the practice of medicine, requires the intellectual abilities of measurement, calculation, reasoning, analysis and synthesis. Students must be able to perform demonstrations and experiments in the basic sciences.
Communication Skills: A student should also be able to speak, to hear, and to observe patients in order to elicit information, describe changes in mood, activity and posture, and to perceive nonverbal communications. The student must be able to communicate effectively and efficiently in oral and written forms.
Observation Skills: The student must be able to observe a patient accurately, both at a distance and in close proximity. This ability requires the functional use of vision and somatic sensation.
Motor Skills: A student should have sufficient motor function to elicit information from patients by palpation, auscultation, percussion and other diagnostic techniques. A student should be able to execute movements reasonably required to move from area to area, maneuver in small spaces, calibrate and use large and small equipment, position and move patients, and provide patients with general care and emergency treatment.
Interpersonal Abilities: A student for the Physician Assistant program must possess the emotional health required for full utilization of his or her intellectual abilities, the exercise of good judgment, the prompt completion of all responsibilities required for the diagnosis and care of patients and the development of professionalism through mature, sensitive, and effective relationships with patients, families, and colleagues.
Physician Assistant Program at Savannah
Jonie Fawley, MPAS, PA-C
Program Director and Assistant Professor
Ms. Fawley is an Ohio native. She received a Bachelor of Science in Education from The Ohio State University, Physician Assistant (PA) Certification from Kettering College of Medical Arts, and a Master of Physician Assistant Studies from The University of Nebraska Medical Center, College of Medicine.
Ms. Fawley has 16 years of experience as a practicing physician assistant in the fields of family medicine, geriatrics, and neurology. Prior to arriving at South University, she served as adjunct faculty, Wright State University School of Medicine, Family Medicine Department and Assistant Professor, Emory University School of Medicine, Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, PA Program.
Ms. Fawley is a member of the Pi Alpha National Honor Society for Physician Assistants, Physician Assistant Education Association, American Academy of Physician Assistants, and the Georgia Association of Physician Assistants. She received the 2018 GAPA Faculty Achievement Award and the 2019 GAPA Faculty of the Year Award. She completed the Woodruff Health Educators Academy’s Fellowship in Educational Scholarship at Emory University in 2020.
Her teaching and research interests include active learning and critical thinking in medical education. She enjoys traveling, hiking and riding her Vespa or Can Am Spyder.
Liza Bashambu, MSPA, PA-C
Director of Didactic Education and Assistant Professor
Mrs. Bashambu is a native of northeast Ohio. She began her career in the medical field in 2010 as a Respiratory Therapist, gaining experience in neonatal and pediatric critical care. Prior to matriculation at South University, Mrs. Bashambu obtained a Bachelor of Science in Respiratory Care from Boise State University. She is a 2018 graduate of South University Savannah’s Physician Assistant Program and holds a Master of Science in Physician Assistant. She worked in Allergy/Immunology prior to returning to her alma mater as a faculty member.
Mrs. Bashambu is passionate about education and takes an interest in program admissions, pulmonology, arterial blood gas analysis, allergy/immunology, and behavioral medicine. She facilitates standardized patient events for the students each quarter, is the chair of the South University Physician Assistant Program Admissions Committee and serves on the Physician Assistant Education Association Exam Development Board for the Family Medicine and Internal Medicine End of Rotation Examinations.
She lives in Savannah with her husband and two children.
Marcy King, MSPA, PA-C
Assistant Director of Didactic Education and Assistant Professor
Mrs. King is a native of Southern Illinois. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Biological Sciences with a Minor in Chemistry from Southern Illinois University – Carbondale in 2012. She began her medical career working in Hematology/Oncology in Southern Illinois before moving to Savannah, GA in 2014. She then graduated South University’s, Savannah(location)’s Physician Assistant (PA) Program in 2016 and earned a Master of Science in Physician Assistant. Her graduation honors included the Academic Achievement Award. After graduation, her clinical career began at an Internal Medicine private practice in the Savannah area where she practiced for 6.5 years. While practicing in Internal Medicine, she precepted multiple PA students and enjoyed taking part in their education. She subsequently joined the faculty at South University in March of 2022.
Mrs. King is a member of the Physician Assistant Education Association. Her clinical interests include many subtypes of Internal Medicine, as well as women’s health and physical diagnosis. She currently lives in Savannah, GA with her husband and young daughter. Her hobbies include boating, traveling, and cooking.
John Balser, DMsc, PA-C
Mr. Balser has lived in the Savannah area since 2000, but is well traveled throughout the United States. He received his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Oklahoma, after completing the United States Army Physician Assistant Program in 1990. He has also earned a Master of Physician Assistant (PA) Studies in Orthopaedic Surgery from the University of Nebraska, a Master of Strategic Studies from the Army War College and a Doctorate of Medical Science with an emphasis in PA Education from the University of Lynchburg.
Mr. Balser is a 40-year Army veteran and retired at nearby Fort Stewart in 2021. During his Army career, he worked in Emergency Medicine, Family Medicine, Orthopaedics, General Surgery, and EENT Surgery, both state-side and during multiple operational deployments. He joined the South University, Savannah, PA Program in 2021.
Mr. Balser lives in Richmond Hill, with his wife of 38 years, and their dog. His children currently live in Richmond, Virginia and Gaithersburg, Maryland, and are an eclectic blend of Arts and Science, which makes for great conversations at dinner.
John J. Burns, III, MMSc, PA-C
Assistant Program Director and Associate Professor
Mr. Burns is a native of Savannah Georgia. He has been a member of the South University Master of Science in Physician Assistant (PA) Program faculty since 2001. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Education in Health Promotion and Behavior, from the University of Georgia. He is a 1997 graduate of the Emory University Physician Assistant Program. Upon graduation, he began his clinical career in Family Medicine at Fayette Medical Clinic in Fayetteville, Georgia. In 1999, he returned to his hometown of Savannah and began clinical practice in Endocrinology. In 2001, he joined the faculty of South University as the Associate Clinical Coordinator. He has also served as the program’s Academic Coordinator and Associate Director. In 2009, he assumed the role of Program Director.
His academic/teaching interests include PA admissions, medical communication, endocrinology, ophthalmology and physical assessment. His clinical interests include endocrinology, specifically Type 1 diabetes, and thyroid disorders.
He is a member of the American Academy of Physician Assistants, Georgia Association of Physician Assistants, and the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA). He currently serves as Lead Faculty for the PAEA Admissions PANDO Workshop. He previously served as a committee member for the CASPA Advisory Committee.
He lives in Savannah with his wife and their two children. His hobbies include reading, gardening, and golf.
Dr. Krystal Goodwin, DC, MPH
As a graduate of McKendree University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology and Logan University with a Doctorate of Chiropractic with emphasis in biomechanics and sports rehabilitation, Dr. Goodwin strives to reveal the interrelationships between structure and function of the human body by utilizing radiologic imaging, 3-dimensional models, illustrations and dissection. She is also a South University alumnus, with a Master’s Degree in Public Health. Dr. Goodwin has been awarded honors for her excellence in teaching at the college-level and distinctions form research and clinical practice. She effectively shares her educational passions and clinical experience with students through her lectures.
Ray Rudolph, M.D., MPH, FACS
Medical Director and Assistant Professor
In 2001, he and Dr. Paula DeNitto established the Center for Breast Care, the first practice in the region dedicated exclusively to care of the women with breast problems. He was nominated for the Association of Medical Colleges Humanism in Medicine Award in 2008, received the Alumni Achievement Award, Baylor College of Medicine, Physician Assistant Program in 2009, was named Surgical Oncologist of the Year 2010, National Black Leadership Initiative on Cancer; Savannah Coalition, and earned the Cancer Liaison Physician Outstanding Performance Award 2009 from the American College of Surgeons, Commission on Cancer.
He has done volunteer medical work in Ecuador in the area of tuberculosis and has shared breast surgical techniques in China. Dr. Rudolph is an assistant professor of surgery at both the Georgia Regents University (Medical College of Georgia) and Mercer University School of Medicine. Before becoming the Medical Director of the Master of Science in Physician Assistant Program at South University, he acted as a clinical assistant professor of surgery in the program since 2005. Although Dr. Rudolph retired from the active practice of surgery in late 2014, he remains a fellow of the American College of Surgeons and the American Society of Breast Surgery.
He is married to Barbara, a nurse practitioner and wife of 40 years and has two children and four grandchildren.
Mallory Capps, MSPA, PA-C
Director of Clinical Education and Assistant Professor
Mrs. Capps is a native of Wheeling, West Virginia. She completed an accelerated program at Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, completing her Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies in five years. She began her medical career working in Urgent Care in her hometown before moving to Savannah, Georgia in 2018. Mrs. Capps continued to work in Urgent Care as a front-line worker through the COVID-19 pandemic. After six years of clinical practice, she joined the faculty at South University in July 2023. She is passionate about teaching women's health, medical decision making, and procedural skills.
Mrs. Capps is a member of the American Academy of Physician Assistants and Georgia Association for Physician Assistants. She currently lives in Richmond Hill, Georgia with her husband and son. Her husband is also a Physician Assistant. She enjoys gardening, attending church, and spoiling her golden retriever, Ollie.
Dawn O'Brien, MSPA, PA-C
Dawn graduated with honors from South University’s PA Program in 2018. She received her BA in English Literature from the University of Georgia in 2005. Originally from Atlanta, Dawn met her husband in Savannah during PA school. She fell in love with him and with Savannah and decided to stay on here as a "local” herself after graduation!
Dawn has been employed as PA at Southern Urgent Care on Whitemarsh Island since 2018, where she enjoys the variety of patients seen in Urgent Care, as well as the small practice environment. Dawn is also involved in the care of military reservists and performs disability evaluations for Veterans through the VA. She feels very fortunate for the opportunity to serve this patient population.
Outside of work, Dawn enjoys hiking, yoga, reading, spending time in her garden, being on or around the water in any capacity, and unwinding with her 4 dogs, family, and friends.
Robert C. Dichiera, DSc Clinical Orthopedics, PA-C
Mr. Dichiera was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Exercise and Sports Sciences with a specialization in Athletic Training from the University of Florida in 1998. He worked as an Athletic Trainer for several years at the clinic, high school, and Collegiate levels prior to enlisting in the United States Army. He is a graduate of the Uniformed Services Interservice Physician Assistant Program (IPAP) where in 2010 he earned a Master’s Degree in Physician Assistant Studies from the University of Nebraska Medical Center. In 2014 he completed the U.S. Army – Baylor University Fellowship in Clinical Orthopedics leading to a Doctor of Science in Clinical Orthopedics.
Mr. Dichiera is a 20-year Army veteran and has worked as an Army Physician Assistant at home and abroad. He has served as a Primary Care and Orthopedic Provider, Orthopedic Clinic Chief, Fracture Clinic Chief, as well a Site Clinical Coordinator for the Interservice Physician Assistant Program.
Mr. Dichiera lives in Richmond Hill with his wife of 30 years. They have four wonderful adult children working as professionals in various fields. His hobbies include woodworking and wood turning as well as outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, and kayaking.
Jeffrey Morgan, DMSc, PA-C
Briana Evans, MSPA, PA-C
Catherine A. Whiddon, CMA
Administrative Assistant for the Master of Science in Physician Assistant Program
Ms. Whiddon was born and raised in Bridgewater, NJ before moving to Dover, DE then Wahiawa, HI before coming to Hinesville, Georgia. While in Hinesville, she followed in her grandmother’s footsteps and became an Emergency Medical Technician-Intermediate, graduating from Savannah Technical College in the first graduating class from the Liberty Campus.
Ms. Whiddon then worked as an EMT-I with MedLift Ambulance in Savannah, Georgia until its closing due to the merging of St Joseph Hospital with Candler Hospital. Ms. Whiddon worked with the former owner and became Co-Owner/ Operator of MedLift Transport which was a non-emergency transport company contracted with Hospice Savannah.
Ms. Whiddon then attended South University, (location)’s Associate of Science in Medical Assisting Degree Program, graduating class of 2013 working as a Medical Assistant for more than 9 years
Ms. Whiddon resides in Port Wentworth, Georgia and has two daughters. Hobbies include home improvement projects, history, learning and anything medical.
Nartaka Walls, MPH
Clinical Manager for the College of Health Professions
Ms. Walls is a native of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. An Army veteran, she obtained her Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Administration from Saint Leo University. She worked in various private practice settings throughout Savannah, GA to include family medicine, internal medicine, neurology, and hematology/oncology.
Ms. Walls joined South University in 2017 as the Clinical Coordinator. In 2020, she earned a Master of Public Health Degree with Honors at South University, Savannah. In 2022, she was promoted to Clinical Manager of the College of Health Professions. She is passionate about education and enjoys teaching credentialing classes to prepare students for their upcoming clinical year. She has received numerous accolades and recognition for her dedication and commitment to students and the clinical program.
Ms. Walls lives in Savannah with her family and two dogs. She enjoys cooking and traveling with her family.
Ms. Simone Baker is a native of Savannah, Georgia. At an early age, she became passionate about the medical field. She started her studies with a goal to become a nurse like her mother, but transitioned her interests into administration. In 2013 she completed her Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Administration at Saint Leo University. Prior to, throughout college, and after she acquired administrative and clinical experience, working at a local hospital and a few physician practices.
Ms. Baker acquired most of her clinical working experience in Mental Health Research in which she thoroughly enjoyed. During her time in research, she became interested in adult education and the work required to create and validate programs. She returned to school and obtained her Master’s degree in Adult Education and Community Leadership. After completing her graduate studies, Ms. Baker held positions in the local government and educational sectors. She joined the South University Physician Assistant Program in 2023 as the Clinical Coordinator.
Trish Dillon is a native of Oakland, California. She later moved to Montana and obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Art from the University of Montana. She is currently working on completing her Master’s in Art History from Academy of Art University. She has 16 years of experience in youth and college preparatory services, as spent six years working for Montana Technological University’s TRIO programs.
Ms. Dillon, an Army veteran worked as a Bradley Fighting Vehicle System Maintainer with the 1-163rd Infantry Regiment, both state side and during an operational deployment in the middle east. She joined the South University PA program in 2023.
Ms. Dillon lives in Savannah Georgia with a lot of art and baking supplies as she has mastered the art of baking cheesecake.
Lloyd McCray is a native of West Palm Beach, Florida. He moved to Savannah and obtained his Bachelor’s in History from Savannah State University. In 2012, Mr. McCray received his Master’s in Academic Advising/Counseling at Kansas State University. He has 16 years of experience in Academic Advising and Higher Ed. Prior to his academic advising role, he was a high school history teacher, behavior interventionist, and head basketball coach.
Mr. McCray has a passion for mentoring and advising. He has led numerous mentoring programs for youth, teens, and college students. His passion is mentoring, teaching, and advising tomorrow’s future leaders. Mr. McCray utilizes his mentorship through teaching and instructing Karate.
Mr. McCray resides in Savannah, Georgia, with his wife and children. His hobbies are competing and teaching Karate, mentoring youth and young adults, and spending time with family.
Physician Assistant Clinical Rotations
The clinical phase is 12 months in length. Eight five-week clinical rotations are conducted at a variety of clinical sites. Students will gain clinical exposure in the following disciplines: Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, General Surgery, Pediatrics, Women's Health, Behavioral Medicine, Emergency Medicine and the Clinical Elective.
Clinical sites are recruited by the Program’s Clinical Department and personnel from the Area Health Education Center (AHEC). Sites offer the students the wide variety of clinical experiences for that specific clinical rotation (course) and service delivery system. Students are not required to supply their own clinical sites or preceptors for clinical rotations. Sites for rotations will be determined by the department. Alternate rotation sites may be provided by the student to the Clinical Department personnel. Clinical Department personnel will evaluate sites suggested by students for viability as a clinical rotation site. In order to qualify for rotations outside of South University sites, or in student suggested sites, a student must demonstrate successful academic, clinical, and professional progress in the program.
The South University Physician Assistant program immunization policy is aligned with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Healthcare Personnel Vaccination Recommendations for health professionals. After acceptance into the program, but before registration can be successfully completed, all students must complete the South University Health Requirements. Be aware that additional immunizations may be required by some clinical training sites and are the students’ responsibility. If students choose not to be vaccinated, they will not be allowed to rotate at clinical sites that require immunizations unless expressly permitted in writing to the program by the appropriate personnel at that site. If any of the core (required) rotations cannot be completed because the student voluntarily chose not to be vaccinated as required by the clinical rotation site, the student will not be eligible for graduation from the Physician Assistant program. In addition, if the number of clinical sites available to students who have not been vaccinated does not meet graduation requirements, those students will not be eligible for graduation from the Physician Assistant program.
Physicians, physician assistants, and other health care providers serve as preceptors for clinical students in direct patient care, providing the opportunity for the student to perfect technical and procedural skills, and to become competent in communication, physical diagnosis, succinct recording and reporting, problem assessment, and development of a logical approach to further studies and therapy.
Our students rotate in busy clinics, private physician offices, teaching hospitals, large institutions, and military hospitals and clinics. Rotations exist both in small towns and metropolitan cities. Our students are offered a wide variety of experiences and locations for their clinical rotations that are designed to round out the application of knowledge and skills to actual patient care.
The following are the program learning outcomes (Graduate Competencies) for the South University Physician Assistant program.
Prior to graduation from the program, students will:
• PLO-1. Integrate behavioral, social, and medical knowledge established from the evolving biomedical and clinical sciences in recognizing, evaluating, and managing patient disease states across the lifespan during acute, chronic, preventative, and emergent encounters..
• PLO-2. Demonstrate the interpersonal and communication skills required to sustain effective, multi-directional information exchange within a diverse population of patients, their caregivers, and members of the healthcare team.
• PLO-3. Demonstrate the ability to elicit an accurate patient history, perform an appropriate physical examination, and perform appropriate clinical procedures using essential clinical and technical skills to provide quality patient care.
• PLO-4. Collaborate effectively as part of an interdisciplinary healthcare team through clinical reasoning and problem-solving skills to formulate a logical differential diagnosis, select and interpret appropriate diagnostic studies, and synthesize a comprehensive, patient-centered management plan for the promotion of wellness and disease prevention.
• PLO-5. Demonstrate the ability to interpret and integrate an evidence-based approach to clinical and professional practice through clinical reasoning, problem- solving, and decision-making processes to improve patient care practices.
• PLO-6. Demonstrate professionalism through personal behaviors, sensitivity, and accountability essential to patients, society, and the profession.
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