Master of Science in Physician Assistant
The South University West Palm Beach Master of Science in Physician Assistant (MSPA) program instills fundamental medical concepts, provides students with the knowledge, skills, and critical thinking necessary to achieve clinical competence as medical professionals who will serve as valued members of the healthcare team. Physician assistants perform medical functions that include, but are not limited to, evaluation, monitoring, diagnostics, therapeutics, counseling, and referral. The scope of practice varies according to state laws, the medical setting, and the experience of the physician assistant. The Master of Science in Physician Assistant program at South University’s West Palm Beach campus 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 ARC-PA has granted Accreditation-Provisional status to the South University, West Palm Beach Physician Assistant Program sponsored by South University, West Palm Beach. 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. Accreditation-Provisional does not ensure any subsequent accreditation status. It is limited to no more than five years from matriculation of the first class. The program’s accreditation history can be viewed on the ARC-PA website at http://www.arc-pa.org/accreditation-history-south-university-west-palm-beach/
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 November 1st annually.
To apply for the Master of Science in Physician Assistant degree program at South University, West Palm Beach, 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 West Palm Beach program GRE Code: 7108. 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 3.15.
- Applicants must submit scores from the GRE general exam directly to the CASPA service using the South University PA program code 7108. 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.
Clarification of PA Program Admission Policies Due to COVID-19
The South University Physician Assistant (PA) programs recognize the unique challenges faced by students and academic institutions during the COVID-19 pandemic. South University will continue to accept prerequisite courses, including lab work, completed online or on campus from any regionally-accredited U.S. college or university.
Due to the awarding of “Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory” or “Pass/Fail” grading for courses completed during the COVID-19 pandemic the South University PA program is providing clarification of its admission policies based on these grading scale changes.
- The South University PA programs will accept “Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory” or “Pass/Fail” grades for courses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic as submitted through CASPA.
- Applicants are advised to visit the CASPA Applicant Help Center for more information regarding effects of non-letter grades on CASPA-calculated GPAs.
- When possible, the South University PA Program admissions committee recommends students elect to receive letter grades for these courses if the option is available.
- The South University PA programs will continue to require GRE scores at the time of CASPA application submission.
Students with concerns regarding how “Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory” or “Pass/Fail” grades in courses taken during the COVID-19 pandemic terms have affected their CASPA-calculated GPA may apply for an additional GPA review through the PA Admissions Committee.
The South University PA programs will revisit this policy and make additional changes if necessary in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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 3.15.
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 $1000 acceptance fee, which is non-refundable, for those applicants accepted into the Physician Assistant program at South University, West Palm Beach. Acceptance fees are applied towards tuition.
If you have questions in regards to the Application Process, please contact the West Palm Beach Master of Science in Physician Assistant program office by calling 561-273-6520 or by email at email@example.com.
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 2022-2023
End of April 2022
CASPA begins accepting applications for 2023 matriculation.
June 2022 - November 2022
November 3, 2022
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.
The following are program goals for the South University, West Palm Beach 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.
Please click HERE for information on our Physician Assistant program and effectiveness in achieving program goals.
(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, West Palm Beach 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 report will be available once the first cohort completes the exam.
South University does not guarantee third-party certification/licensure. Outside agencies control the requirements for taking and passing certification/licensing exams and are subject to change without notice to South University.
To view the South University, West Palm Beach PA program student attrition information, please click HERE.
Tuition and Fees
Estimated Tuition for the Master of Science in Physician Assistant (MSPA) Degree (effective October 2022)
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: $400.00-600.00 (Additional fees may apply to the base package fee contingent upon credentialing requirements of the hospital.)
State Association Fees: $60.00
American Heart Association approved BLS: $100 (Approximate)
Estimated Total for the MSPA Degree
Tuition and Fees: $104,880.00
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 EmploymentFor the South University, West Palm Beach Master of Science in Physician Assistant (MSPA) program Student Handbook please 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.
Due 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 West Palm Beach
The South University, West Palm Beach Master of Science in Physician Assistant Program welcomes you!
The South University, West Palm Beach Master of Science in Physician Assistant Program
Dr. Ilaria Gadalla, DMSc, PA-C, FHM
Interim Dean of the College of Health Professions, Associate Professor
Dr. Ilaria Gadalla joined South University in January 2016 and founded the South University, West Palm Beach Master of Science in Physician Assistant (“MSPA”) program. A native of New Orleans, she brings over 14 years of clinical experience as a Physician Assistant in the fields of Hospitalist Medicine, Cardiology, Nephrology, and outpatient Internal Medicine. She graduated with a Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies from Albany Medical College in Albany, New York. She completed a Doctor of Medical Science with the University of Lynchburg in Virginia. She previously worked as a Respiratory Therapist and obtained a Bachelor of Science in Cardiopulmonary Science from the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Dr. Gadalla was nationally recognized with an Award of Excellence in the category of Clinical Leadership for Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants by the Society of Hospital Medicine (SHM) in 2020. The Clinical Leadership Award recognizes outstanding contributions to patient care and quality improvement, leadership of clinical care in hospital medicine, promotion of clinical knowledge, innovations in the role of a NP/PA or contributions to their hospital/hospitalist group, and excellence in creative collaboration, excellence in operations, and/or excellence in program development. In addition, she published with SHM the Hospital Medicine NP/PA Practice Integration and Optimization Statement to assist clinicians and administrators in Hospital Medicine and to promote exceptional care for hospitalized patients.
Dr. Gadalla has a variety of leadership experience across her professional career. Most recently, she was recognized as a Fellow in Hospital Medicine, appointed the Southeast Florida Division Advance Practice Providers Director for the Society of Hospital Medicine (SHM), and the first PA member of the Hospitalist Editorial Board. In addition, she has served as the chair of the SHM NP/PA Executive Council, and as a committee member of the SHM Practice Management Committee, the PAEA Governance and Ethics Board, and the American College of Cardiology (ACC) Cardiovascular Team Physician Assistants Committee.
She is an active member of the Florida Academy of Physician Assistants (FAPA), a fellow of the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA), the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA), the Palm Beach County Medical Society, and the South Florida Hospital and Healthcare Association.
Dr. Gadalla continues to serve the local community as a Hospitalist and volunteer clinician. She enjoys boxing, cycling, swimming, and painting in her spare time
Dr. Robin Schugar, DHSc, MSPA, PA-C
Program Director, Associate Professor
Dr. Robin Schugar joined the South University, West Palm Beach Master of Science in Physician Assistant (“MSPA”) program in March 2020. Dr. Schugar has been a practicing PA for over 20 years and brings more than 13 years of experience as a PA educator. She started her career in medicine as a surgical PA in her home state of Maryland. She worked both in the operative and post-operative settings within a variety of surgical specialties to include cardiothoracic, vascular, general surgery, gynecologic and orthopedics. In 2008, she moved to Florida and worked in the Urgent Care setting before being recruited into academia. She continues to work clinically serving our men and women in uniform providing health assessments for the military.
Dr. Schugar graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Business and Public Administration from the University of Arizona. She then pursued her Master in Physician Assistant Studies from Arcadia University (previously known as Beaver College) in Glenside, PA. In 2014, Robin earned her Doctor of Health Science from A. T. Still University.
Since moving to Florida, Dr. Schugar has been actively involved with the Florida Academy of Physician Assistants (FAPA), and was the South Regional Director covering Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe and Palm Beach counties for three years. She served as a representative for the House of Delegates for FAPA to the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA). She has been a member on the Board of Directors for the Broward County Medical Association for the last seven years. In addition to her leadership experience in PA associations, Dr. Schugar has held several academic leadership positions over the past 13 years in PA education within the local South Florida community.
Dr. Schugar is an innovator in PA education and has been on the forefront of integrating simulation across the MSPA curriculum. She has held leadership roles in both the didactic and clinical phases of the programs she has served. In the wake of a devastating hurricane, her tireless dedication to her students was exhibited as they all successfully graduated on time with many returning home to serve the healthcare needs of their community.
Dr. Schugar is very passionate about the military and animals (especially her dogs and cats). She is excited to be part of building an innovative new MSPA program in West Palm Beach!
Dr. Jeffrey M. Bishop, DO
Dr. Jeffrey Bishop is a Board Certified Family Medicine Physician who earned his degree from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1985. Prior to medical school, he spent 10 years in the United States Navy and earned his undergraduate degree as Bachelor of Science in Medicine as a Physician Assistant from the University of Nebraska. He was one of the youngest Physician Assistants (PA) in the United States Navy and achieved the rank of Chief Warrant Officer, which guided his path towards medical school. Dr. Bishop has been a resident of South Florida for over 60 years, and has been in the Wellington/Royal Palm Beach area servicing patients and the community for the past 30 years. He joined the South University, West Palm Beach Master of Science in Physician Assistant (“MSPA”) Program in 2019.
He was a former owner and practicing physician at Western Communities Family Practice, the largest Primary Care Practice of its time in Palm Beach County, and retired from his very active Family Medicine Practice in 2006. He then became the Chief Medical Officer at Wellington Regional Medical Center (WRMC) and the Director of Medical Education where he served until 2013. Over the years, Dr. Bishop has held several leadership positions at WRMC and the community. He was on the Board of Governors at WRMC for 25 years, the Chairman of the Board for 5 years, Vice Chief and Chief of Staff for a period of 6 years combined, Chairman of the Utilization Management Committee, and developed the Surgery and Medicine Peer Review programs at WRMC. Dr. Bishop was awarded a Proclamation from the Mayor of Wellington in 2007 in recognition for his dedication to the local community. He developed the Medical Board of Governors in 2011 on which he continues to serve on through the Central Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce. In his spare time, Dr. Bishop had a professional racecar team for 15 years, which raced throughout the eastern coast of the United States.
Kristen Smethurst, MPAS, PA-C
Assistant Program Director, Assistant Professor
Ms. Kristen Smethurst joined the South University, West Palm Beach Master of Science in Physician Assistant (“MSPA”) Program in January 2020. She was born in Texas and raised outside of Washington, DC. She attended Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree. Later, she earned a Masters of Physician Assistant Studies from the University of Florida. Ms. Smethurst has practiced clinically for over 19 years in the areas of Emergency Medicine, Internal Medicine, Women’s Health, and Urgent Care. In prior academic settings, she served as the Director of Clinical Education and was active on several institutional committees.
In 2014, Ms. Smethurst moved with her family to Australia for 3 years. While there, she was an avid volunteer and traveler. Since returning to Florida in 2017 she worked in urgent care and currently volunteers in the community doing HIV testing and counseling. Professor Smethurst has experience teaching: women’s health, behavioral health, clinical procedures, epidemiology and biostatistics, clinical laboratory medicine, amongst others. She is currently enrolled in a Doctor of Medical Sciences program with an expected graduation date of August 2022. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling with her family and watching her daughter play volleyball. She is proud to be part of the founding faculty for the South University, West Palm Beach Master of Science in Physician Assistant Program!
Lysa Diggins, MMS, PA-C
Director of Didactic Education, Assistant Professor
Mrs. Lysa Diggins joined the South University, West Palm Beach Master of Science in Physician Assistant (“MSPA”) Program in May 2021. She was born in New York, and raised in Florida. She attended Williams College in Massachusetts as a QuestBridge National Scholar, and obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in both Psychology, and Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies. Her senior capstone project focused on the lack of access to quality healthcare for transgender patients. She then completed a Post-Baccalaureate program in Biology at Indian River State College. Throughout her studies, she worked in a research laboratory involved in vaccine development and gene therapy involving HIV/AIDS clinical research.
She began her medical career in nursing, and worked at Martin Health System in Stuart, FL, for 3 years as a Patient Care Technician II in Cardiology and Team Center Coordinator of Orthopedics. She then earned a Master of Medical Science (MMS) degree at Nova Southeastern University in 2018. Since then, Mrs. Diggins has worked in both Family Medicine at a Federally Qualified Health Center in Miami, and Urgent Care, where she continues to practice clinically. Mrs. Diggins is a distinguished scholar of both the National Health Service Corps and Horatio Alger Association. She is an active member of the American Academy of Physician Assistants & the Florida Academy of Physician Assistants, of which she served as a member of the Cultural Diversity Committee from 2016-2018. She is also a National Certified Medical Examiner for the Department of Transportation, and actively working towards obtaining her HIV Specialist certification through the American Academy of HIV Medicine.
Mrs. Diggins is passionate about continuing to serve the medically underserved, as well as mentoring first generation college students. Throughout her career, she has passionately served as a preceptor to many medical and PA students. She is eager to advance her career into academia in empowering future Physician Assistants to practice competently and compassionately.
Kimberly Dawkins, MSPAS, PA-C
Director of Clinical Education, Assistant Professor
Mrs. Kimberly Dawkins joined the South University, West Palm Beach Master of Science in Physician Assistant (“MSPA”) Program since 2019 as a Program Advisory Committee member prior to joining as principal faculty. Raised in Somerset, New Jersey, Mrs. Dawkins received her Bachelor of Science from Hampton University and a certificate of Physician Assistant studies from Hofstra University in New York. She received her Master in Physician Assistant Studies from Touro College In New York and is currently pursuing her Doctorate in Medical Science from the University of Lynchburg, Virginia.
Prior to pursuing a career in academia, Mrs. Dawkins practiced with the Abdominal Transplant program at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx for 3 years. Mrs. Dawkins then transitioned into the General Surgery program at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan where she expanded her clinical skills by working with the bariatric, colorectal, vascular programs and precepting students. After moving to South Florida in 2014, she began practicing and currently works in Hospitalist medicine where she has mentored future PA students. She continues to serve on the Diversity and Inclusion Committee and other local medical chapters to support the Palm Beach community with development and improvement of programs dedicated to the underserved communities. Outside of working as a physician assistant, she has taken on leadership roles with Jack and Jill of America and other networks of community service. She enjoys needlework, podcasts, and cooking in her spare time.
Monique Jaquith, DMSc, PA-C,
Director of Admissions, Assistant Professor
Dr. Monique Jaquith, joined the South University, West Palm Beach Master of Science in Physician Assistant (“MSPA”) Program in June 2021. She earned her Doctoral Degree in Medical Science from the University of Lynchburg in 2021, her Master of Science Degree in Physician Assistant Studies from Keiser University in 2011, and her Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry from Florida Atlantic University in 2009. Dr. Jaquith also serves as the faculty advisor for the Student Government Association supporting several student and faculty endeavors demonstrating service-learning in the Palm Beach community. She has over a decade of experience as a physician assistant in family medicine and urgent care - where she continues to work clinically. Dr. Jaquith is also a member of the Florida Academy of Physician Assistants, the American Academy of Physician Assistants, and the Medical Group Management Association.
In her spare time, Dr. Jaquith enjoys outdoor adventures such as hiking and bike riding. She also enjoys watching binge-worthy TV shows. She is a huge animal lover, and she has multiple four-legged fur children at home. Dr. Jaquith is proud to be part of the South University, West Palm Beach, PA Program and help foster the next generation of physician assistants!
Tammy Gaines, MPAS, PA-C
Assistant Professor, Principal Faculty
Tammy Gaines joined the South University, West Palm Beach Master of Science in Physician Assistant Program in September 2021. She was born and raised in Connecticut. She attended Western Connecticut State University where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree. She later earned a Masters of Physician Assistant studies from Damen College in Amherst, New York. Mrs. Gaines has practiced clinically for over 15 years in the areas of Orthopedic Medicine and Pain Management in an outpatient and hospital setting.
In 2018, Mrs. Gaines moved to Florida with her family. She continues to practice in Pain Management. In her free time she enjoys traveling, jogging and spending time with her family. Mrs. Gaines is eager to advance her career in academia where she can help shape future Physician Assistants.
Sondra Nantes, MMS, PA-C
Assistant Professor, Principal Faculty
Ms. Sondra Nantes joined the South University, West Palm Beach Master of Science in Physician Assistant (“MSPA”) program in October 2021. She was born in Massachusetts and attended Mount Holyoke College as a Frances Perkins Scholar and obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology. Throughout her undergraduate studies she worked in clinical research with a focus on heart failure. She then earned a Master of Medical Science from Yale Medical School Physician Associate program and completed her thesis on “Long-term high-dose thiamine supplementation for the treatment of heart failure”. Prior to pursing academics, she worked for the cruise industry traveling the world to remote locations. For the last 11 years, she has been practicing in the specialty of Emergency Medicine and has worked in a variety of settings including: urban hospitals in Miami, rural ERs in Maine, and even as a solo emergent medical provider on the island of Nantucket. In her spare time she enjoys being by the ocean, playing with her dogs, cooking, travelling, and going on flying adventures in single engine aircraft with her husband.
Caroline Kamel, MD
Assistant Professor, Principal Faculty
Dr. Kamel joined the South University West Palm Beach Master of Science in Physician Assistant (“MSPA”) Program in April of 2021 as a faculty member. She began her academic career with South University, West Palm Beach in 2015 instructing in the Health Sciences and Public Health department. She received her medical degree in Cairo University in 2001 and practiced as a hospitalist with nephrology training. In addition, she completed residency in pediatrics and NICU before practicing in outpatient family practice.
Her main passion through her medical and academic years continues to be serving lower socioeconomic areas and participating in health education and preventative screenings to disadvantaged communities. She looks forward to engaging the students in service-learning opportunities within the Palm Beach County area as the faculty advisor to the student government association.
Mallorie Williams, MBA
Physician Assistant Student Advisor
Mallorie Williams is a Florida native with over nine years of experience working in higher education. Mallorie joined South University, West Palm Beach Master of Science in Physician Assistant (“MSPA”) Program in January 2020. She graduated cum laude with her bachelor’s from Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers and later went on to complete an MBA with Strayer University. With a passion for leadership and development, she earned a Graduate Leadership Certificate from the Jack Welch Management Institute. In her spare time, she enjoys playing tennis, scuba diving, and volunteering within the community. Mallorie has a passion for helping students achieve their goals, and relishes watching them succeed from the day they step on campus to the day they proudly earn their degree.
Claudine Ellis, BS
Claudine joined South University, West Palm Beach Master of Science in Physician Assistant (“MSPA”) Program in June 2021. She earned her Associate of Science in Tourism Management from Western Hospitality in 2012 and has over ten years working in hospitality as an Administrative Assistant supporting senior-level managers. She later went on to complete her Bachelors of Science Degree from Keiser University and worked as a Healthcare Coordinator where she was able to provide superior care, optimal client support and increase patients’ satisfaction.
She brings her passion for organization, creativity, dedication and hard-working mindset to her work. She uses her positive attitude to help and motivate students to accomplish their goals.
In her spare time, she enjoys spending time exploring towns, reading, listening to music, visiting the beach, volunteering within the community, and spending time with her friends and family.
She believes that her commitment to each individual student’s success will support their growth and make a positive difference in the community. She is excited to bring her enthusiasm and experiences to the South University, West Palm Beach Master of Science in Physician Assistant Program.
Sheryl Hicks-Williams, MS
Mrs. Sheryl Hicks-Williams joined South University, West Palm Beach Master of Science Physician Assistant (“MSPA”) program in June 2022. Born in New York, raised in New Jersey, she relocated to Florida 25 years ago. She brings over 20 years combined administrative assistant experience including Operations Manager in a Florida hospital's inpatient mental health unit and as an office manager/administrative assistant with several New Jersey hospital and outpatient medical facility settings.
Sheryl earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Management and her Master of Science degree in Organizational Leadership from Palm Beach Atlantic University. She later went back to school to become a Licensed Massage Therapist. She served in this field as a therapist caring for individuals with alcohol and substance abuse issues in two drug rehabilitation programs.
Her sense of servant leadership offers strong support to the PA program for successful outcomes of students relative to the program's vision. In addition to her professional responsibilities, Sheryl enjoys spending time with family and friends, reading, expanding her knowledge in new areas, volunteering, and faith-based activities
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: Primary Care, 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.
Physician Assistant Learning Outcomes
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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