The Duke Physician Assistant Program’s incoming class contains the highest percentage of underrepresented minorities the program has accepted in more than a decade.
The Class of 2020 will include 10 African-American students, 14 Hispanic students and one Native American student — approximately 28 percent of the 90 students accepted. The Duke PA program has averaged an acceptance rate of 18 percent underrepresented minorities for the past 10 years.
Additionally, 46 percent of accepted students in the Class of 2020 are educationally and/or economically disadvantaged, as determined by Physician Assistant Education Association guidelines. This is the largest percentage since the Class of 2016’s 47 percent.
Over the past two years, the program has refocused recruitment efforts across North Carolina and at a number of historically black colleges and universities across the nation, in addition to taking part in information sessions online and hosting on-campus sessions. The program uses a holistic approach to candidate selection, which heavily considers life experience and dedication to community service, as opposed to solely focusing on academic performance.
Admissions Coordinator Wendy Elwell, M.S., says this approach has helped attract a very diverse student population.
“While we still look at numbers — we want every person who comes here to have a firm foundation to succeed — we are not, by any means, numbers-driven,” Elwell says. “We look at each unique applicant as a human being. For example, an applicant may be the first person in his/her family to attend college and is doing so while working full time. That applicant may not have a 4.0 GPA or even a 3.5, but that applicant has something that others may not: grit and determination. This is how each of the over 2,400 applications are considered.”
The increase in underrepresented minorities and educationally and/or economically disadvantaged PA students is significant because health care providers need to represent the diversity of the communities they serve, says Jacqueline Barnett, DHSc, MSHS, PA-C, associate professor of community and family medicine and associate program director.
“Diversity matters,” says Barnett, who chairs the admissions committee. “Over the past two years we have worked very hard to further align our admissions process to the program’s mission and I believe these efforts are paying dividends. We know from the literature that underrepresented students are more likely to attend programs they perceive as inclusive and where they see others who look like them
Mission of the Duke Physician Assistant Program
To educate caring, competent primary care physician assistants who practice evidence-based medicine, are leaders in the profession, dedicated to their communities, culturally sensitive, and devoted to positive transformation of the health care system.