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Admissions Variables

Predictors of Physician Assistant Student Success

Honda, Trenton PhD, PA-C; Patel-Junankar, Dipu MPAS, PA-C; Baginski, Robert MD; Scott, Rebecca PhD, PA-C

The Journal of Physician Assistant Education: September 2018 - Volume 29 - Issue 3 - p 167–172
doi: 10.1097/JPA.0000000000000212
Brief Report

Purpose Physician assistant (PA) programs have heterogeneous admissions processes, but limited information is available as to which preadmission variables are associated with the greatest PA program success. We assessed the associations between preadmission criteria and PA program outcomes while accounting for numerous potential confounders and potential cohort effects.

Methods In a sample of 147 students from a single New England PA program, we used random intercept multiple regression models to examine the associations between 2 PA program outcomes—Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE) scores and PA program grade point averages (GPAs)—and multiple predictors of interest, including undergraduate GPA; hours of paid, hands-on patient care experience; and undergraduate institution rank. Fully adjusted models additionally controlled for age and educationally or economically disadvantaged background.

Results In fully adjusted models, a 1-unit increase in undergraduate GPA (54.55 ± 20.32, P = .012) and a 10% increase in preadmission clinical experience hours (18.32 ± 8.50, P = .033) were significantly associated with increased PANCE scores. When PA program GPA was examined as an outcome, only undergraduate GPA was significantly associated (0.15 ± 0.05, P = .004). Undergraduate institution rank was not a significant predictor in any model.

Conclusions Undergraduate GPA and preadmission clinical experience hours were significant predictors of student outcomes in this small, retrospective cohort study. Undergraduate institution rank was highly nonsignificant in all models. These findings add to the burgeoning literature on admissions predictors of PA program success.

Trenton Honda, PhD, PA-C, is division chief and an associate professor in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at the University of Utah School of Medicine in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Dipu Patel-Junankar, MPAS, PA-C, is an assistant clinical professor and associate program director at the Northeastern University Physician Assistant Program in Boston, Massachusetts.

Robert Baginski, MD, is an assistant clinical professor and medical director at the Northeastern University Physician Assistant Program in Boston, Massachusetts.

Rebecca Scott, PhD, PA-C, is an assistant professor and program director at the Center for Physician Assistant Studies, Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island.

Correspondence should be addressed to: Trenton Honda, PhD, PA-C, Division Chief, Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, University of Utah School of Medicine, 375 Chipeta Way, Ste. A, Salt Lake City, UT 84108. Telephone: (801) 581-7766; Email:

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Copyright © 2018 Physician Assistant Education Association
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