University of Toledo appeals accreditation status of its Physician Assistant program

The University of Toledo submitted an official letter of appeal to the Accreditation Review Commission for Physician Assistants Nov. 3 to return the Physician Assistant program to probationary accreditation status.


This comes after UT was notified by ARC-PA in a letter received Oct. 6 that the program’s accreditation was being withdrawn.


This letter cited many reasons for the withdrawal, including an insufficient amount of faculty, an inability of the program to conduct a meaningful self-assessment and inadequate resources to educate students.


The PA program department chair, Patricia Hogue, and interim program director Linda Dill were both replaced in the wake of the withdrawal, wrote University of Toledo President Sharon Gaber in a statement.   


The notice of appeal letter sent to the commission states that the review panel should reverse the decision because “the program believes it has demonstrated that the program was in compliance with the majority of the cited standards at the time of the site visit.”


PA program administrators say this statement is supported by the program’s application for continuing accreditation, the self-study report completed by the program, and sufficient documentation that was given to the inspectors during the June visit.


The letter also claims that the reasons ARC-PA cited as areas of the program’s non-compliance are “erroneous, inaccurate and incomplete.”


The university argues that there were a sufficient number of employees within the program, including four full-time PA employees, a handful of administrators, and professors from other departments who aided in PA instruction in subjects such as anatomy and physiology at the time of inspection, according to the letter.


According to the appeal letter, “The program disagrees with the conclusion that it is unable to conduct meaningful program self-assessment and prepare a self-study report.”


The letter goes on to state that the commission’s claims against the PA program were inappropriate and misleading, stating that the university and program directors were given adequate oversight and analysis throughout the entire process.


In ARC-PA’s notice, they stated that PA students are not given an adequate education and that the program lacks resources to carry that out. UT rejected this claim in the appeals letter, stating that the program’s students had a 100-percent passing rate for the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination over the past decade.


However, according to the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination Five Year First Time Taker Summary Report on UT’s website, the 2012 graduating class was the only class to receive a 100-percent pass rate. The following classes’ pass rates were 95 percent in 2013, 85 percent in 2014, 92 percent in 2015 and 74 percent in 2016.


The PA program’s letter also states that there were sufficient staff, contrary to what ARC-PA reported in its notice letter. 


First-year physician assistant major Allie Pangallo said that when the withdrawal was first announced she was very worried about the future of the program and her entire education, but after learning more about the situation and talking to many PA graduate students and faculty, she has no worries.


"The single thing that matters to me the most is that we look out for our students who are currently enrolled,” Christopher Cooper, executive vice president for clinical affairs and dean of the College of Medicine and Life Sciences, said. 


The university is proposing an additional site visit by ARC-PA this spring, when ARC-PA would decide if the program should be returned to continued accreditation status, according to the appeal letter.


If that plan is successful, a new class of only twenty students will be admitted in fall 2018.


The letter states that rejecting the appeal would be a disservice to the community because UT has historically accepted and graduated many underrepresented minorities into the profession and received the Physician Assistant Education Association Excellence Through Diversity Award in 2011.


2017 graduates will be able to graduate from the program with accredited status, but, for this to happen, the university must submit a teach-out program to ARC-PA that will allow the university to teach current students through graduation, according to the PA program’s website.



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