By Ilaria Gadalla, DMSc, PA-C, FHM, and Mike Mingione, MHSc, CAA

Healthcare education is an essential element to assuring all patients have access to medical care. We continue to see the supply in physicians is not meeting the patient demand with staffing shortages and appointments booked out 3-4 months as studied by the Association of American Medical Colleges. In order to advance patient access to medical care in the health professions of Physician Associates/Physician Assistants (PAs) and Anesthesiologist Assistants (AAs) South University, West Palm Beach launched corresponding graduate level programs in 2021. The programs have recruited more than 50% of their cohorts from out-of-state to support the needs of the Palm Beach community with the first cohorts graduating in 2023.

Ilaria Gadalla, DMSc, PA-C, FHM

PAs are licensed clinicians who practice medicine in every specialty and setting. PAs are dedicated to expanding access to care and transforming health and wellness through patient-centered, team-based medical practice. AAs work under the supervision of an anesthesiologist while providing anesthesia care in the operating room. Students train in various settings, encompassing a comprehensive span of surgical procedures performed on patients throughout the life spectrum.

AA and PA students come from diverse educational and healthcare backgrounds such as paramedics, respiratory therapists, medical assistants, sonography, finance, hospitality, and even Broadway performers. The collective cohort experience allows the students to explore calmness and vigilance in stressful situations with a variety of patient simulations across the curriculum. They develop a compassionate approach to patients in their most vulnerable states as cultivated by the clinical community during clinical rotations.

Mike Mingione, MHSc, CAA

Without the administrative and physician clinical support of student training within inpatient, outpatient, emergency rooms, and operating room facilities, graduate health professional programs cannot competently train students. Education is the path to providing an additional pair of healing hands to care for patients. Along this path, students prompt critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Evidence-based medicine is explored and discussed to support comprehensive patient management by all team members involved.

As we increase diversity in healthcare education, we find further gaps in matching our diverse student body with healthcare clinicians of similar backgrounds, ethnicities, and race to support student growth. Consider mentorship and preceptorship of PA and AA students to transform the future of healthcare. Clinical educators are essential to ensuring patients have access to medical care in an economically viable model.

Ilaria Gadalla is Interim Dean, College of Health Professions, South University. Mike Mingione is Program Director, Anesthesiologist Assistant Program, South University. For more information, visit

 Programs, credential levels, technology, and scheduling options vary by school and are subject to change. Not all programs are available to residents of all U.S. states. South University, West Palm Beach, University Centre, 9801 Belvedere Road, Royal Palm Beach, FL 33411. ©2022 South University. All rights reserved.