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App State, Wake Forest Baptist team up for physician assistant program

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and Appalachian State University are teaming up to help solve the shortage of health care providers in the western part of the state, by establishing a joint physician assistant program.

The new physician assistant program will start in June of next year, and use Appalachian's College of Health Sciences and Wake Forest's nationally recognized physician assistant program to expand the number of graduating healthcare providers.

"There is a tremendous need for PA's across the country. There are not enough physicians up there, not enough nurses up there, not enough providers to supply needed healthcare to the people who live in the mountains," said Dr. Edward Abraham, Wake Forest School of Medicine Dean.

A series of science classes will be offered for the students at Wake Forest, then they will complete the two-year program by performing clinical work and rotations in rural communities in and around Appalachian State.

"We do want to serve the region where we are located, but we knew in our state's financial situation for us to get our own program it would be impossible," said Dr. Ken Peacock, Appalachian State Chancellor.

Peacock said the partnership allows the College of Health Sciences to expand immediately.

"It allows us [Wake Forest] to go up to the mountains where there are issues with healthcare delivery to underserved populations and to have an impact in a new area," Abraham said.

Twenty-four to 32 students will be part of the first class in the joint program. Officials hope by exposing them to underserved areas they will choose to continue their careers there.

"Today is a very special day because truly quality healthcare in Western North Carolina, the rural sections, will improve," said Peacock.