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Medical Ed Goes Online and Ivy League

Blended online and in-person learning has risen to its most prestigious post yet, with Yale unveiling a new online masters’ degree in medical science for students training to be physician’s assistants. Yes, it’s strange to think of a doctor’s assistant finding her way through the human body on a computer (and not, say, using the game Operation), but that’s why it’s a blended program—the degree will include rotations through medical facilities near to where students live. The WSJ:

The program will rely heavily on live, interactive online classes, as well as hands-on clinical stints at field sites near students and at least three meetings on Yale’s New Haven, Conn., campus for activities such as cadaver dissection. […]

One of the logistical challenges of the new Yale program is that students must complete 14 clinical rotations throughout the program. 2U said it would coordinate placement at medical facilities near the students nationwide.

Lawrence Herman, chairman of the board of the American Academy of Physician Assistants, said a number of PA training programs are beginning to put certain courses online, but students still need several thousand hours of in-person time with patients to gain certification.
Online programs are often cheaper than their brick-and-mortar models; not this one. It costs the same as the on-campus version, at $83,162 for 28 months of study. Why offer classes online at all? The school can expand it’s 40-person program to 360 people within 5 years.

Even if the program isn’t cheaper, it’s still notable for its structure; partnerships between area hospitals, perhaps even overseas, and distance-learning programs could transform medical education, and we’re confident that someone will be able to produce a degree that costs a lot less than Yale’s (where students pay a premium for the brand).

The program is, in fact, a Via Meadia twofer; as we often say, the country needs more health care practitioners as well as better and more flexible educational options for all (health workers very much included). Yale’s program may not be the last word in providing either one, but it will certainly help legitimize the field of blended learning.

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  • Andrew Allison

    Why, pray tell, does a PA require experience in dissecting a cadaver? And how, pray tell, does Yale justify charging the same for a largely on-line education as for an in situ one? One can only hope that would-be PAs recognize that there are far more cost-effective ways to get the credential. The more important question is what, exactly, does a PA have to offer that a NP doesn’t? Both are subordinate to a full-fledged physician. The promotion of PAs smacks of an effort to preserve the Physician Guild.

  • FriendlyGoat

    Anyone with masters-level medical training should have some level of independent practicing privileges. We need more nurse practitioners running their own shops as they do in some states. PA and NP may not be the same thing, but when you get to masters level, maybe they should be pretty close.

    The ViaMeadia “twofer” should not get bogged down in too much “supervision” from physicians.

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