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This Brenau program training next class of health care workers
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Brenau University's Dr. Greg Marshall welcomes students Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021, to the Physician Assistant Program lab as they get their first look at cadavers during the school's new Physician Assistant Program at the Brenau Downtown Center. - photo by Scott Rogers

Brenau University kicked off its new Physician Assistant Studies program this week, welcoming 33 students to its first cohort on Monday. 

The program is a 28-month Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies, with the first 16 months spent in the classroom and the final 12 months consisting of clinical rotations. It recently received provisional accreditation from the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant. 

For chair and program director Julie Keena, the biggest challenge to the program would be reverting to virtual learning since it would be difficult to conduct labs and hands-on work. However, a goal for this semester is to keep students in a positive frame of mind amid the COVID-19 pandemic and emphasize flexibility.

“I think one of the big goals we have right now is trying to keep everybody in that right mindset and focus on their longer-term goal of becoming a PA,” Keena said.

The program is located in the Brenau University Downtown Center, above the Physical Therapy program. Throughout the building, tables with hand sanitizer, disinfectant spray and paper towels are situated around study rooms and hallways, and maximum occupancy numbers are displayed outside each room.

Monday was the first day of class, which included faculty and staff introductions, a quick lecture and a tour of the facility for the first time, said PA student Dangel Brooks. Labs began on Tuesday, with students dissecting cadavers in small groups.

Students on campus Tuesday were drawn to the program for various reasons.

Savannah Jones chose Brenau’s PA program is because the liberal arts school’s cultural awareness aligns with her own. 

“Coming in I had a lot of anxiety, I was super nervous. But I think after being here it feels like a weight was lifted off my shoulders, I felt comfortable and the staff and faculty were the cause of that,” Jones said. “They made me feel comfortable like ‘hey, we’re all in this together and we’re not going to let you fail and we’re here for you guys.’”

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Students in the Brenau University Physician Assistant Program gather Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021, inside the lab at the Downtown Center. - photo by Scott Rogers

Similarly, Brooks said her friend’s mom was part of the nursing program at Brenau and loved the school. She is looking forward to working in small groups and working in a cadaver lab.

PA student Lajuana Osbourne likes that Brenau is a smaller school and the cohort is a close-knit community.

Jones echoes this feeling.
“That is one exciting thing about having the same class throughout this entire program, is the closeness and the bonds that will be created amongst each other,” Jones said.

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