Xavier University: Meeting the Growing
Demand for Advanced
Physician assistants and other advanced practice providers
play a vital role in delivering extraordinary, complex
Ochsner President and CEO Warner Thomas and Chief Academic Officer Dr. Leo explore the Xavier program’s technology resources.
Leading to a master’s degree in health sciences, this 28-month, full-time graduate PA program is Xavier’s first.
Today nearly 900 advanced practice providers (APPs) are employed across Ochsner’s growing system. These are professionals who have completed specialized graduate education, training, certification and licensure and include certified registered nurse anesthetists, nurse practitioners and midwives, as well as physician assistants (PAs). They are invaluable members of our care teams, working in tandem with physicians to serve our patients with the appropriate level of care.
Continuing to deliver for our patients tomorrow and in the coming years requires a robust pipeline of students training in these demanding programs. In 2019 we took strides toward that goal with the launch of a new joint physician assistant program with Xavier University in New Orleans. Leading to a master’s degree in health sciences, this 28-month, full-time graduate PA program is Xavier’s first. It includes focused classroom instruction at Xavier followed by 16 months of hands-on clinical training in facilities across Ochsner Health. Recruiting for this joint program began in 2019, and the inaugural class of approximately 40 students began coursework in January 2020.
The role of PA is one of America’s fastest-growing healthcare careers, with the number of PAs practicing in the U.S. expected to grow from 140,000 to nearly 170,000 over just a few years. High-volume areas include surgery, emergency medicine, dermatology and hospital medicine, and there are specialties with tremendous need, like psychiatry, hospice and palliative care. Currently, approximately 90 PAs graduate from Louisiana schools each year. The joint Ochsner-Xavier program will significantly increase the number of these healthcare professionals who train in Louisiana and stay to practice here.
The director of the new PA program is Dr. Varsha Castro Gusman, a Xavier alumna who has worked in the neurocritical care unit of Ochsner.
This PA program builds upon our longstanding and fruitful relationship with Xavier that dates to the early 1980s, when we began providing educational experiences to Xavier’s College of Pharmacy students. Each year an average of 80 Xavier pharmacy students train at Ochsner facilities. Through our collaboration, Ochsner and Xavier are working to ensure that we can meet our region’s need for highly qualified medical professionals for generations to come.