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WLU'S Thriving Master's Program for Aspiring Physician Assistants

Robin Capehart

A skilled tax attorney holding a JD from West Virginia University, Robin Capehart has drawn on decades of professional experience to serve as both an academic instructor and administrator. During his eight-year tenure as president of West Liberty University (WLU), Robin Capehart introduced several successful initiatives, including a new training program for aspiring physician assistants.

West Liberty University’s Master of Science in Physician Assistant (PA) Studies program launched in 2012, and by the following year, the program had attracted hundreds of interested students. Each year, approximately 20 students selected from as many as 600 applicants have the opportunity to learn from science professors and medical specialists in both laboratory and classroom settings, building a strong foundation for an eventual PA career.

WLU’s PA master's program began after local doctor Howard Shackelford proposed an initiative to produce more qualified physician assistants to serve the regional community. Department chair Allan Bedashi developed the program alongside academic leaders including Dr. Robert Kreisberg, dean of the College of Science. Together, they created a curriculum to prepare students to work alongside doctors in the field, teaching them to conduct medical examinations, diagnose and treat illnesses, and counsel patients on their health.
The PA master's program has been a boon not only for aspiring medical professionals, but for WLU as well. In the years following the school’s $1.5 million investment, the program evolved to become a sustainably profitable venture for the university. In June 2017, the school held its first-ever dedicated commencement ceremony for its PA master's students, conferring master of science degrees in physician assistant studies to over a dozen accomplished students.

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