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CHA/PA Program Overview

The three-year, innovative curriculum of the University of Colorado PA program is designed to integrate clinical and basic sciences to prepare graduates with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to practice medicine as part of the health care team. Graduates practice in all areas of medicine and serve patients of all ages.

The information below pertains to the Colorado Curriculum, which was adopted in 2018 and applies to students graduating in 2021 and beyond.

The Colorado Curriculum is a cutting-edge, learner-centered educational platform designed to foster clinical decision-making and lifelong learning skills. The curriculum is based on clinical presentations rather than traditional courses, which mimics how patients present for care and how clinicians practice medicine. For example, during the week of the curriculum focused on the clinical presentation “shortness of breath”, all learning in the basic sciences and clinical medicine is delivered in the context of a patient with shortness of breath.

The Colorado Curriculum consists of two didactic years, with clinical experiences integrated across both years. The third year of the program consists of 10 one-month rotations.  The program begins in July with a summer immersion course that includes fundamentals of learning strategies, PA professional roles, wellness and resilience, and clinical topics.

The curriculum is organized into seven system-oriented blocks: Hematology, Infection, Inflammation and Malignancy (Heme/IIM); Gastrointestinal, Genitourinary and Renal (GI/GU/Renal); Cardiovascular and Pulmonary (CVP); Dermatology and Head, Eyes, Ears, Nose and Throat (Derm/HEENT); Musculoskeletal and Neurology (MSK/Neuro); Endocrinology and Reproduction (Endo/Repro); and Psychiatry.  The curriculum is an iterative, spiral approach to learning, such that clinical topics which are introduced in the first year are revisited at a more advanced level in the second year. Each block course integrates the basic sciences and clinical medicine by employing the use of small group experiences, case-based learning, standardized patients (SPs), patient simulators, lectures, and collaborative sessions.  Additionally, students participate in thread courses over both years which provide education in clinical skills, role development, patient care, and the clinical environment.  The thread courses include Clinical Skills, Clinical Experiences, and Foundations in Prevention, Advocacy, and Professional Practice.  See the individual course descriptions for further details on course content.  An overview of the vision and goals of the Colorado Curriculum are illustrated in this LICENSE document.

Curriculum Graphic Apr20

 

Interprofessional Education and Tracks

Educational content is enhanced through the applications of family-centered care, behavioral and psychosocial perspectives as well as social and community initiatives for health and wellness. The program has integrated content in public health, oral health, professionalism, and interprofessional education. Students with a personal area of interest may also have the opportunity to participate in specialized tracks to enhance learning in Global Health, CHANGE and Pediatric Critical and Acute Care.


Clinical Experience and Affiliates

The curriculum includes a fully integrated clinical experiences in hospital and community settings. During clinical experiences, students participate in observations, history-taking, physical examination and assessment, development of a differential diagnosis and clinical decision-making and planning of treatments and interventions. Students work closely with preceptors and other members of the health care team and are evaluated on skills and competencies required for patient care.

All rotations are scheduled by the Clinical Team based on accreditation standards, program requirements, track requirements, and preceptor/site availability.  While the Clinical Team is not able to accommodate specific requests for rotations, students will be scheduled in rotations in a variety of settings across multiple disciplines through their time in the program.  

As a part of the University of Colorado School of Medicine, the faculty of the entire school of medicine and affiliates contribute greatly to the quality of the learning experiences provided at the CHA/PA Program. Affiliations with the University of Colorado Hospital, Children’s Hospital Colorado, and Denver Health and Hospitals in addition to community clinics, provide a network of clinical experiences to enhance the training of students. The faculty within the departments of Pediatrics, Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, Surgery, and others regularly participate in both classroom and clinical training of the CHA/PA Program students.


Degree

The University of Colorado PA Program has gained national recognition for its curriculum in primary care medicine. The Program confers a Professional Master’s Degree (MPAS). In accordance with the mission of the program, the CHA/PA Program curriculum provides comprehensive physician assistant education in primary medical care with additional training in pediatrics and the need for service to disadvantaged, at risk and medically underserved populations. There are specific requirements that all students must complete to receive the MPAS degree from our fully accredited PA Program. Graduates are well prepared to perform in primary care practice with patients across the lifespan. Historically our students have performed above the national average in score and passing rate on the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) examinations.

Graduation and awarding of the Masters of Physician Assistant Studies is based upon the following requirements:

  • Successful completion of all coursework and rotations of the University of Colorado PA Program
  • Exhibiting professionalism throughout the course of study
  • Successful completion of the Comprehensive Clinical Knowledge and Clinical Skills Examinations

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In the first year of the program, student learning utilizes a variety of approaches including small group experiences, lectures, interprofessional sessions, laboratories and clinical experiences. Hands-on learning is gained through clinical skills and laboratory sessions in addition to direct clinical experience. Clinical rotations in the first year (from January to May) evolve over the course of the 3rd semester to allow students to practice the skills they are learning in the classroom. Students must pass all first year courses in order to be promoted to second year.

Summer (10 cr)

  • Summer Immersion

Fall (21 cr)

  • Clinical Skills I
  • Foundations in Prevention, Advocacy, and Professional Practice I
  • Clinical Experiences I
  • Hematology, Infection, Immunology and Malignancy I
  • Gastrointestinal, Genitourinary and Renal I
  • Cardiovascular, Pulmonary I

Spring (22 cr)

  • Clinical Skills II
  • Foundations in Prevention, Advocacy, and Professional Practice II
  • Dermatology, Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat I
  • Musculoskeletal and Neurology I
  • Endocrinology and Reproduction I
  • Psychiatry I
  • Community Clinic 

* Subject to Change

** Students must pass all first year courses in order to be promoted to the second year.

Summer (4 cr)

  • Community Clinic

Fall (21 cr)

  • Clinical Skills III
  • Foundations in Prevention, Advocacy, and Professional Practice III
  • Hematology, Infection, Immunology and Malignancy II
  • Gastrointestinal, Genitourinary and Renal II
  • Cardiovascular, Pulmonary II
  • Community Clinic

Spring (22 cr)

  • Clinical Skills IV
  • Foundations in Prevention, Advocacy, and Professional Practice IV
  • Dermatology, Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat II
  • Musculoskeletal and Neurology II
  • Endocrinology and Reproduction II
  • Psychiatry II
  • Community Clinic

* Subject to Change

** Students must pass all second year courses in order to be promoted to the third year.

The third year (June through May) consists of ten, one month long rotations and a one month vacation that can be used to complete professional development modules, Capstone requirements, and self-care activities. Both required rotations and elective rotations are completed and dependent on the student’s track. All students, regardless of track, must complete one-month in either a rural or medically underserved site. 

Students complete a capstone project during year three, returning to campus during the final month of the program to present their topic as part of the Clinical Connections courses. The project represents a culmination of student progress through the program and allows students to identify a clinical case that illustrates a systems-based approach to care.

Students are required to pass all third year clinical rotations, the requirements for Clinical Connections, as well as the third year comprehensive written (knowledge-based) and clinical (practice-based) exams consisting of knowledge and practical standardized patient exams in order to graduate from the program.


Traditional Track — 35 Hours (Courses Are Subject To Change)

​Months​Type of Rotation
​1 month​Primary Care I
​1 month​Pediatric Specialty (e.g., Neonatology or Adolescent Medicine)
​1 month
Inpatient Medicine
​1 month​Primary Care II
​1 month​Emergency Medicine
​1 month​Primary Care III 
​1 month​Surgery
​1 monthPrimary Care IV
​2 months​Electives
1 month
Vacation
Fall SemesterClinical Connections I
Spring SemesterClinical Connections II (with Capstone)


Global Track​ (Courses Are Subject To Change)

​Months​Type of Rotation
​1 monthPrimary Care I
1 month​Pediatric Subspecialty (Neonatology or Adolescent Medicine)
​1 month​Inpatient Medicine
​1 month​Primary Care II
​1 month​Emergency Medicine
​1 month​Primary Care III
​1 month​Surgery
​1 month​Primary Care IV
​1 month​Global Rotation
2 weeksTropical Medicine Course (Fall)
​1 month​Elective
​2 weeks​Vacation*
Fall SemesterClinical Connections I
Spring SemesterClinical Connections II (with Capstone)
​* Typically falls immediately following Global Rotation


Pediatric Critical & Acute Care (Courses Are Subject To Change)

​Months​Type of Rotation
​1 monthPrimary Care I
​1 month​Pediatric Specialty (e.g., Neonatology and Adolescent)
​1 month​Inpatient Pediatric Medicine
​1 month​Primary Care II
​1 month​Surgery
​1 month​Emergency Medicine
​1 monthPrimary Care III
​1 monthPrimary Care IV
​1 month​Pediatric Critical and Acute Care Rotation
​1 month​Electives
​1 Month​Vacation
​** Students must complete Emergency Medicine and Inpatient Pediatric Medicine rotations prior to the Pediatric Critical and Acute Care Rotation.

 

Care of the Hospitalized Adult in a Novel Graduated Experience (Courses Are Subject To Change)

​Months​Type of Rotation
​1 monthPrimary Care I
​1 month​Pediatric Specialty (e.g., Neonatology and Adolescent)
1 monthInpatient Adult Medicine-CHANGE Track
1 monthPrimary Care II
1 monthSurgery
1 monthEmergency Medicine
1 monthPrimary Care III
1 monthPrimary Care IV
2 monthsElectives
1 month Vacation

Total credits vary based on track requirements.

* Subject to Change

The CHA/PA Program offers students the opportunity to participate in tracks to help personalize and extend learning beyond our standard curriculum. These tracks include exciting opportunities for interdisciplinary education, integrating students with others in the School of Medicine and across the campus with similar interests. Applications for placement in the tracks listed below occurs during the summer of the 1st Year. The CHA/PA Program offers students the opportunity to participate in tracks to help personalize and extend learning beyond our standard curriculum. These tracks include exciting opportunities for interdisciplinary education, integrating students with others in the School of Medicine and across the campus with similar interests. Applications for placement in the tracks listed below occurs during the summer of the 1st Year.

 

Global Health Track

The Global Health Track is an interdisciplinary track in the School of Medicine that is committed to equipping PA and MD students with public health skills that can be utilized in a variety of settings, especially global ones. The track seeks to promote in-depth projects, completed by students, in developing nations or with local refugee, immigrant or asylum seeking populations that are sustainable and create lasting positive change in a community.

Students in the Global Health Track will complete a clinical experience in a vetted international setting or with a local refugee, immigrant or asylum seeker community during the summer of their second year. During their third year, students may have the opportunity to return to the same site for a month long follow up clinical experience and will complete a two-week Global Health and Disasters Course.

The Global Health Track is limited to 2 students per class.


Pediatric Critical and Acute Care Longitudinal Experience

This longitudinal experience was developed by CHA/PA faculty and Children's Hospital Colorado faculty to meet the needs of students wishing to focus in pediatric critical and acute care. Students participating in the curriculum receive specialized instruction and clinical experiences with critical care physicians and physician assistants at Children's Hospital Colorado and Denver Health. Continuity over the three years of the program helps to ensure growth and progression of clinical skills, reasoning, and autonomy. Additionally, students complete a customized curriculum through targeted readings and lectures. This individualized educational experience prepares students for careers in pediatric emergency rooms, intensive care units, and other acute pediatric care settings.

The Pediatric Critical and Acute Care Longitudinal Experience is limited to 4 students per class.

Care of the Hospitalized Adult in a Novel Graduated Experience (CHANGE)

This longitudinal experience was developed by University of Colorado Hospital Advanced Practice Providers, in concert with CHA/PA faculty, to meet the needs of students wishing to focus on care of inpatient adults. Students participating in the curriculum receive continuity instruction and clinical experiences with APPs at University Hospital over the three years of the program.  This continuity helps to ensure growth and progression of clinical skills, reasoning, and autonomy. Additionally, students complete a customized curriculum through targeted readings and lectures. This individualized educational experience prepares students for careers in general hospital medicine, intensive care units, and consult hospital services.

CHANGE is limited to 2 students per class at this time.

Accreditation

The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) has granted Accreditation-Continued status to the Physician Assistant Program sponsored by the University of Colorado. Accreditation-Continued is an accreditation status granted when a currently accredited program is in compliance with the ARC-PA Standards.

Accreditation remains in effect until the program closes or withdraws from the accreditation process or until accreditation is withdrawn for failure to comply with the Standards. The approximate date for the next validation review of the program by the ARC-PA will be in 2026. The review date is contingent upon continued compliance with the Accreditation Standards and ARC-PA policy.