The University of Toledo’s physician assistant program has lost its accreditation, seven months after the accrediting agency placed the program on probation.
It’s the first time since the program’s inception in 1996 that it had been put on probation, and never before has the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant recommended that accreditation be withdrawn.
“We were notified by the accrediting body about two weeks ago that they were recommending withdrawal of accreditation,” Christopher Cooper, vice president for clinical affairs and dean of the college of medicine and life sciences, said Friday.
The 27-month program serves about 128 students and for the time being cannot enroll new students.
In order for graduates to be eligible to take their certification exams, they must graduate from a program that was accredited or on accreditation probation when the student first enrolled, according to the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants.
“We’re very committed to the students, especially the students who are currently enrolled in the program,” Dr. Cooper said. “A big part of what we’re working on right now is making sure that those students can complete the program so that they can sit for their certification exams and become licensed physician assistants.”
For the past 10 years, 100 percent of UT’s physician assistant graduates have passed their certification exams, he added.
Dr. Cooper said he has been in touch with the accrediting agency and that he is “optimistic” current students will be able to sit for their exams.
“We’re exploring all the options to respond to this decision,” he said. “We’re still in information-gathering mode, and we want to make sure whatever we do is in the best interest of our students.”
There is an appeals process to the agency’s decision, which Dr. Cooper said the university is looking into.
The Accreditation Review Commission focused on several issues with the program, one of which was leadership, Dr. Cooper said. Patricia Hogue has been removed as department chairman but remains on staff as a faculty member. Linda Speer, who also heads the family medicine department, has stepped in as chairman of physician assistant studies.
“We felt it was important to take decisive action regarding the leadership of that program,” Dr. Cooper said.
He added another issue was the program needed to do a better job of gathering and analyzing data to inform decision-making.
UT officials on Friday did not provide documentation of the agency notifying the university that it was withdrawing accreditation. Officials said The Blade’s public-records request for that information was “under review.”