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The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

Quinnipiac physician assistant program put on accreditation probation

Quinnipiac University’s nationally ranked physician assistant program will be on probation through at least September 2025 after its accreditation review revealed several areas of noncompliance with the accrediting body’s standards.

The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant — the national body responsible for accrediting PA schools — determined following a three-year reaccreditation review that Quinnipiac’s PA program did not properly comply with nearly one-quarter of its 102 standards.

At the ARC-PA’s meeting in September, the body downgraded the Quinnipiac PA program’s continued accreditation status to accreditation-probation for a two-year period.

“Our program remains accredited,” said Janelle Chiasera, dean of the School of Health Sciences. “This temporary status allows us time to make program improvements, and to make sure that we are doing things in alignment with what the ARC-PA expects us to do.”

Accreditation, per an FAQ published on Quinnipiac’s website in the wake of the decision, is a “voluntary process academic programs engage in to assure they are offering high quality education as defined by the standards set forth by the accrediting body.”

The ARC-PA first accredited Quinnipiac’s PA program — which is currently ranked No. 1 in Connecticut and No. 16 in the nation — in 1995.

“This is a strong and impressive program, and it remains that way,” Chiasera said.

Although PA programs submit regular self-reports to the body, accredited programs must undergo comprehensive evaluations every 10 years to maintain their accreditation statuses. Quinnipiac’s September 2023 review was its first since 2013.

“The standards that we had 10 years ago are different from the standards that we have today,” Chiasera said.

Chiasera said the ARC-PA’s most recent evaluation of the university’s PA program detailed 25 areas of noncompliance pertaining to faculty sufficiency, instructor certification, clinical practice learning outcomes and self-reporting.

“This temporary accreditation status is not going to affect the ability of our students to complete the program,” Chiasera said. “It does not mean that our students are receiving any less quality education than we’ve ever delivered.”

Chiasera said Quinnipiac officials have already addressed approximately 75% of the ARC-PA’s citations, particularly those concerning faculty sufficiency.

“The program has experienced turnover over the last four years, and that included the three-year reporting period for ARC-PA,” Chiasera said. “I am happy to say at this point that all of those positions have been filled.”

Chiasera emphasized that university officials plan to continue monitoring “what the program needs are from a faculty perspective and a support perspective.”

“We are still planning on getting them more faculty even though we have filled our vacancies,” she said. “We are committed to making sure that they have the faculty there that they need.”

To address citations pertaining to the program’s self-reporting process, for instance, Chiasera said officials hope to hire a full-time staff member “to help with the nuances of assessment.”

“I’ll be honest, I would argue that our PA program is quite sophisticated in what they do when they look at assessment and outcomes,” she said. “We realize that in order for us to advance the program’s analysis process, we really need a dedicated person to work with the program on a full-time basis.”

This is not the first time in recent years the university’s PA program has come under fire. In March 2022, a former PA student filed a lawsuit accusing program faculty of discrimination.

Accreditors will assess the program’s progress in September 2025.

“This time, they said, ‘We’re going to see in two years, we’d like you to make progress on this,’” Chiasera said. “We are committed to making those changes and we’re really confident that we are going to meet what the ARC-PA needs.”

Chiasera said program officials have begun outlining timelines for addressing the remaining citations.

Come 2025, the ARC-PA will do one of three things: reinstate the Quinnipiac PA program’s full accreditation, extend its accreditation-probation by two years or suspend its accreditation altogether.

“Is there the potential that we could get to a point where the ARC-PA says, ‘You didn’t meet it’?” Chiasera said. “We could, but we are not going to let that happen.”

The Chronicle was unable to independently verify the contents of the ARC-PA’s report, which had not been released online as of publication.

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  • R

    RichardJan 13, 2024 at 4:56 pm

    I read the ARC-PA findings that were posted. A lot of the QU PA program problems (lawsuit, letter to DOJ, etc) happened on Dennis Brown’s watch – he left QU quietly in 2021 to be the program director at UNE, and is now back at QU as a director. Timothy Ferrarotti was made program director with no experience – for a still highly ranked program, why not get someone who has prior notable success like… Cynthia Lord? A number of ARC-PA findings stated that the program director and leadership were lacking. A lot of comments about removing existing faculty involved in the issues would be recommended; Dennis Brown, Jocelyn Depathy and Cindy Rossi shouldn’t still be at QU.

  • R

    RichardNov 1, 2023 at 5:59 pm

    My appreciation to Cat Murphy and the QU Chronicle for continuing to investigate the issues surrounding QU’s physician assistant program.

    The Quinnipiac PA program has slid from # 5 to # 16 within 6 years. The QU Chronicle has articles regarding the 2022 lawsuit, mental health unease within the PA program, and the request for the Department of Justice to investigate discrimination claims from a group of students. I’m not surprised that the ARC-PA organization audit has found the program has problems with faculty sufficiency, instructor certification, clinical practice learning outcomes and self-reporting. All this evidence indicates continuing issues within this program.

    I watched the interview on WTNH news and read the articles, and I couldn’t believe that Dean Chiasera attributed faculty turnover as the main reason for non-compliance. I disagree with Dean Chiasera when she said it does not mean that students are receiving any less quality education than QU ever delivered. By not adhering to ARC-PA’s standards, you are affecting the student’s ability to complete the program, and non-compliance means you put all of the students at risk. The students themselves are the ultimate victims and casualties of this aftermath, with the unfairly dismissed students paying the ultimate price. I’m questioning the administration’s decisions to retain specific PA faculty that were involved with all of these issues. I still don’t see transparency or accountability improving – if that were the case, the ARC-PA’s findings would have been posted on QU’s website. None of this would have happened if the proper administrative oversight, student centric focus, fairness and equality of opportunity was given to every student. This adds more credibility to all of the complaints so far.

    QU PA program cannot guarantee that they will stay accredited. ARC-PA accreditation is required for becoming licensed PAs.

    • D

      DaisyNov 2, 2023 at 1:07 pm

      Richard: thank you for expressing your constitutional rights here. I am going to go out on a limb and guess that you were unfairly dismissed? I would love to know what you feel constitutes unfair. Failing exams? Is that unfair? Failing rotations? I think it is important that we recall that this program is responsible for creating quality providers who are responsible for patient lives. Not having the knowledge or ability directly impacts lives so as a patient, I don’t want just any Tom, Dick, or Harry taking care of me. Do you want somebody who consistently failed taking care of you?

      Again, you have the freedom of speech but I would be cautious of misinformation that you are currently spewing. I have a child currently in the program and they feel very differently. I have heard quite a bit about the situation at hand and you have decided to hang on to inconsequential data points instead of actually seeing the big picture. The hatred you have for this program is so strong that it really emanates off of the screen. I am sorry for you and your feelings but from what I hear, your experience was very different.

      Just a note about ranking. Yes they have fallen. How many programs are there in the nation? Oh – over 300. I would say 16 is pretty darn good even if it is down from 5. Think about sports. Ranking is extremely fluid. If the men’s hockey team drops from their #1 spot are you going to blast them for the fall? When your favorite sports team doesn’t win the championship each year, do you stop supporting them? Guessing that’s a no. Who cares if this *subjective* ranking has changed?

      Also-If you have a look at the schools on probation, you will find that QU is not the only one (Cornell, an Ivy, for example is also on probation but are you slandering them on their outlets?). The ARC actually put 40% of the programs they reviewed on probation so perhaps you can go to each of those schools and tell them how bad they are too?

      As for me, I am appreciative for the QUPA program. My child is receiving a grade A education despite this new designation and despite your slanderous comments. Thank you QU.

      • R

        RichardNov 3, 2023 at 7:25 am

        Hi Daisy,

        I am a family member of a student who was dismissed. I could make a list of what constitutes unfair treatment, but it’s all in the QU Chronicle articles with the 2022 lawsuit, mental health unease, and the letter to the DOJ. I would recommend that you read them before you invalidate the experiences of those students, especially the ones who wrote the letter to the DOJ. All PAs should be quality providers, and PA faculty have a sacred responsibility with the power they wield to not abuse it. That is why there are standards and laws to ensure that people are treated equally and consequences for breaking them.

        I believe you are doing what a good parent would do and are being triggered to protect your child – but I assure you, you would think very differently if your child had been a QU PA student a few years ago and was dismissed unfairly. What your child is experiencing in the QU PA program is a very different environment than that of the previous years. The writers of the DOJ letter all believed strongly enough to voice their concerns of discriminatory treatment within the program. All these events have led up to where we are now.

        PA programs are not sports teams. I would rather have a good PA from a little-known school take care of me than a bad QU PA. Not all PA graduates are good providers, regardless of the program. If you believe that QU’s PA ranking is subjective, then you have disrespected a lot of student’s choices. The example that you gave of 40% of PA programs put on ARC-PA probation, let’s use Cornell’s PA program as you did – I can say that they have not been sued by a PA student, not had an article written about mental health issues within the program, and not had a letter sent to the Department of Justice asking them to investigate discrimination claims. They are just on probation, and that’s it.

        I’m sure that your child will receive a grade-A education. You should be grateful for the hard-fought changes that others have enacted so that your child will benefit. The writers of the DOJ letter – current QU PA students, QU PA graduates, and dismissed students and their families have tried to bring awareness to issues within the PA program so that your child will have a better experience than they did. The ARC-PA probation also shows deficiencies in the program, and I believe that QU will do everything it can to fix them. By not acknowledging the existence of all of the evidence, you run the risk of being complicit and complacent.

        I can see that you are upset, but you shouldn’t be attacking my comments. QU’s faculty is responsible for QU’s PA program. You should hold them fully accountable, as they should be, for all of this.

      • N

        NNov 8, 2023 at 9:23 am

        Rankings are useless and are literally a popularity contest. It’s just a poll given out to other program directors about what programs they have heard are good. 0 insight into things that matter like board pass rate, attrition rate, post graduation work placement rates. Nothing that actually matters goes into a ranking.

        They are “#1 in CT, yet have more issues and significantly worse board pass rates than that other school down the road. Why would that possibly be? Could it be they aren’t actually better? Weird