60 Students Begin LMU’s New Physician Assistant Program in Knoxville

LMU-Knoxville PA Program

The Lincoln Memorial University-School of Medical Sciences (LMU-SMS) welcomed 60 students into the new Physician Assistant (PA) Program at LMU-Knoxville on Oct. 1. Of the 60 students enrolled into the new program, 37 are from Appalachian states, 25 are from Tennessee, and 12 are from Knox County, Tennessee. 

 Stephanie Hull, EdS, MMS, PA-C

The LMU-Knoxville PA Program is LMU’s second PA program. Students who are enrolled will pursue a full-time, 27-month curriculum that leads to the Master of Medical Science degree in Physician Assistant Studies. The program is led by Stephanie Hull, EdS, MMS, PA-C, program director, Byron Turkett, MPAS, PA-C, FCCM, associate program director, and Dr. Robert Wilmoth, medical director. Hull and Turkett were faculty members in the LMU-SMS PA Program in Harrogate, Tennessee. In addition to Hull, Turkett and Wilmoth, the program has 11 faculty members with over 100 years of combined clinical experience.


“While the curriculum follows a format like most PA programs, what makes the LMU-SMS-Knoxville PA Program unique is its focus on surgical sciences,” said Hull. “Graduates of the program will have the knowledge and skills to provide care to patients in surgical and acute care practices.” 


Requirements for completion include 115 credit hours over seven semesters. Four semesters are spent in the classroom and three semesters are spent in hospitals, outpatient clinics and other health care facilities.  Students complete three semesters of human anatomy in a donor laboratory focused on imaging and surgical procedures. In addition to expanded classroom instruction in surgical concepts, students complete up to 20 weeks of supervised clinical practice experiences in surgical disciplines including general surgery and orthopedic surgery. The human anatomy courses are provided by Stacy Chelf, PhD, assistant professor of anatomy and course director, and Daniel Drinnen, MD, associate medical director for the LMU-Knoxville PA Program. Chelf is the first graduate of LMU’s PhD in Anatomical Education Program and Drinnen is a general surgeon who has practiced in East Tennessee for over 20 years. 


The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) predicts a deficit of 41,000 general surgeons by 2025. According to the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) 2019 Statistical Profile of Certified PAs, more certified PAs practice in surgical subspecialties than any other discipline. The top surgical subspecialties are orthopedic surgery at 10.9%, cardiothoracic and vascular surgery at 3.4%, and neurosurgery at 2.2%.


“The shortage of general surgeons is a threat to the accessibility of general surgical care in the United States,” said Hull. “PAs with training in surgical practice can improve patient access to safe, evidence-based and cost-effective surgical care.”


Hull credits the successful start of the program to LMU’s leadership and her team at LMU-Knoxville.


“The program would not have been possible without the ongoing support of LMU’s leadership including Dr. Clayton Hess, LMU president; Autry O.V. (Pete) DeBusk, chairman of the LMU Board of Trustees; the LMU Board of Trustees; Dr. Mark Moran, vice president and dean of LMU-SMS and Dr. Rex Hobbs, associate dean of academic affairs for LMU-SMS,” said Hull. “The dedication of our faculty and staff and the engagement of enrolled students will ensure the program reaches its mission to train future PAs to provide high-quality patient-centered care in the Appalachian region and beyond.”


In addition to receiving regional accreditation from Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), the LMU-Knoxville Physician Assistant Program was granted Accreditation-Provisional by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) during the June 2020 meeting. The ARC-PA is the accrediting agency that protects the interests of the public and PA profession by defining the standards for PA education and evaluating PA educational programs for compliance with those standards. The program’s accreditation history can be viewed on the ARC-PA website at http://www.arc-pa.org/accreditation-history-lincoln-memorial-university-knoxville/.  


LMU’s first PA program was established in 2009 on the main campus in Harrogate, Tennessee, and is one of the largest PA programs in the United States. In 2016, LMU launched a unique post-graduate training program for PAs with the Doctor of Medical Science (DMS) Program. For more information about the LMU-SMS PA programs, visit www.LMUnet.edu/SMS.


Lincoln Memorial University is a values-based learning community dedicated to providing educational experiences in the liberal arts and professional studies. The main campus is located in Harrogate, Tennessee. For more information about the undergraduate and graduate programs available at LMU, contact the Office of Admissions at 423.869.6280 or email at [email protected].


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