Allied health to offer new Doctor of Medical Science degree

Kyle Meyer, PhD, dean of the UNMC College of Allied Health Professions, and Shaun Horak, DMSc, associate director of the physician assistant program and director of the new DMSc program

Kyle Meyer, PhD, dean of the UNMC College of Allied Health Professions, and Shaun Horak, DMSc, associate director of the physician assistant program and director of the new DMSc program

The University of Nebraska Board of Regents Thursday approved the establishment of the Doctor of Medical Science (DMSc) degree, to be administered and housed within the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Allied Health Professions. The DMSc degree is a voluntary, advanced doctorate degree for physician assistants (PAs).

“This program affords PAs in practice the knowledge and competencies to both advance their clinical practice skills as well as enhance their career options within their field,” said Shaun Horak, DMSc, associate director of the physician assistant program and director of the new DMSc program.

The new degree will be tailored to meet the advanced practice needs of PAs and embraces the profession’s mission of promoting lifelong learners. This includes adopting the Optimal Team Practice model, as recommended by the American Academy of PAs. It also prepares PAs to operate at their highest scope of practice while striving to improve the health care system and positively impact patient care delivery at the patient, community and system levels through the application of research, advocacy and executive leadership, Dr. Horak said.

Existing college funds will help launch the program, which will be largely funded by tuition and fees and is pending approval by the Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education. The program budget does not forecast the use of any new public funding.

“DMSc-level physician assistants are another way UNMC is working to increase accessibility and quality of health care in medically underserved areas, including rural Nebraska,” said Kyle Meyer, PhD, dean of the UNMC College of Allied Health Professions. “Offering this degree is yet another milestone in our long and successful history of educating physician assistants.”

UNMC currently offers a master’s degree in physician assistant studies as the accredited entry-level degree for the PA profession, but DMSc degree programs are increasing nationwide. UNMC’s will be the first and only DMSc program in Nebraska and one of about only 15 across the country.

“We are delighted that the Board of Regents has approved this new degree program for our UNMC College of Allied Health Professions,” said Dele Davies, MD, UNMC senior vice chancellor for academic affairs and dean for graduate studies. “UNMC is already a national leader in training physician assistants, and the addition of the Doctor of Medical Science degree allows us to again lead in training practicing PAs who aspire to be leaders in influencing the health care system to positively impact patient care. Congratulations to Dean Meyer and his leadership team for this exciting new program for our university.”

A survey of UNMC PA students and alumni found almost 60% expressed interest in seeking a DMSc advanced degree.

“This new degree is recognized as an important way for PAs to further their training and enhance the health care workforce,” said Kendra Schmid, PhD, assistant vice chancellor of academic affairs and executive associate dean of graduate studies. “UNMC is well-positioned to be a leader in this emerging credential.”

The program is expected to enroll 20 full-time and 30 part-time students over the first few years, beginning fall 2024. The college anticipates considerable enrollment growth over the coming decade as the PA profession and the degree continue to evolve.  

The program will include mastery of six core competencies, rigorous field placement and a capstone project. Didactic coursework will be offered in a fully online, asynchronous format.