Health and Medicine

New UNC PA program serves military, students, rural N.C.

The new Physician Assistant Studies program at Carolina has a special focus on Military Veterans.

Even though he’s no longer on active military duty, Dave Manning plans to use many of the tools and skills he spent two decades crafting. Manning, a former U.S. Army and Navy medic, is one of 20 students enrolled in the first Physician Assistant Studies class, housed in the UNC School of Medicine’s Department of Allied Health Sciences.

It is open to all students, but has a special focus on military veterans, who make up nearly half of the class.

“UNC has done something different,” Manning said. “By virtue of having 45 percent of the initial class veterans, it shows their dedication to getting veterans into this program.”

The attention isn’t entirely on veterans; students from civilian backgrounds are also enrolling in the Physician Assistant Studies program. Kami Harris’ path to the program didn’t involve military service, but she is still excited about her future in the field.

“I did my research and realized it was my calling,” Harris said. “It’s important for me to serve North Carolinians because this is my home.”

Regardless of their backgrounds before coming to UNC-Chapel Hill, all the students enrolled in the Physician Assistant Studies Program share the ambition of providing more complete health care to North Carolina. One of the program’s main goals is to train physician assistants to provide care in areas that lack medical professionals, particularly rural communities.