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MCPHS Alumni Joe Provost MPAS ‘17.

Alumni Spotlight: Joe Provost MPAS ‘17

  • Joseph Provost MPAS ’17 recently graduated from the Master of Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS) program on the Worcester campus of Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS), and since then he’s been hard at work studying for the board exams.

    But he’s also set aside some time to reflect on his time at MCPHS and appreciate the journey he’s taken toward his dream career.

    “Physician assistants are a crucial component of modern medicine,” said Provost. “PAs have 85 percent of the capabilities that physicians have and can begin to practice in a much shorter period of time. We can take a medical history, perform a physical exam, diagnose, develop a treatment plan, first assist in surgeries, and prescribe medications.”

    It’s a career that he’s already passionate about, and he points out that the support he received from his professors during his time at MCPHS has proven invaluable. “The professors in the program are very approachable and encouraging,” said Provost. “They share tips and tricks that helped them learn how to recognize one disease versus another, and their experience as licensed PAs is invaluable. All the professors have stories about cases that forever impacted the way they practice.”

    Provost took a break from studying for the boards to answer our questions about the MPAS program and share his advice for those considering a future as a PA.

    Tell us about your inspiration for becoming a PA.

    I had always wanted to pursue a career in medicine, but I could not decide on a specialty. One advantage of the PA profession is the flexibility in terms of what specialty you can practice in. You never have to commit to one specialty throughout your career.

    What’s your biggest piece of advice for someone who is thinking about a future as a PA?

    Earning my MPAS has truly been one of my most difficult and proudest achievements. I had to dedicate ample time to my studies – more than I had to for my undergraduate studies. I found success by switching from studying material on my own to studying in a group.

    Why did you choose the MPAS program at MCPHS?

    I received my bachelor’s degree at Assumption College and have always enjoyed the city of Worcester. I knew I wanted to stay in New England for my PA education. The PA program at MCPHS was accelerated, and I knew that I wanted a faster-paced curriculum.

    Tell us about your experience in the classroom. What was your favorite class?

    My favorite course was Patient Assessment. This course includes a lab section that incorporates all the skills you’ve learned in all the other courses. You learn as a practitioner what questions to ask to lead to your diagnosis and treatment plan. Also, you get to practice your physical exam skills on fellow students and simulated patients.

    Why did the accelerated format of the program appeal to you?

    The most appealing aspect of the accelerated program was that you can learn about a different class of medications, different physical exam skills, and different diseases each week. The constant feed of new material was challenging, but exciting at the same time.

    Tell us about the facilities on campus. What are they like?

    The PA lab in the building is well equipped to allow you to practice all the skills you need to learn. There is plenty of space to simulate patient care and improve your skills. The program is a joint program between the Worcester and Manchester campuses. Lectures are given via DE [distance education], and both campuses receive the same lecture. I found that DE did not hinder my ability to learn the lecture material.

    You completed some of your clinical rotations at St. Vincent’s Hospital, which is right down the street from the Worcester campus. What was it like to complete your clinical rotations here?

    The ability to learn medicine and practice my skills at St. Vincent’s Hospital was truly rewarding. You have the chance to first assist in some surgeries during your surgery rotation, work with a physician during his or her clinic hours, and take call with the resident or attending physician on call for whatever service you are on for your rotation. In addition, the location of the hospital provides the opportunity to see many different cases and expand your knowledge during rotations. There are also seminars given by internal medicine residents and attending physicians from several services every weekday.

    Tell us about your most memorable or meaningful clinical experience during the program.

    During your clinical year, you select an elective for one of your rotations. I rotated in the Department of Orthopedics at UMass Memorial Medical Center. One week I was rotating with the orthopedic oncologist, and a patient was diagnosed with osteosarcoma. The patient was 14, and I had the privilege of assisting in the surgery that removed his cancer and resulted in a total knee replacement. The procedure took more than six hours, and I enjoyed every second of it.

    What is your favorite thing about the city of Worcester?

    The Worcester campus is right in downtown Worcester. You are within walking distance of the DCU Center, where plenty of events are held, and you can go see the Railers hockey team. Worcester is well known for its fantastic restaurants. Many of these are located on Shrewsbury Street, which is less than a five-minute drive from campus.

    What types of activities, events, and volunteer opportunities were you involved with through your membership in SAAAPA?

    SAAAPA [the Student Academy of the American Academy of Physician Assistants] is a student organization that represents the students within the PA program. We had opportunities to teach children how to cast arms and legs, assist in refurbishing a home through Rebuilding Worcester, and march in the Worcester St. Patrick’s Day parade. The opportunities you can have in SAAAPA are dependent upon what your class is willing to work toward and fund.

    Why should students get involved with activities and projects outside the classroom?

    SAAAPA and other organizations on campus allow you to get further acquainted with your classmates as well as students in other programs on campus. It is important to take a break from your studies and enjoy extracurricular activities. It is highly encouraged by faculty as well.

    Would you recommend an MCPHS education to others?

    MCPHS is one of the oldest universities in the country and has had a long track record of success. The PA program has a very high pass rate for the PANCE [Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam] and one of the highest employment rates after graduation. The faculty members are dedicated to providing their students with a high-quality education.

    What’s your favorite #MCPHSmoment?

    My favorite #MCPHSmoment would have to be during our White Coat Ceremony at the beginning of our didactic year. When I received my white coat for the first time, I felt proud to have the opportunity to wear it after all the hard work I had put in in order to be accepted into the program. You are certainly more noticeable and taken more seriously on rotations when you are wearing your white coat.

    The School of Physician Assistant Studies at MCPHS, which offers Master of Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS) and Doctor of Science in Physician Assistant Studies (DScPAS) degrees, prepares graduates for meaningful and successful future careers as PAs. Students learn from the profession’s top educators in modern patient assessment laboratories with the most advanced technology available.