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Program won't launch until 2021, but will focus on humanitarian efforts in a 'nontraditional' model

Following a growing trend among other colleges and universities, George Fox University will launch a new physician assistant medicine program in the coming years.

Dr. Gregory Davenport, who was brought on to build the program after successfully building two other programs, said the goal is to launch the program in January 2021.

He added that these programs typically take three years to build in order to receive the necessary medical and regional accreditation. The board that would give the program medical accreditation doesn't meet until the fall of 2020, and the hope is to be ready to go that following semester.

"We're going to run a non-traditional program," Davenport said. "It will be a student lead, problem-based model."

This model, similar to the medical program at Wake Forest University, is a concept that "allows us to teach students in a way that they develop a thought process, not just regurgitate information," he said.

This model, which between six and nine students to one faculty member, teaches the students to manage problems and work through a process like they would see in a clinic with a patient.

"It's a very involved process," he said.

To house the students, GFU is looking to construct a new building.

Davenport said he couldn't directly comment on that process, although he said that's typical for a new program. He added that while he makes recommendations on the facility, it's up to the school to decide what to build.

In Newberg City Manager Joe Hannan's Jan. 22 notes to the City Council, he mentions the city is supporting and monitoring progress of a private proposal and pre-application to "build a medical building acceptable to George Fox for their physician assistants program."

Hannan did not respond to a request for comment, nor did Community Development Director Doug Rux and George Fox CFO Vicki Piersall.

Davenport said creating a PA program falls in line with the mission of GFU to add programs with a humanitarian mission.

The school continues to expand its health, science and medical programs, and Davenport called the PA program a "mission match."

"Why wouldn't they expand to this?" he said.

Davenport said the PA program is a lengthy one and will likely stretch to 136 semester hours; earning a master's degree typically takes between 30 and 36 semester hours.

According to the school's website, it will be a three-year program and students will emerge out with a doctor of medical science degree. Unlike medical school, though, Davenport said students who graduate this program do not go through a residency afterward.

"It's highly competitive, only about 6 percent of applicants get into a program," he said, adding that the school hasn't set a strict number of students who will enter the program, saying the school must "be really careful in how big our eyes get."

He added that the program will also have a humanitarian focus, both domestically and abroad.

While some schools have programs that have an out-of-country focus, Davenport said GFU wants to show students how important their efforts in the world are and "to truly see what being underserved is all about."

"They really graduate with rose rimmed glasses, they don't understand the huge impact they have," he said.

The hope is for GFU to embark on at least one trip a year to practice what they've learned in the classroom. Davenport said they'd like to create a model for other schools to pick up on and follow and they will work with other universities to create something sustainable.

He said it's important for programs to create medical sustainability in countries in need and not just do "medical tourism."

So the plan is to go to countries in need, set up a clinic to help the locals, and let other universities use the infrastructure they've established.

"We want someone in country every three months," he said. "We really need students to understand sustainability is the key."

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