Physician Assistant Studies Admissions Requirements

As the population of the United States becomes increasingly diverse, cultural competency within the physician assistant profession is critical. Our program is seeking individuals who demonstrate a clear understanding of the Canisius University Jesuit mission, with a commitment to improving health care outcomes for vulnerable patient populations. Special consideration will be given to candidates who display a passion for social justice and an understanding of the lived experiences of patients from diverse backgrounds. In turn, our program is committed to reducing barriers and addressing disparities in the application process by removing standardized testing, reducing prerequisite courses where appropriate, valuing virtual shadowing and other modes of meeting experiential requirements, and placing emphasis on the whole person when considering candidates. 

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Application Requirements

  • Completion of CASPA application in full by the deadline (given at https://caspa.liaisoncas.com/applicant-ux/#/login). The application cycle for the 2024-25 review in CASPA begins on April 26, 2024. Application materials will be reviewed in CASPA only. We will not meet with applicants or review materials outside the formal CASPA process. The current CASPA deadline for this application will close September 1, 2024, at midnight EST. Please note, applicants will not be contacted with interview decisions until AFTER the application deadline. 

Application Requirements:

  •  Three (3) letters of recommendation on professional letterhead are required. At least one letter of recommendation must be from a health care professional.
  •  A current resume or curriculum vitae (CV)
  •  A supplemental essay in 600 words or less addressing the following:

    "We seek to eliminate healthcare disparity and improve the wellbeing of underserved populations by developing competent, compassionate, and mindful clinicians who may not share a similar background as their patients. Tell us about an experience that has broadened your own view of social justice and has enhanced your ability to understand those unlike yourself."

  •  Bachelor's degree with minimum 3.0 overall GPA, including the following prerequisite courses: 
    • Anatomy and Physiology I & II (Minimum 6 credit hours) *Separate physiology courses may not require a lab
    • General Chemistry I & II (Min 8 credit hours)
    • Organic Chemistry (Min 4 credit hours) 
    • Biochemistry (Min 3 credit hours) 
    • Microbiology (Min 3 credit hours-prefer with lab)
    • Any Psychology or Sociology course (Min 3 credit hours)
    • Statistics (Min 3 credit hours) 
    • Medical Terminology (certificate courses are accepted but not preferred)
  • This program does not allow advanced placement or waive any courses in the curriculum based on prior training or employment.
  • Minimum of 3.0 overall GPA in prerequisite sciences; A minimum grade of C must be achieved in each prerequisite course. Grades less than C are not accepted for any prerequisite (C minus not accepted). Prerequisite courses must be completed at the time of the application deadline. All prerequisite coursework must be completed at an accredited institution within the United States or Canada. Prerequisite sciences must have been taken within seven (7) years of the application deadline. Exceptions may be made for applicants with a completed medical degree or who have been in active clinical practice at the time of application.  Applicants will receive additional points for GPA higher than a 3.0 for overall GPA, prerequisite GPA, overall science GPA, and last 60 credit hours GPA. Points are awarded on a sliding scale as follows:

          If GPA is:                                  Then score is:

           3.8-4.0                                              12

          3.5-3.79                                             8

          3.3-3.49                                             5

          3.0-3.29                                             2

             <3.0                                                 0

  • minimum of 500 hours of direct patient contact. The program defines direct patient contact as "having some decision-making responsibility for the patient". Clinical experiences with higher levels of decision-making are viewed more competitively. Examples include international medical doctor, RN, paramedic, respiratory therapist, PT, OT, etc. Candidates with experiences such as medical assistant, patient care technician, EMT-B, dietary aid, etc. will be considered for hours of contact, but scored lower on a sliding scale for quality.  Applicants who have fewer than 500 direct patient contact hours will not be considered for admission in the current cycle. Candidates will receive additional points if they have more than 1000 hours of direct patient contact. 
  • minimum of 100 hours of community service. Applicants are encouraged to have at least 100 hours of community service at the time of application. As a reflection of our program's mission, this is an area of high importance when being considered. Community service is scored on a sliding scale based on quality. For example, a mission trip or significant mission-related service will receive more points than working at a food drive. Applicants with fewer than 100 hours will receive zero points but may still be considered for an interview and admission based on holistic review of their application. 

Due to ongoing challenges with prospective student findings quality shadowing hours, we have elected to remove this requirement for the foreseeable future. While we strongly encourage applicants to seek these opportunities, we do not consider this as part of the application score. 

In accordance with CDC recommendations, the New York State Dept. of Health, and clinical training partner requirements, ALL students who attend this program must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 before start of classes. Exemptions for religion or medical reasons are not accepted at this time. 

Technical Skills for Applicants

1. Observation and Sensory: The student must be able to observe demonstrations in the basic sciences, perform clinical laboratory diagnostic tests, utilize patient monitoring devices, interpret diagnostic images and reports, and examine patients for the purposes of assessment and diagnosis accurately. The student must have the ability to discern and comprehend spatial relationships of structures and must be able to assess all areas of the body through inspection and palpation. The student must be able to perceive the presence of abnormalities in a specific body system such as masses, lesions or inflammation, and must also be capable of perceiving the signs of disease through the use of all sensory tools (e.g. vision, hearing, smell, touch) throughout the comprehensive head to toe physical examination of the patient. The process of physical assessment includes, but is not limited to, information that is derived from observation and palpation of body areas, palpable changes in various organs and tissues, and auditory information such as patient voice, and heart/lung/bowel sounds.

2. Communication: The student must be able to communicate in English clearly, efficiently, and effectively with instructors, fellow students, patients and caregivers, physicians, and other members of the healthcare team verbally and in written formats. These communication skills require the ability to examine all information provided, conduct a well-focused follow-up inquiry, and relay relevant feedback in the oral and written communication format. Students must be able to communicate in a group setting in an effective and constructive way to facilitate optimal learning and care of the patient. Additionally, students must be able to recognize barriers to effective communication based on differences of language, religion, social status, education status, or other factors, and find the best way to communicate with patients and their families in a way that is clear, concise, and fosters confidence in the plan of care. Effective communication also relies on the student’s ability to use appropriate judgment in seeking supervision and consultation in a timely manner. Finally, students must learn to clearly, efficiently, and thoroughly document all aspects of the patient care process including chief complaint, history of illness, examination findings, testing results, assessment, and care plan.

3. Motor: The student must have sufficient motor function to effectively move themselves and others in order to perform physical examinations and to provide medical care and treatment. During clinical coursework and in eventual practice, the student must demonstrate motor skills related to patient physical examination and performing testing or treatment procedures. Additionally, the student must be able to physically ensure the safety of themselves and patients at all times, including meeting the acceptable standards of universal precaution and sterile technique. Students will need to demonstrate physical ability and skill in tasks such as suturing, splinting, injections, joint manipulations, removing foreign bodies from the skin, flushing eyes, ears, or wounds, performing digital pelvic or rectal examinations, and more. Many of these procedures require fine motor skills and relative strength.

4. Intellectual: The student must have the cognitive abilities necessary to master relevant content in the basic sciences and clinical courses at sufficient breadth and depth determined by the PA profession. These skills may be described as the ability to comprehend, memorize, analyze, and apply learning material. The student must be able to develop reasoning, problem-solving, and decision-making skills appropriate to the practice of medicine. Additionally, the student must be able to recognize the limits of his/her ability, request assistance when necessary, and create a professional development plan based on their individual needs.

5. Behavioral and Social Attributes: The student must demonstrate personal attributes of caring, integrity, and cultural competence. The student must possess the emotional health and stability required for full application and use of their intellectual abilities, the exercise of good judgment, the prompt and effective completion of all responsibilities under stress, and adapt to a clinical environment that may change rapidly without warning and/or in unpredictable ways. The student is expected to interact with others in a respectful and responsible manner at all times. The student must be able to accept and respond to constructive criticism and resolve conflicts in a socially acceptable and professional manner. Additionally, students must continually demonstrate the ability to self-assess, self-correct, and self-direct; identify needs and sources of learning, and continually seek new knowledge and understanding. Students will also be expected to understand the Jesuit philosophies of Canisius University and apply these philosophies to the learning process and in clinical practice.

*Students will be asked to sign the handbook upon matriculation that indicates they understand and acknowledge these standards along with all other policies and procedures

Preference for Specific Applicants

The Canisius University Physician Assistant Program gives preference to applicants graduating from the following universities/colleges:
•        Canisius University
•        University at Buffalo

Any applicant applying to the PA Program from either of these two universities and who meet all admission requirements will be offered an interview. This does not guarantee acceptance to the program. Applicants from Canisius University are very strongly encouraged to be active with the Pre-Health Center advisement

No preference is given to New York State residents or based on any other criteria.  This program is an equal opportunity program and does not discriminate based on age, gender, sexual orientation, race, or military service.

Additional Requirements for International Students

 Canadian and other international applicants must provide a completed Certification of Finances Form. 

  • International students who have completed university coursework outside the U.S. and Canada are required to have their transcripts and degrees evaluated by a foreign credential evaluation service such as World Education Services (WES). 
  • TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) score, IELTS (International English Language Testing System) score, or a CAEL (Canadian Academic English Language) score. 
    • TOEFL: 79 IBT or 550 PBT
    • IELTS: 6.5 overall
    • CAEL: 70 overall
  • Students from Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa are waived from the language proficiency requirement.
  • Students who completed a 4-year degree (on campus) at a U.S. college/university are waived from the language proficiency requirement.

For more information about program policies, procedures, and expectations, please refer to the Canisius University Physician Assistant Studies Student Handbook located on this webpage.

For more information about the profession, student resources, and PA leadership, please visit: www.aapa.org.