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Cal State San Bernardino developing a Master of Science Physician Assistant program

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Sonia Otte is the founding program director for Cal State San Bernardino’s new Master of Science Physician Assistant program. Cal State’s program will join the only two other public Physician Assistant programs in California.

A Physician Assistant can prescribe medication, diagnose illness and create treatment plans for patients. The median salary for a PA is about $121,530, but it varies widely by state and county.

As founding program director, Otte is designing the curriculum, planning program facilities, developing partnerships in the community and obtaining accreditation.

Otte’s hope is that Physician Assistant’s graduating from CSUSB will be able to fill the gaps left by the Inland Empire’s doctor shortage.

The Inland Empire has just 35 primary care physicians per 100,000 patients– that’s half the recommended 60 to 80 primary care physicians per 100,000 patients.

Pending a successful accreditation review, the 27-month program will launch its first class of 40 students in August 2025.

“If on average, our graduates saw 15 patients a day and even took four weeks of vacation each year, one PA could see 3600 patients a year. And if you multiply that by 40, for the whole class, that's 144,000 patients a year that one program like ours could make that impact,” said Otte.

Otte wants to connect with students who are from the Inland Empire. Multiple studies have cited the benefits of healthcare providers coming from similar backgrounds and cultures as their patients.

“Having our students more closely mirror the communities that we'll be serving is hugely important,” said Otte.

California State Senator Richard Roth has secured more than $11 million in funding for the program since 2021. The program also received $2 million in federal funding earlier this month.

CSUSB plans to start accepting applications for the program in 2024.