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College of Health Professions E-Newsletter

Message from Physician Assistant Studies Division Director

Dr. Gil Boissonneault, PhD, PA-C, PA Professor and Divisioin Director

The Physician Assistant Studies Program (PAS) has been very active over the past year!  The faculty, staff and students remain strong, vibrant, and dedicated as ever to the PA profession and the communities we are so privileged to serve. 

Our Students

We are extremely proud of our outstanding students!  We are also honored to have some of the most talented of America’s citizens join our ranks with the objective of acquiring the knowledge and skills necessary to provide compassionate, evidence-based and cost effective health care of the highest quality to citizens of South Carolina and throughout the nation.

  • The Class of 2012 had a first time pass rate for the Physician Assistant National Certification Examination (PANCE) of 97%, compared to the national rate of 93%.  This degree of excellence continues our graduates’ five-year trend of 95% first pass rate versus the national rate of 93%.
  • The Class of 2013 made great strides through their clinical year as they acquired the skills to become outstanding health care providers and graduated in August 2013.
  • The 67 students from the Class of 2014 were recognized in the White Coat Ceremony held on July 26 marking their successes in completing the didactic phase of their education and their progress into the clinical phase of learning. 
  • The Class of 2015 began their didactic studies in May, 2013, with 67 students matriculating.  They are hard at work adapting to the PAS curriculum and preparing themselves to enter the clinical phase in August 2014.

Our Program

  • The Physician Assistant Studies Program has been active reviewing its curriculum and over the past year began a process of curricular evaluation and analysis with the purpose of improving our curriculum, and ultimately enhancing the education offered to students.  This effort remains a work in progress.
  • In May of 2013, April Vargus, MSPAS, PA-C, joined our faculty as instructor and admissions coordinator. 
  • The current full-time faculty include: Gilbert Boissonneault, PhD, PA-C (division director and professor), Clint Blankenship, PharmD, PA-C (academic coordinator and assistant professor), Mary Hewett, MS, PA-C (Student and Alumni Affairs Coordinator and Assistant Professor), David Howell-Keith, MBA (clinical coordinator for operations and instructor), Paul Jacques, DHSc, EdM, PA-C (clinical coordinator for evaluation and associate professor), Christine Otruba, DO, FAAP (medical director and assistant professor), and April Vargus, MSPAS, PA-C (admissions coordinator and instructor). 
  • Shenikqua Simmons continues to support the PAS Program in the role of administrative assistant.  Kelly Long, BA, who previously served as PAS Student Affairs Coordinator, was recently promoted to the role of College of Health Professions Director of Student Services.  David Evatt, BA, joined our Program as PAS Student Affairs Coordinator.  Congratulations to Kelly, welcome to Dave, and thank you to Shenikqua for your steadfast support!
  • We continue to be supported by a large number of dedicated and talented adjunct faculty throughout the didactic curriculum.  The quality of this didactic curriculum is markedly improved by the contributions of these outstanding clinicians.
  • We continue to enjoy the support of many talented physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners as clinical preceptors.  However, due to growing demands of the health care system, the need for dedicated preceptors is also growing.  If you haven’t previously served as a preceptor we hope that you will consider doing so – helping to educate the future PAs in the workforce is incredibly rewarding!

“Lamar Hood (left), PAS student of the graduating class of 2014, was named “Mr. MUSC” at the 2013 Mr. MUSC Pageant.  Making the final presentation are Brittany Cheney (center) and David Astaphan (right), vice president and president, respectively, of the class of 2014.”

Our Community

While the class of 2013 has been busy honing their clinical skills, the class of 2014 has been very active in serving their community through a host of activities, including participating in mission trips and a variety of volunteer opportunities.  Over the past year the class of 2014:

  • Contributed 524 hours of volunteer care at the CARES clinic
  • Donated 2,332 additional hours of volunteer care elsewhere in the community.  An example of this is the “Mr. MUSC Pageant”. The PAS class of 2012 initiated this community based fund raising event.  This exciting, fun event has become a highlight of the PAS year, and continues to involve growing participation from the MUSC community.  This year students of the PAS class of 2014 organized the Mr. MUSC pageant, which raised $4,000 for the Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic, the largest amount raised since the pageant began.  Our own Mr. Lamar Hood was selected as Mr. MUSC.

As you can see, the faculty, staff and students of the Division of Physician Assistant Studies have been active!  Our doors are always open if you would like to visit our classroom and see first-hand your program! Please feel free to contact me directly with any questions or comments. I look forward to seeing you at upcoming PA events.


Gilbert A. Boissonneault, PhD, PA-C
Professor, Program Director
Physician Assistant Studies
(843) 792-3648


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