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USD Credited for Placement of Physician Assistants in Rural Areas

Image Physician Assistant Sites South Dakota locations of USD-trained physician assistants.

VERMILLION, S.D. -- The physician assistant program at the University of South Dakota ranks 12th out of 154 PA programs in the nation for the percentage of its graduates practicing in rural locations, according to the national Rural Health Research and Policy Center.

The center said 37 percent of USD’s 390 PA graduates are working in communities with fewer than 10,000 people. An online map shows the location of 183 of them who practice in South Dakota.

The PA profession emerged in the United States in the 1970s as a way to boost access to expert health care providers for people living in rural areas. USD’s PA program, which started in 1993, is one of 10 different health profession programs that are part of the university’s School of Health Sciences.

Modern physician assistants attend many of the same classes as medical students but spend less time on their formal education because they are not required to undertake a residency. PAs now provide important health care services in all areas of every state, and opportunity forecasts for the profession are among the brightest in the employment sector.

USD currently accepts 25 new students each year, and 20 of them must be South Dakota residents.


USD’s School of Health Sciences is a national leader in interprofessional health sciences education. South Dakota’s comprehensive School of Health Sciences develops scholars, practitioners and leaders in health and human services, including addiction counselors, dental hygienists, health science practitioners, medical laboratory scientists, nurses, occupational therapists, physical therapists, physician assistants, public health practitioners and social workers.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 84 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, Knudson School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Hanna DeLange
USD News