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St. Joseph's New Physician Assistant Program Delayed Indefinitely

A digital rendering from July 2015 of the College of St. Joseph's proposed Health Professions Building in Proctor. School officials cite construction delays as part of the reason for the program's indefinite delay.

The College Of St. Josephin Rutland has put its new Physician Assistant Program on hold. Two dozen students who were expecting to begin graduate-level classes in June were notified this month that the program’s start is being delayed indefinitely.

Officials at the college would say little about why they were delaying the program’s start other than to say it remains under review and students have been notified.

The college’s board of trustees will meet Tuesday night to determine the program’s future. 

The PA program had been eagerly anticipated in Rutland County: It would have been the first Master of Medical Science Physician Assistant Studies Program in the state. And the field is growing rapidly.

Emily Swint was planning to move to Vermont from North Carolina for the program and says she’s worked for four years toward becoming a physician assistant. Finding out the program is being delayed was a blow. 

“My heart dropped,” she says. “I was initially very disappointed. I knew it wasn’t a total loss and I have to tell myself that I have to reframe things a little bit. But it’s definitely not what I had expected. I was really looking forward to starting school in June and beginning graduate school.”

According to an April 7 letter sent to students by Catherine Gemmiti, chair of the department, the college was withdrawing its application for accreditation for its PA program pending approval from the school’s board of trustees.

"My heart dropped ... I was really looking forward to starting school in June and beginning graduate school." — Emily Swint, a student planning to attend the new program

"The decision was influenced by unavoidable independent factors," Gemmiti wrote, "including but not limited to construction delays, funding hurdles and others.” 

The PA program was to be housed in a white marble building in Proctor, gifted to the college by OMYA. The building was being renovated but the renovations were slowed down because the building is a historic landmark. Additionally, loans that had been expected to fund the project did not materialize.

Another problem, according to health care providers in Rutland, had to do with the shortage of places PA students from the college could get clinical internship opportunities in the Rutland area.

Emily Swint says the college never hid the fact that the new program was not yet accredited and that it had to win that distinction before classes could begin. Still she says it’s hard to start over and look for a new program. 

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