UNR Med and Renown Health Team Up to Educate Physician Assistants

physician assistant program

 The new Physician Assistant Studies Program’s first class of 24 students began instruction in July and will soon be providing quality care to patients. They include a student who wants to stay in Nevada to provide care to others.

Physician assistants (PAs) play a critical role in meeting northern Nevada and the state’s expanding healthcare needs. Demand for PAs is expected to grow by nearly 40 percent nationally over the next 10 years, and the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine (UNR Med) and Renown Health are rising to the challenge.

Physician Assistant Program

UNR Med has partnered with Renown to offer a Physician Assistant (PA) Studies Program to meet the growing need for more healthcare professionals locally and statewide. The first class of 24 PA students began instruction on July 2. The 25-month long, full-time master’s degree program is the first such program in the Nevada System of Higher Education and supports the Educated and Healthy Citizenry priority outlined in Gov. Brian Sandoval’s Strategic Priorities.


Students will take academic and clinical courses, clinical skills training and supervised clinical practice, resulting in a Master of Science in Medicine Physician Assistant Studies degree. Upon completion, PAs are qualified to conduct physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, write prescriptions, perform and assist in surgeries.

Keeping Care in Nevada

One UNR Med PA Studies Program student, Amanda Wong, is excited for not only the availability of a PA Studies Program at UNR Med, but to be able to stay in Nevada and work in primary care.

“Growing up in an under-served community and completing a rural medicine observership in Elko, I witnessed and experienced a variety of obstacles rural providers face in treating patients of all backgrounds,” Wong says. “Understanding the struggles and challenges of diverse populations allows a healthcare team to provide quality patient care. Having UNR Med’s PA Program here will allow myself and others the resources and proper training to provide quality care to Nevada’s rural and under-served communities, as well as its broader population.”

Before starting the PA Program, Wong worked at Renown in several different departments.

“I began as a patient safety assistant, and after several months, I had the opportunity to become a rehabilitation therapy technician,” Wong says. “I truly enjoyed working with and learning from the wonderful occupational therapists, physical therapists and speech language pathologists.

“After a year, I was interested in expanding my patient care experience, and I transferred to another position as a cardiac rehabilitation technician at Renown’s Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation program. While there, I worked alongside fantastic nurses, dietitians and exercise physiologists and learned how to monitor and improve patients’ cardiac health.”

Why Become a Physician Assistant? 

Now, Wong is excited about becoming a PA.“Through my own health challenges, along with my interactions with individuals who face such obstacles on a daily basis, my desire to become a physician assistant who provides others the opportunity to live a happy and healthy life continues to grow,” she says. “I am most excited about being able to have a lasting impact on the health of patients, as well as the community as a whole, through building strong personal relationships and providing the best care I can as a PA in northern Nevada.”

Although born in Toronto, Canada, Wong considers Nevada home and loves going on hikes, fishing, and staying active by being outside.

“Having a PA program in my hometown will allow me to give back to the community that has provided me with so many wonderful opportunities,” she adds.