Application Open for Mercy College of Ohio's New Physician Assistant Program

On April 30, 2020, the Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA) site opens and, for the first time, includes Mercy College of Ohio’s Master of Physician Assistant Studies (PA) program, a milestone in which Dawn LaBarbera, PhD, PA-C takes great pride.

It has been a busy 15 months for Dr. LaBarbera, who was hired as Mercy College of Ohio’s Founding Director of the Physician Assistant Studies graduate program. Physician Assistants are medical professionals who diagnose illness, develop and manage treatment plans, prescribe medications, and often serve as a patient’s principal healthcare provider.

Dr. LaBarbera bounds with enthusiasm and exudes her passion for physician assistant education. She has been behind the scenes building Mercy College’s Physician Assistant program from the ground up. “There are great needs in many areas of medicine including mental health, geriatrics, and primary care. PAs have an important role to help fill in the gaps,” says Dr. LaBarbera.

Susan Wajert, PhD, Mercy College President says, "The Master of Physician Assistant Studies Program will join the growing number of graduate healthcare programs at Mercy College alongside the Master of Health Administration and the Master of Science in Nursing. We are very fortunate to have Dr. LaBarbera leading this new program. Her depth and breadth of experience in both healthcare and higher education uniquely qualify her for this role. She has an unparalleled work ethic as she continues to practice part-time in family medicine in addition to her role as PA Program Director and Professor.”

Pending provisional accreditation, Mercy College’s Physician Assistant Studies program will begin in May 2021. The seven-semester program will prepare students to sit for the Physician Assistant National Certification Examination. Information about Mercy College’s PA program including admission requirements, curriculum information, and frequently asked questions are available at

Dr. LaBarbera was drawn to Mercy College because it is a healthcare-focused institution and part of the Bon Secours Mercy Health System. She says, “I identified with the values and connected with the leadership and faculty of the institution and it’s been a good fit. As an experienced educator and a healthcare provider, the rewards are amazing! I enjoy patient care but also realize that, as a PA educator, I can indirectly affect many more patients by supporting PA students on their educational journey.”

Dr. LaBarbera earned her PhD in Organization and Management from Capella University and her Master of Science in Physician Assistant from Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science. Over her 24-year higher education experience, she worked her way up the academic ranks from Assistant Professor to Program Director/ Professor. Mercy College is the second location where Dr. LaBarbera has started a Physician Assistant program. She also founded the Fort Wayne Area Interprofessional Education Consortium (FWAIPEC), a successful interprofessional education collaboration of graduate healthcare programs from different teaching institutions.

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