MyNorth News Service

(Press Release provided by GVSU)

TRAVERSE CITY: Grand Valley State University has responded to a national shortage of health care professionals in rural and underserved areas by opening a satellite program in Traverse City offering a Master’s in Physician Assistants Studies (MPAS) degree.

Nicholus Kopacki, a faculty member in Traverse City, said the MPAS program earned two grants from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration to expand the program with a goal to educate and train students who are interested in primary care and serving rural populations.

In November, Grand Valley announced the expansion and full accreditation of its MPAS program in Traverse City. The announcement was made with community partners, Northwestern Michigan College and Munson Medical Center. Grand Valley is among the eight universities who are partners at NMC’s University Center who, along with NMC provide educational opportunities to members of the Traverse City Region.

Beginning in August 2015, students enrolled in Traverse City began classes and interacted daily with their counterparts at Grand Valley’s Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences in Grand Rapids through the use of ITV, a remote site classroom video system. With the use of the ITV system and the addition of two faculty members located at the Traverse City campus, students located in Traverse City will have the same educational opportunities as the students located at the Grand Rapids campus.

Roy Olsson, dean of the College of Health Professions, said the satellite location will lead to more physician assistants being hired for positions in Traverse City and northern Michigan.

“Educating students who complete their education and clinical experiences in northern Michigan should lead to more graduates staying in that area,” Olsson said.

Jean Nagelkerk, vice provost for Health at Grand Valley, said expanding the university’s collaborative partnerships meets the needs of Traverse City area residents. “We are delighted to participate in the development of a health care workforce with expertise in population health, team-based care, and primary health care,” Nagelkerk said.

Kopacki added that the shortage of health care professionals will grow more critical as more people will seek medical care after passage of the Affordable Care Act.

“Physician assistants have been called on to be a critical part of the solution,” he said. “Access to quality health care, especially in rural and underserved communities, will continue to be a challenge for many years to come.”

Grand Valley’s MPAS program has a proven track record; 100 percent of students in the last three cohorts to take the national licensure exam have passed on their first attempt, and the program has an overall first-time-pass rate of 98.6 percent since its inception in 1995.

For more information about the program, visit