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AU News

Master of Medical Science In Pathologists’ Assistant (MMSPA) Degree First in State

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Anderson University is the first institution of higher learning in South Carolina and the sixteenth in North America to offer a master’s program for preparing pathologists’ assistants.

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In response to a growing need across the region’s healthcare communities, the Anderson University College of Health Professions has begun a new master’s program to prepare pathologists’ assistants.

The Master of Medical Science in Pathologists’ Assistant (MMSPA) degree received approval, making Anderson University’s program the first one in South Carolina and only the sixteenth such program in North America. The two-year program will be completed in a fully seated format with clinical rotations conducted at regional hospitals, free-standing pathology labs and forensic pathology labs. Educational prerequisites are a bachelor’s degree in biology or a related field.

“The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a nationwide need for a 13 percent average increase in medical laboratory professionals between 2016 and 2026, which is nearly double the underlying average increase in all occupations of seven percent,” said Derek Nelson, who is the program director and the chair of the new School of Clinical Laboratory Sciences. “This shortage is due to multiple factors, including an aging workforce, increase in demand of testing and lack of programs.”

“Pathologists’ assistants help bridge the gap and extend the physician (pathologist) the same way a physician assistant/nurse practitioner would. I believe that PA’s will truly have a positive and direct effect on patient care locally and nationally,” Nelson said.

“One thing we’ve really tried to do in the College of Health Professions is build programs that fulfill a community need,” said College of Health Professions Dean Dr. Donald Peace.

The College of Health Professions sought to establish the program following a request from a local clinical pathologist at a regional hospital stating that an urgent need exists for pathologists’ assistants. The pathologist assistant has a role similar to that of a physician assistant (PA). What makes the pathologist assistant unique is their work in the anatomic pathology laboratory of hospitals — the laboratory preparation of tissue samples, including comprehensive macroscopic examination of surgical tissues and postmortem examinations for final diagnosis by a pathologist.

In addition to hospitals, job opportunities can also be found in coroner’s or medical examiner’s offices, local pathology labs and dermatology practices.

According to Dr. Peace, the program’s first students are starting in the fall 2022 semester, taking their first courses in anatomy and physiology and medical terminology.

The new program will be offered at the Holdredge Bearwood Center, an area medical facility recently acquired by Anderson University.

Nelson, who joined Anderson University in June, was previously a pathologists’ assistant at Licking Memorial Health Systems in Ohio. He has also served on the adjunct faculty of West Liberty University in West Virginia and Zane State College in Ohio. He received his M.S.B.S. in pathologists’ assistant from the University of Toledo. He also has a B.S. in medical laboratory science from Muskingum University and an A.A.S. in medical laboratory technology from Zane State College.

The Anderson University College of Health Professions is where cutting-edge science and biblical compassion come together to meet the healthcare needs of the twenty-first century. Details about its programs can be found online.

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