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Doctor of Medical Science

Doctor of Medical Science

Unique Entirely Online Post-Professional Doctoral Program For PAs

A.T. Still University’s (ATSU) Doctor of Medical Science (DMSc) program provides a PA-specific doctorate degree designed by and exclusively for practicing physician assistants. Offered by ATSU’s Arizona School of Health Sciences (ATSU-ASHS), this doctoral program is the only one providing an in-depth understanding of the elements needed to address the challenges in the U.S. healthcare system today. Different types of doctoral degrees exist for physician assistants, but the DMSc can be earned entirely online—without an on-site clinical residency.

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Designed For Practicing Physician Assistants
ATSU’s physician assistant doctorate online is designed for PAs who are currently, or have previously been, certified or licensed to practice as a PA.

Not only can practicing PAs prepare to move forward in their profession, they also become leaders with the insight and expertise to help improve how healthcare is delivered in America tomorrow.

With an asynchronous learning model, the entire physician assistant doctoral program provides highly flexible online learning, which minimizes career disruption while maximizing new opportunities. PAs can continue to practice full time while obtaining their degree.

Bolster Whole-Person Healthcare Within Your Community
The targeted learning model and assessment plan sets this physician assistant doctorate program apart from the typical doctoral program. Students earning their physician assistant doctorate gain the planning, implementing, and analysis skills they will need to positively impact outcomes at the patient, management, community, and system levels. They also attain expertise in blending critical thinking and evidence-based analysis with ethical, legal, and psychosocial considerations to bolster whole-person healthcare in the community.

With an expanded résumé of experience and accomplishments, graduates from this physician assistant doctoral program will have greater influence on the delivery and quality of patient care as a result.


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  • Accreditation +

    • A.T. Still University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission

      230 S. LaSalle Street; Suite 7-500
      Chicago, IL 60604

      Phone: 800.621.7440 | Fax: 312.263.7462

      Degree-granting authority for the Arizona School of Health Sciences has been given by the Arizona State Board for Private Postsecondary Education, 1400 West Washington Rd., Room 260, Phoenix, AZ 85007. Phone 602.542.5709.

  • Career Advancement+

    • Students in ATSU-ASHS’ exclusive post-professional online physician assistant doctorate are practicing physician assistants who want to advance their careers in many exciting areas of healthcare including:

      • PA – Clinical Practice
      • PA – Educational Leadership
      • PA – Industry Leadership
  • Advocating for the PA Profession and the Underserved+

    • PAs with a doctor of medical science become empowered to be a voice for the advancement of the PA profession in healthcare, and for expanding the integration of the PA role within underserved populations as a key to cost-efficient care. They become prepared to take a leadership position in advancing whole-person healthcare, social responsibility, diversity and expanded access to care through forward-thinking health advocacy and promotion at the local, state, and federal levels.

      Graduates with a physician assistant doctorate also gain a greater understanding of how the legislative process affects healthcare policy and study strategies for boosting the role of PAs in improving healthcare care through legislative advocacy. They have the knowledge and insight to develop innovations in PA education to better equip future PAs, and assess PA workforce trends and predictive models to help guide the evolution of this workforce to effectively meet healthcare marketplace demands in the future.

  • NACHC Member Discount+

    • Not only is there a tremendous need for qualified PA leaders now, but more than ever, applying to the Doctor of Medical Science program at ATSU-ASHS also earns qualified National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC)-affiliated applicants a 20 percent reduction in tuition upon admission. Both employees of NACHC and employees of NACHC member organizations in good standing are eligible.

Doctor of Medical Science Degree Faculty

ATSU’s PA program has a robust, time-proven curriculum for both residential and online PA programs with a strong faculty experienced in the online delivery of instruction.

ATSU’s PA department currently employs doctorally-trained faculty. These faculty have received graduate degrees through online education, and have taught online courses at both the graduate and undergraduate level.

  • Dean +

      • Annlee Burch, PT, MPH, EdD Annlee Burch, PT, MPH, EdD
        Annlee Burch, PT, MPH, EdD  LinkedIn

        Dr. Ann Lee Burch is the dean of A.T. Still University’s Arizona School of Health Sciences (ATSU-ASHS). Dr. Burch received her doctor of education from Columbia University, Teachers College in 2005. She received her masters of public health from Columbia University, Mailman School of Public Health in 2002 and her masters of physical therapy from Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1989. She was a postdoctoral fellow with the Research Group on Health Disparities at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her BA is in psychology from the University of Rochester.

        Prior to her appointment as dean, Dr. Burch served as vice dean for ATSU-ASHS. She served as the chair of the Physical Therapy Department from 2008-January 2012. Prior to ATSU, Dr. Burch was the director of physical therapy at the University of Puerto Rico, Medical Sciences Campus in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She has held administrative and/or faculty positions at the International Center for the Disabled in NY, NY, Mercy College in NY, and Long Island University in Brooklyn, NY.

        Dr. Burch’s area of scholarly interest and application of that interest is in knowledge, attitudes, and self-efficacy of health care providers and healthcare professional students towards underrepresented patient/client groups.

        Dr. Burch is the author of a Guide to Physical Therapy (Vault Publishers) which was written to increase information access about physical therapy to both high school graduates and re-entry adults. She was a co-investigator on an NIH grant at the University of Puerto Rico exploring the feasibility of an exercise program for breast cancer survivors living in San Juan.  Dr. Burch has lived in Symi, Greece, Taipei, Taiwan, Ahmdebad, India and San Juan, Puerto Rico, and is committed to research, teaching and service that further the understanding of the impact of socioeconomic and cultural variables on health.

        She was a member of the class of 2014 cohort of Women in Educational Leadership at Harvard Graduate School of Education. In 2017 she was the co-PI on a Centers for Disease Control, Association for Prevention and Teaching grant exploring a population health case study format for teaching and communicating the impact of social determinants of health on health disparities. She was recently appointed a peer reviewer for the Higher Learning Commission.  

  • Associate Director +

      • Albert Simon, DHSc, MEd, PA-C<br/>Physician Assistant Albert Simon, DHSc, MEd, PA-C
        Physician Assistant

        Albert Simon, DHSc, MEd, PA-C<br/>Physician Assistant LinkedIn

        Albert (Bert) Simon, DHSc, MEd, PA, is the former chair and current professor in the Department of Physician Assistant Studies at A.T. Still University’s Arizona School of Health Sciences (ATSU-ASHS). Previously, he served as founding vice dean at ATSU’s School of Osteopathic Medicine in Arizona (ATSU-SOMA), where he was also chief operating officer for ATSU-SOMA. He was an integral part of the leadership team that developed the most innovative medical school in the U.S. from 2007-2012. For 37 years, Dr. Simon has served as chair of physician assistant studies departments at three universities: Saint Francis University, Baylor College of Medicine, and most recently ATSU. During his years as chair at Saint Francis University, their physician assistant program was the only non-medical school-based program ranked in the top ten physician assistant programs in the U.S. by U.S. News and World Report in every ranking poll.

        In his years of clinical practice, he has worked in occupational medicine at Volkswagen of America’s assembly plant in New Stanton, Pennsylvania, and inpatient internal medicine at the Van Zantz Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Altoona, Pennsylvania, as well as working family medicine in the Coalport Area Community Health Center. Being politically active in the physician assistant profession, he has served in a number of national leadership positions including president and vice president of the Association of Physician Assistant Programs (APAP) and author of the Annual Report on Physician Assistant Educational Programs in the U.S. During his APAP presidency, he founded the Leadership-Training Institute as a vehicle to provide needed education to individuals entering into PA education. He has served as an educational consultant to over 25 physician assistant programs across the U.S. He has also served as the co-editor of Appleton and Lange’s Q and A for the Physician Assistant, one of the best selling board review books for physician assistants in the nation.

        With an interest in continuous quality improvement, Dr. Simon was trained as a Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award Examiner for the United States Department of Labor. He was also featured in the book On Q, Causing Quality in Higher Education by Daniel Seymour for his innovative approaches to quality management in an educational program.

        Dr. Simon resides in the picturesque mountain community of Ligonier, Pennsylvania, with his wife and two dogs (Allie and Cole).

  • Director +

      • Randy Danielsen, PhD, PA, DFAAPA Randy Danielsen, PhD, PA, DFAAPA
        Randy Danielsen, PhD, PA, DFAAPA  LinkedIn

        Dr. Danielsen is the director of the Doctor of Medical Science (DMSc) program. Since graduating from the University of Utah Physician Assistant (PA) Program in 1974, Dr. Danielsen has distinguished himself as a clinician, PA educator, author, and editor. He received his BS in Health Science (cum laude) from the University of Utah in 1978, his Masters in PA Studies (MPAS) from the University of Nebraska with an emphasis on Internal Medicine in 1997, and his Ph.D. from the Union Institute & University in 2003 with an emphasis on Medical Education. He has been with A.T. Still University for over two decades as PA academic coordinator (1995-1997), chair of physician assistant studies (1997-2004), dean of the Arizona School of Health Sciences (2004-2010, 2012-2018) and recently stepped down as dean to take on the new role with the DMSc.

        He has served on the board of directors of the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) and as a board member and chairman for National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants. Earlier in his career, he served as president of the Utah Academy of Physician Assistants (UAPA), the Arizona State Association of Physician Assistants (ASAPA), and as chair of the Arizona Regulatory Board for PAs. Retired after 28 years of service in the US Air Force and Army National Guard with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, Dr. Danielsen also is a former president of the AAPA Veterans Caucus and was honored with the Caucus’ Civilian PA of the Year Award in 2003. Dr. Danielsen was named Outstanding PA of the Year by the AAPA in 1993 and by ASAPA in 2011. In 2012 he was honored by the University of Utah, School of Medicine, Department of Family & Preventive Medicine, Division of Physician Assistant Studies with the “Patron of the Profession” award for “unwavering dedication and service to the Physician Assistant Profession.” In May 2015 he received the Eugene A. Stead Award of Achievement by the AAPA. This is the Academy’s most prestigious award recognizing an individual for lifetime achievement that has had a broad and significant impact on the profession.

        He currently serves as PA editor-in-chief for Clinician Reviews. Dr. Danielsen has published over nineteen peer-reviewed articles, twenty journal editorials, three book chapters, and his first co-authored book, entitled The Preceptor’s Handbook for Supervising Physician Assistants, published by Jones & Bartlett Learning. He is also a Senior Consultant with the Academy for Academic Leadership and a proud member of Rotary International.

  • Staff +

      • Hailey Richins Hailey Richins
        Instructional Designer
        Read Bio
      • Beth Poppre Beth Poppre
        Administrative Manager
        Read Bio Beth Poppre LinkedIn
  • Adjunct +

      • Jeffrey L. Alexander, PhD, FAACVPR, ACSM-CEP  Jeffrey L. Alexander, PhD, FAACVPR, ACSM-CEP 

        Read Bio Jeffrey L. Alexander, PhD, FAACVPR, ACSM-CEP  LinkedIn
      • Randy Danielsen, PhD, PA-C Emeritus, DFAAPA Randy Danielsen, PhD, PA-C Emeritus, DFAAPA

        Read Bio Randy Danielsen, PhD, PA-C Emeritus, DFAAPA LinkedIn
      • Sondra DePalma, DHSc, PA-C, DFAAPA Sondra DePalma, DHSc, PA-C, DFAAPA

        Read Bio
      • Patricia Kelly, EdD, PA-C emeritus, MHS Patricia Kelly, EdD, PA-C emeritus, MHS

        Read Bio
      • Mary Kimmitt Laxton, DHSc, PA-C Mary Kimmitt Laxton, DHSc, PA-C

        Read Bio
      • Eric Matthews, PhD, MSEd, RT Eric Matthews, PhD, MSEd, RT

        Read Bio
      • Robert Robert "Bob" McMullen, EdD, PA-C

        Read Bio
      • Michael Nowak, DMS, PA-C Michael Nowak, DMS, PA-C

        Read Bio
      • Albert F. Simon, DHSc, PA-C, MEd Albert F. Simon, DHSc, PA-C, MEd

        Read Bio Albert F. Simon, DHSc, PA-C, MEd LinkedIn
      • Joseph G. Weber, DHSc, MBA, MPAS, PA-C Joseph G. Weber, DHSc, MBA, MPAS, PA-C

        Read Bio
      • Kevin R. Kupferer, PA-C, DHSc, MsCI, MPAS Kevin R. Kupferer, PA-C, DHSc, MsCI, MPAS

        Read Bio
      • Francis (Frank) Crosby Jr., DHSc, MPAS, PA-C Francis (Frank) Crosby Jr., DHSc, MPAS, PA-C

        Read Bio

Doctor of Medical Science Degree Admissions

  • Requirements +

    • The Doctor of Medical Science program is designed to be a postgraduate program for PAs who are, or have previously been certified or licensed to practice as a PA. Persons eligible to matriculate in this program must satisfy all of the following criteria:

      1. The applicant is a physician assistant currently or previously certified or licensed to practice as a PA,
      2. Completion of a master’s degree from an accredited university recognized by the Department of Education.
        • Applicants who graduated from a university outside the United States may be required to provide a degree equivalency evaluation.
        • PAs without a master’s degree may be eligible for the master’s equivalency option*. See below for equivalency requirements and contact an Enrollment Counselor for additional information.

      3. Candidates must have achieved a minimum overall graduate cumulative GPA of 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale).
      4. The applicant must submit transcripts from qualifying degree institution(s), to include at least:

        • Transcript showing completion of physician assistant program of study
        • Transcript showing completion of a graduate degree (if physician assistant program did not confer a graduate degree)

      5. The applicant must complete an admissions application, to include at least:

        • A current and comprehensive curriculum vita
        • Non-refundable application fee

      6. The applicant must be fluent in English (the language of instruction of this program). When the applicant speaks and/or writes in English as a second language, the applicant must submit Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) scores for review.

        • Acceptable minimal TOEFL scores for ATSU-ASHS applications are:
        • Internet-based total score = 80
        • Acceptable IELTS score is an overall band score of 6.5

      7. Applicants who speak and/or write English as a second language who have previously graduated from a college or university accredited by the U.S. Department of Education with a bachelor’s degree (or higher) are exempt from this requirement.
      8. Applicants who believe the TOEFL requirement should be waived may petition the Physician Assistant Department chair in writing.
      9. The applicant must be able to meet University technology requirements during the entirety of the doctoral program.

      *Master’s Equivalency Option:

      To meet the master’s equivalency the PA applicant must meet and document in a portfolio at least one (1) of the criteria below:

      The DMSc applicant has successfully completed:

      1. An approved military or civilian post-professional PA residency or fellowship
      2. An approved medical specialty certificate program (i.e. public health certificate)
      3. A Certificate of Added Qualification (CAQ) offered by the NCCPA
      4. At least 15 credit hours of post-secondary education toward a master’s degree

  • Application +

    • Image of a hand writing on an e-tablet

      Please note: Applicants must be a licensed or certified physician assistant.

      The $70 application fee is waived for ATSU employees, alumni, and those employed by a partnering Community Health Center.

      For additional information, contact an Enrollment Counselor:
      480.219.6118 or toll free 877.469.2878

  • Tuition+

    • Review tuition and fees for the Doctor of Medical Science program. Please note tuition and fees are subject to change.

The Family and Culture


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Doctor of Medical Science Curriculum Overview

  • Curriculum Plan Overview+

    • ​The ATSU semester credit hour was developed in accordance with the HLC policy “HLC policy “Assignment of Credits, Program Length, and Tuition”

      DMS Curriculum Overview Semester Hours
      Core Courses (see below) 24
      Education OR Leadership Courses (see below) 12

      Course # Core Courses Semester Hours
      DMSC 7000 Medical Writing 3
      DMSC 7010 Community Assessment & Health Promotion 3
      DMSC 7020 Social & Behavioral Determinants of Health 3
      DMSC 7030 Research Methods in Healthcare 3
      DMSC 7040 Quality Improvement in Healthcare 3
      DMSC 8300 Capstone I 3
      DMSC 8310 Capstone II 3
      DMSC 8320 Capstone III 3

      Course # Education Courses Semester Hours
      DMSC 8100 Adult Learning Theory 3
      DMSC 8110 Curriculum Design & Delivery 3
      DMSC 8120 Educational Technology & Simulation 3
      DMSC 8130 Assessment & Evaluation Methods 3

      Course # Leadership Courses Semester Hours
      DMSC 8200 Organizational Leadership Management & Behavior 3
      DMSC 8210 Health Economics 3
      DMSC 8220 Ethical & Legal Considerations in Health Administration 3
      DMSC 8230 Physician Assistants in Healthcare Policy 3

Core Courses

  • Medical Writing+

    • This course examines, in practical terms, the elements required for successful publication of a journal article or health policy review. This course encourages good writing skills through choosing better words, writing better sentences, and preparing better tables, graphs, and photographs. All students are required to develop and submit a quality paper that meets the requirements for publication in a peer-reviewed professional or biomedical journal. The learner will demonstrate the ability to effectively organize and structure information in written form.

  • Community Assessment & Health Promotion+

    • This course will introduce the Community Health Assessment (CHA) as a key component of evaluating the broader community health improvement process. Students will learn to objectively analyze community health data to identify priority issues, develop and implement effective health promotion strategies, and measure the effect of community health initiatives on a variety of community health indicators. Students will be exposed to current methods for conducting a community needs assessment. Discussions will center on choosing strategies that are culturally sensitive, clinically appropriate, and cost-effective.

  • Social & Behavioral Determinants of Health +

    • This course will serve as an introduction to the social, cultural, behavioral, and economic factors that influence health status and population health interventions. The practitioner will improve insights on populations they have worked with or those they may work with in the future.

  • Research Methods in Healthcare +

    • This course will describe qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods research methodologies and the proper selection of methodology based on the research question. Additional topics include conducting a peer-reviewed literature review, critical analysis of study results and research methodologies, and ethical considerations in human subject’s research. A variety of data collection and analysis strategies will be reviewed.

  • Quality Improvement in Healthcare +

    • This course will include components of The Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) curriculum to prepare students to lead the development and maintenance of quality management in clinical and business settings. Students will develop foundational fluency in methods of healthcare data collection and industry-standard metrics of clinical quality and patient safety. Implementation analysis of quality improvement PDSA cycles, root-cause, and systems analysis will also be reviewed. Through team-based learning, students will explore how quality metrics enable evidence-based clinical and business decision-making.

  • Capstone I +

    • This three-course series is designed to instruct the learner in the process of developing and conducting an applied research project. The applied research project will be designed to target a problem in either clinical practice, the PA professional sphere, or PA education. During the capstone course sequence, the learner will work closely with their faculty advisor as they progress from conceptualization to completion of the research project. In Capstone I, the learner will apply methods from the Research Design in Healthcare course to develop a proposal for their applied research project. The student will also conduct a literature review around their chosen applied research topic.

  • Capstone II +

    • This three-course series is designed to instruct the learner in the process of developing and conducting an applied research project. The applied research project will be designed to target a problem in either clinical practice, the PA professional sphere, or PA education. During the capstone course sequence, the learner will work closely with their faculty advisor as they progress from conceptualization to completion of the research project. Capstone II will focus on the collection and analysis of data.

  • Capstone III +

    • This three-course series is designed to instruct the learner in the process of developing and conducting an applied research project. The applied research project will be designed to target a problem in either clinical practice, the PA professional sphere, or PA education. During the capstone course sequence, the learner will work closely with their faculty advisor as they progress from conceptualization to completion of the research project. Capstone III focuses on the final preparation and submission of a quality product targeted at publication in the healthcare literature or presentation at a state or national level meeting. Each final applied research product will be reviewed and graded by the learner’s faculty advisor.

Education Courses

  • Adult Learning Theory +

    • Effective and efficient teaching requires an understanding of how adults learn. This course examines the learning process, particularly as it differs for adults. Topics include theories of behaviorism, cognitivism, humanism, constructivism, and social and adult learning; major learning style theories; andragogy versus pedagogy; and motivation for learning as it applies to informal and formal education and training. Utilizing this basis, students will examine how to apply these theories to the design, implementation, and assessment process.

  • Curriculum Design & Delivery +

    • This course will introduce students to methods and best practices for medical education curriculum design and prepare students to be conversant in the foundational research literature of education for adult students. Students will design systems-based learning modules within their medical specialty. An introduction to psychometric principles will prepare students to create high-quality assessment items.

  • Educational Technology & Simulation +

    • Computers, simulators, and even smartphones have become ubiquitous in education both in and outside of the classroom. This course will present best practices in utilization of technology in teaching and provide the learner the opportunity to learn course management through an LMS, develop familiarity with audience response technology (e.g., clickers), develop competence in office productivity software for common educational tasks, and explore hardware and software essential to producing asynchronous curriculum delivery and assessment (e.g., webcam, interactive publishing). Simulation is recognized in healthcare education as an effective way to teach and assess skills and behaviors. This course will teach the student how to create high-quality healthcare simulation programs, introduce the research behind simulation best practices, provide students with a template for effective simulation, and give students a basic understanding of the simulation process as it applies to healthcare education.

  • Assessment & Evaluation Methods +

    • This course will describe best practices for measurement and assessment in education. Topics will include the role of measurement and assessment in teaching, instructional goals and objectives, validity and reliability, classroom tests and assessments, standardized tests, and interpretation of assessment scores and norms. Learners will develop instructional objectives, a variety of assessment items and assessment formats, and will construct rating scales, rubrics, and interpret assessment psychometrics.

Leadership Courses

  • Organizational Leadership Management & Behavior +

    • This course will provide the learner with an understanding of how perceptions and thinking influence behavior in the workplace, and the skills necessary to manage conflict and lead change in teams, organizations, community partnerships, and health initiatives in their role as a physician assistant. Strategies for creative problem solving, communication and improved management practices will be explored.

  • Health Economics +

    • Economics is a major influence in shaping health policy in the United States. An effective healthcare leader must be fluent with the basic health economic theory to guide their organization. This course will discuss such topics as demand, supply and market equilibrium, scarcity, risk aversion, moral hazard, adverse selection, quality of care and pay for performance to provide the student with a grasp of the market forces on the U.S. healthcare system.

    • This course will provide an overview of the principles of medical ethics (autonomy, beneficence, and justice) and ethical theory. The discussion will review the ethical challenges faced in healthcare and health administration, the ethical requirements of human-subjects research, the right to privacy and the ethical decision-making process. The responsibilities and boundaries of the patient-healthcare provider relationship and the conflicting demands of providing quality care with limited resources will be addressed, as will the relationship and responsibilities of healthcare providers to society. Case studies will be included to develop ethical reasoning skills applicable to daily practice.

  • Physician Assistants in Healthcare Policy +

    • This course will explore the evolving role of the PA in the structure of the current U.S. healthcare system; the challenges of access, cost, and quality; and the process of healthcare policy development. The evolution of healthcare reform will be used to illustrate the development of healthcare policy, including the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The impact of the ACA on PA practice, patient healthcare access, cost, and quality and projections for the future of the ACA will be analyzed.

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