Diversity in the Physician Assistant Pipeline: Experiences and Barriers in Admissions and PA School

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



The journal of physician assistant education : the official journal of the Physician Assistant Education Association








INTRODUCTION: The purpose of this study was to identify perceived barriers faced by physician assistant (PA) students who identified as an underrepresented minority in medicine (URM-med), sexual or gender minority (SGM), coming from low socioeconomic status (low SES), or a person with a disability (PWD). METHODS: More than 2700 PA students across the United States provided information regarding their PA school application process and program experiences. This study examined differences among URM-med, SGM, low SES, and PWD compared to those who were not in those groups to determine the relationship between these factors and student concerns about bias in the application process, as well as a variety of experiences in PA school. RESULTS: Using ordinal logistic regression analyses to examine the odds of experiencing a variety of barriers or experiences in applying to PA school and postmatriculation experiences, results suggested that, among disadvantaged groups within the PA student body, barriers include concerns about bias in the application process, lack of belonging, and the lack of academic and social support. DISCUSSION: PA students who identified as URM-med, SGM, low SES, and/or PWD faced barriers as they navigated the path to becoming a PA. To decrease these barriers, emphasis on raising awareness and interest in pursuing a career as a PA should occur early. Programs should work to identify biases within admissions processes, diversify faculty, and identify ways to support minority students once matriculated. Ultimately, increasing the diversity of healthcare providers has the potential to increase access to and quality of care for patients.


Clinical Research and Leadership