The Physician Assistant Life

Pulmonology 1: The Audio PANCE and PANRE Podcast Topic Specific Review Episode 29

Pulmonology 1 The Audio PANCE and PANRE Episode 29Welcome to episode 29 of the FREE Audio PANCE and PANRE Physician Assistant Board Review Podcast.

Over the next few episodes I will be covering topic specific PANCE and PANRE review from the Academy course content following the NCCPA content blueprint.

This week we will be covering 10 topic specific Pulmonology board review questions.

Below you will find an interactive exam to complement the podcast.

I hope you enjoy this free audio component to the examination portion of this site. The full pulmonology review includes over 142 pulmonology specific questions and is available to all members of the PANCE and PANRE Academy.

  • You can download and listen to past FREE episodes here, on iTunes or Stitcher Radio.
  • You can listen to the latest episode, take an interactive quiz and download your results below.

Listen Carefully Then Take The Quiz

If you can't see the audio player click here to listen to the full episode.

Pulmonology PANCE and PANRE Podcast Quiz


Congratulations - you have completed The Audio PANCE and PANRE Pulmonology Quiz 1. You scored %%SCORE%% out of %%TOTAL%%. Your performance has been rated as %%RATING%%
Your answers are highlighted below.
Question 1
A 45 year-old male presents with sudden onset of pleuritic chest pain, productive cough and fever for 1 day. He relates having symptoms of a "cold" for the past week that suddenly became worse yesterday. Which of the following findings will most likely be seen on physical examination of this patient?
spoken "ee" heard as "ay"
hyperresonant percussion note
Consolidation from bacterial pneumonia causes findings of dullness to percussion, late inspiratory crackles and bronchial breath sounds over the involved area.
wheezes over the involved area
See answer for explanation.
vesicular breath sounds over involved area
Consolidation from bacterial pneumonia causes bronchial breath sounds over the involved area.
Question 1 Explanation: 
This patient most likely has a bacterial pneumonia with consolidation, which would produce egophony, where a spoken "ee" is heard as "ay."
Question 2
A foreign body lodged in the trachea that is causing partial obstruction will most likely produce what physical examination finding?
Aphonia, inability to cough and progressive cyanosis are seen with complete obstruction of the trachea, not partial obstruction.
inability to cough
Aphonia, inability to cough and progressive cyanosis are seen with complete obstruction of the trachea, not partial obstruction.
progressive cyanosis
Aphonia, inability to cough and progressive cyanosis are seen with complete obstruction of the trachea, not partial obstruction.
Question 2 Explanation: 
An inspiratory wheeze is called stridor, which indicates a partial obstruction of the trachea or larynx.
Question 3
On physical examination you note diminished breath sounds over the right lower lobe with decreased tactile fremitus and dullness to percussion. Which of the following is the most likely cause?
Asthma is characterized by decreased tactile fremitus, but would have resonant to hyperresonant percussion, not dullness.
Consolidation from pneumonia is characterized by dullness to percussion, but would have an increased, not decreased, tactile fremitus.
pneumothorax is characterized by decreased to absent tactile fremitus, but would have a hyperresonant percussion note, not dullness.
pleural effusion
Question 3 Explanation: 
A decreased tactile fremitus and dullness to percussion would be found in a pleural effusion. No answers yet
Question 4
Which of the following is essential to make a diagnosis of cystic fibrosis?
Positive family history
Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease, but a positive family history in and of itself is not enough to diagnose the condition.
Elevated sweat chloride
Recurrent respiratory infections
While recurrent respiratory infections are a classic presentation of cystic fibrosis, the diagnosis relies on confirmation.
Elevated trypsinogen levels
Trypsinogen levels are used as a neonatal screening test and if elevated should be followed by more definitive testing to confirm the diagnosis.
Question 4 Explanation: 
The diagnosis of cystic fibrosis is made only after an elevated sweat chloride test or demonstration of a genotype consistent with cystic fibrosis.
Question 5
An adult patient who is HIV positive receives a PPD. He develops an area of induration that measures 8 mm after 48 hours. Which of the following is the most appropriate interpretation of this test result?
See answer for explanation
active infection
A positive PPD identifies patients that have been infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, but does not indicate whether the disease is currently active or inactive.
falsely negative
See answer for explanation
Question 5 Explanation: 
A reaction size of greater than or equal to 5 mm in a HIV positive patient is considered a positive tuberculin skin test reaction. CDC PPD Interpretation Guidelines
Question 6
A 23 year-old female with history of asthma for the past 5 years presents with complaints of increasing shortness of breath for 2 days. Her asthma has been well controlled until 2 days ago and since yesterday she has been using her albuterol inhaler every 4-6 hours. She is normally very active, however yesterday she did not complete her 30 minutes exercise routine due to increasing dyspnea. She denies any cough, fever, recent surgeries or use of oral contraceptives. On examination, you note the presence of prolonged expiration and diffuse wheezing. The remainder of the exam is unremarkable. Which of the following is the most appropriate initial diagnostic evaluation prior to initiation of treatment?
chest x-ray
A chest x-ray should be ordered in an asthmatic patient only if you are concerned about the presence of pneumonia or pneumothorax, neither of which is supported by the H&P findings noted above.
sputum gram stain
A sputum gram stain is performed in patients who you suspect have an infectious process, such as pneumonia.
peak flow
ventilation - perfusion scan
A ventilation-perfusion scan (V/Q scan) is indicated in cases of suspected pulmonary embolism. The patient above does not have any risk factors that would lead you to suspect such a diagnosis.
Question 6 Explanation: 
A peak flow reading will help you to gauge her current extent of airflow obstruction and is helpful in monitoring the effectiveness of any treatment interventions.
Question 7
A patient presents with a history of progressive worsening of dyspnea over the past several years. He gives a history of having worked as a ship builder for over 50 years. He denies any alcohol or tobacco use. On examination you note clubbing and inspiratory crackles. Which of the following chest x-ray findings support your suspected diagnosis?
hyperinflation and flat diaphragms
Chest x-ray findings of hyperinflation and flat diaphragms suggest long-standing chronic obstructive lung disease.
interstitial fibrosis and pleural thickening
cavitary lesions involving the upper lobes
Chest x-ray findings of cavitary lesions involving the upper lobes suggest pulmonary tuberculosis.
"eggshell" calcification of hilar lymph nodes
Chest x-ray findings of "eggshell" calcification of hilar lymph nodes strongly supports the diagnosis of silicosis. It occurs in workers from mines, foundries, sandblasting, and glass manufacturing.
Question 7 Explanation: 
This patient most likely has asbestosis, which is supported by his occupation as a ship builder and clinical presentation as noted above. Some occupations are associated with an elevated risk of asbestos exposure. Historically, naval shipyard workers are among the most frequently exposed. It is likely that workers who served between World War II and the Korean War came in contact with dangerous levels of asbestos, increasing their chances of developing diseases like asbestos-related lung cancer and mesothelioma. Chest x-ray findings include interstitial fibrosis, pleural thickening and calcified pleural plaques on the diaphragm or lateral chest wall.
Question 8
You are called to the nursery to see a male infant, born by uncomplicated vaginal delivery. He weighs 2,600 grams and has one deep crease on the anterior third of each foot. Respirations are 88 breaths/minute with expiratory grunting and intercostals retractions. He is cyanotic on room air and becomes pink when placed in 60% oxygen. Chest x-ray shows atelectasis with air bronchograms. Which of the following is the most likely diagnosis?
neonatal pneumonia
While tachypnea, grunting, retractions and cyanosis may be signs of neonatal pneumonia, they are primarily late findings of progressive respiratory distress and would not be seen immediately at the time of delivery. A chest x-ray in pneumonia would also most commonly reveal an infiltrate or effusion.
congenital heart disease
While congenital heart disease may present with cyanosis, the chest x-ray will reveal a cardiac abnormality, such as cardiomegaly.
hyaline membrane disease
chronic lung disease of prematurity
Chronic lung disease of prematurity is a complication in about 20% of infants with hyaline membrane disease. It is defined as respiratory symptoms, oxygen requirement and chest x-ray abnormalities at 1 month of age so it cannot be diagnosed at this time in this newborn.
Question 8 Explanation: 
Hyaline membrane disease is the most common cause of respiratory distress in the premature infant. The infant typically presents with tachypnea, cyanosis and expiratory grunting. A chest x-ray reveals hypoexpansion and air bronchograms.
Question 9
A 15 year-old male presents with a 1 week history of hacking non-productive cough, low grade fever, malaise and myalgias. Examination is unremarkable except for a few scattered rhonchi and rales upon auscultation of the chest. The chest x-ray reveals interstitial infiltrates and a cold agglutinin titer was negative. Which of the following is the most likely diagnosis?
acute bronchitis
While the patient's clinical symptoms of dry cough and rhonchi support this diagnosis, the chest x-ray would be normal or only show a mild increase in bronchovascular markings, not infiltrates.
viral pneumonia
mycoplasma pneumonia
While the gradual onset of symptoms suggest mycoplasma, the negative cold agglutinin titer makes this less likely.
pneumococcal pneumonia
In older children the signs and symptoms of pneumococcal pneumonia are similar to an adult and consist of an abrupt onset of cough, fever and chills. The chest x-ray would reveal a lobar consolidation, not interstitial, picture.
Question 9 Explanation: 
The patient's clinical symptoms as well as chest x-ray findings and negative cold agglutinin titer are most consistent with viral pneumonia. Cold agglutinin would likely be positive in a patient with mycoplasma pneumonia.
Question 10
A 53 year-old female status post abdominal hysterectomy 3 days ago suddenly develops pleuritic chest pain and dyspnea. On exam she is tachycardic and tachypneic with rales in the left lower lobe. A chest x-ray is unremarkable and an EKG reveals tachycardia. Which of the following is the most likely diagnosis?
Small atelectasis is commonly asymptomatic, while large atelectasis may produce signs of dyspnea and cough. Exam reveals absence of breath sounds in the area involved and dullness to percussion. A chest x-ray would reveal various findings dependent on the location of the atelectasis, but would not be normal.
While a pneumothorax commonly presents with pleuritic chest pain and dyspnea, exam would reveal the presence of diminished breath sounds and hyperresonance on the involved side. A chest x-ray would reveal presence of a pleural line on the expiratory chest x-ray.
pulmonary embolism
myocardial infarction
While a myocardial infarction usually presents with dyspnea, the chest pain is not usually pleuritic in nature. An EKG would commonly reveal ST segment changes, which would be consistent with ischemia or infarct.
Question 10 Explanation: 
Risk factors for pulmonary embolism include advanced age, surgery and prolonged bedrest. While the diagnosis of pulmonary embolism is difficult due to nonspecific clinical findings, the most common symptoms include pleuritic chest pain and dyspnea associated with tachypnea. Chest x-ray and EKG are usually normal.
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This Podcast is also available on iTunes and Stitcher Radio for Android

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5 Tips to Get you Started on Your Personal Essay (and why you should do it now)

5 Tips to Getting Started on Your PA School Personal Essay and Why You Should Start Now!

Hey, procrastinators!

You know who you are — squeaking under deadlines by a nanosecond, feeling compelled to vacuum, or worse (when truly in the grips of avoidance), deciding to clean the toilet rather than tackle that pesky research paper.

Believe me, as a recovering procrastinator, I can relate.

When I was in college a gajillion years ago, my friends gave me a t-shirt that read, “I was going to join the Procrastinator’s Club, but never got around to it.”

Maybe putting things off works for you most of the time (there is some reward from the relief that comes from beating that deadline), but it won’t serve you well when it comes to writing your personal statement. After all, it’s likely the one thing that will make the difference between getting that all-important interview and losing that opportunity to someone else with similar grades and experience.

When I interviewed a dozen Admissions Directors and faculty from top PA programs across the country for our book, “How to Write Your Physician Assistant Personal Statement,” they said the essay needs to make them stop and think, “This is someone I want to know better.”

You see why your personal statement is not something to rush through just to get it done. It requires careful consideration, much thought and many revisions. To help you get going, follow these simple tips.

1. Put your butt in the chair in front of the computer at a specific time every single day.

This is a favorite trick of writers, especially when we’re suffering from writer’s block. As I’ve discovered, you won’t get anything written if you’re cleaning the toilet. It doesn’t have to be for long, 15 minutes will work. On most days, you’ll be surprised to find an hour has passed.

2. Let your imagination run wild.

When you’re struggling with what to write it is not the time to actually write. Instead, think about life experiences that brought you to this point and type them up. They don’t have to be in formal sentences or in any order. Just as long as you can go back and remember what the heck you meant when you wrote, “neighbor kid, six-years old, worst day ever.” Most won’t (and shouldn’t) end up in your essay. But you’ll be surprised at the richness of your memories.

3. Decide what’s relevant to your personal statement.

When I’m writing an article, the biggest temptation is to include an amazing anecdote that’s just slightly off topic. When I try to make it fit (and even now I am still guilty of trying), the writing is strained. Ultimately, I’m forced to delete it. Writers call that “killing your darlings,” and it’s one of the best pieces of advice I can give. Sure, it’s touching that you bandaged your puppy’s leg when you were nine, or saved a baby bird by bottle-feeding it, but those aren’t the things Admissions folks want to know. Copy them into a different document — someday you may want to use them for another purpose, in an interview perhaps, when you are an award winning PA.

4. Write a paragraph.

Now, this comes with a caveat — some people prefer to outline, but those generally aren’t procrastinators, who don’t have the time to outline. (Told you I am a recovering procrastinator). So I say, work with your personality instead of against it. Take one of your experiences and put it in paragraph form. Don’t worry about the little things — character and space count, grammar, spelling or transitions, just put your musings into a three or four sentence paragraph.

5. Write your transition sentences.

You’ll need to get your essay from point A to point Z. Again, this isn’t the time to worry about the details. This is just to help you start to tie those random experiences together. Cohesion is one of the biggest gaps I see when editing personal statements. Make it easy on yourself in the long run by getting a jump on tying it all together.

When you do all this a couple of months before your application is due, you’ve bought yourself time to write a polished essay (and have it professionally edited if necessary) that makes the Admissions folks think, “Hmmm, this is someone I’d like to know better.”

- Sue

Sue Edmondson SquareThis was a guest post by Sue Edmondson.

Sue is an award winning freelance writer who has written in Northern Nevada and Northern California since 1999.  She has donated countless hours editing 100's of PA school essays through our free and paid personal essay collaborative.

Her articles have appeared in publications such as Family Pulse, Rlife, Enjoy, Edible Reno-Tahoe and she spent five years as a reporter for the Mountain Echo newspaper. She dabbles in fiction and was awarded first place for short fiction by the Reno News and Review. She’s also sold several short children’s stories. Her other career is as an attorney. You can read her full bio below.

Looking for some more inspiration?

31-Physician-Assistant-School-Essay-and Personal Statement-Examples-and-SamplesTake a look at these 31 sample PA school personal statements shared through members of our community. Use it as a guide to see what works and possibly what doesn't as you sit down to write your 5,000 character CASPA essay.

A Question for Physician Assistants: Why Are You In It?

Why Are You In It? The Physician Assistant Life

Are you looking to make money as a physician assistant or are you looking to make the world a better place with what you do?

It’s an honest question and the two options are very different.

The latter involves being interested in giving value to someone other than yourself. The former involves doing anything and everything to add zeros to your bank account.

Neither option is inherently wrong. The problem is that most PAs begin with a desire to help people and, over time, once fully indoctrinated into the "system" they (we) become fundamentally changed.

If you’re simply looking to make money, the strategy basically comes down to generating as much revenue as you can, while avoiding an unfavorable outcome. Or, as we in the medical field have so humbly named "covering your ass."

Sometimes it’s as simple as showing your boss that you can see 6 or 7 patients in an hour.  Sometimes it’s not speaking up in the face of gross healthcare inequalities.  Sometimes it’s taking the higher paying job in order to please others or prove your self-worth.

The organization you work for, and therefore you, do whatever it takes to maximize profitability.

Success is much easier to measure too—you simply look at how many patients you have churned out, and count how much money you make.

Did it cover costs? Does it cover your livelihood and expenses? Were you able to maximize your retirement accounts? Is your boss happy? Awesome - you win and you’re a success.

If you’re looking to make the world better with what you do, it’s a little more difficult.


Just because you want to make things better doesn’t mean the universe will align and show you the way.

Making the world a better place through the work you put out into it starts with you and how you answer the tough questions.

Do you actually like the work you’re doing? Does it align with a greater purpose in your life? Is the message behind what you do bigger than what you do? Are you truly stoked to do it?

People are attracted to excitement, so if you’re genuinely excited about something, others will take notice. Real excitement is contagious, like the flu (but with less sniffling).

Though doing something that makes the world better doesn’t stop with you. It also includes being super valuable and in service of others.

What about your work helps your patients? What about your work makes their life better? What about your work makes them truly stoked? Because when they’re excited, others will take notice of that too.

Measuring "Success" 


Measuring the success of doing work that makes the world better is also a little muddy. There are several key performance indicators (KPIs) involved, each of them based on your own unique purpose and passion.

Sure, patient wait times, satisfaction surveys and money or revenue may be a part of it, but they’re not the only indicators. How much did you enjoy the process, regardless of the bottom line?

How much did your patient benefit from your work, regardless of the volume (as in, maybe you only saw 10 patients today, yet all of them  left healthier, having an experience that positively changed their lives).

In measuring success this way, it’s fairly easy to succeed as well - you get to do work you love that’s lined up with your purpose and valuable to the patients it’s for.

So, did you like doing it and did another person like receiving your care?

Awesome - you win and you’re a success.


We get caught up and stuck in our thoughts when we change gears in our focus, or when we try to measure success for both types of work for the same outcome.

If you’re in it to make the world better and you only look at money, you’re doing your work and process a horrible disservice.

Similarly, if you’re in it to make money and you feel unexcited or uninspired, you’re also doing that work and yourself a horrible disservice too.

If you're in it to make the world better and you look at the patient sitting in front of you, you’re doing yourself, and your patient a great, and honorable service.

Magically, you're likely to find, the success that drove you to this profession in the first place, will follow.

PS: If you’re stuck before you’ve even started, check out my resources page for some help and inspiration. 

Photo Credits:  From our medical mission trip in and around Port Au Prince Haiti. photos by: Courtney Reese

Cardiology 1: The Audio PANCE and PANRE Podcast Topic Specific Review Episode 27

The Audio PANCE and PANRE Board Review Podcast Episode 27Welcome to episode 27 of the FREE Audio PANCE and PANRE Physician Assistant Board Review Podcast.

Over the next few episodes I will be covering topic specific PANCE and PANRE review from the Academy course content following the NCCPA content blueprint.

This week we will be covering 10 topic specific Cardiology board review questions.

Below you will find an interactive exam to complement the podcast.

I hope you enjoy this free audio component to the examination portion of this site. The full cardiology review includes over 147 cardiology specific questions and is available to all members of the PANCE and PANRE Academy.

  • You can download and listen to past FREE episodes here, on iTunes or Stitcher Radio.
  • You can listen to the latest episode, take an interactive quiz and download your results below.

Listen Carefully Then Take The Quiz

If you can't see the audio player click here to listen to the full episode.

Cardiology Questions 1-10

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Looking for all the podcast episodes?

This FREE series is limited to every other episode, you can download and enjoy the complete audio series by joining The PANCE and PANRE Exam Academy.

I will be releasing new episodes every few weeks. The Academy is currently discounted, so sign up now.

Resources and Show Notes:

This Podcast is also available on iTunes and Stitcher Radio for Android

  1. iTunes: The Audio PANCE AND PANRE Podcast iTunes
  2. Stitcher Radio: The Audio PANCE and PANRE Podcast Stitcher


Do Physician Assistants Get Sued? Medical Malpractice, Liability and Lawsuits – A Guide for PAs

Physician Assistant Malpractice and Liability - How Not to Get Sued

Do physician assistants get sued?

Of course they do, but based on seventeen years of data from the National Practitioner Data Bank, nationwide Physician Assistant malpractice demonstrates lower malpractice incidence and average payment amounts compared to MDs and advance practice nurses!

Can I get a whoot whoot for PAs!

Malpractice Incidence

There is one malpractice payment for every 32.5 PAs while there was one for every 2.7 physicians. That is, the composite payment rate for physicians was twelve times that of PAs over the full study period.

Malpractice Amount

PA average and median payments were less than that of physicians and advanced practice nurses (APNs).

  • The average and median APN payments were the highest at $350,540 and $190,898.
  • The average and median physician payments were $301,150 and $150,821
  • The average and median PA payments were $173,128 and $80,003.

The physician adjusted mean payment was 1.74 times higher than PAs but only 0.86 that of APNs. The physician adjusted median payments were 1.89 times that of PAs but only 0.79 that of APNs.

* Why are advance practice nurse malpractice rates higher? Are they reckless practitioners?

It is speculated that advanced practice nurse mean and median payments are higher than that of physicians and PAs because the proportion of APNs who work in the high risk specialties of anesthesia and obstetrics is higher. The proportion of malpractice payments for nurse anesthetists (47%) and nurse midwives (25%) was 72% of total APN payments.

Reasons for Disciplinary Action

The most common reason for disciplinary action by state and federal monitoring bodies was the same for all three provider types. The most common disciplinary action was a licensing action (suspension or termination of license) by licensing authorities and the most common reasons for the licensing action were for unethical conduct and alcohol/substance abuse.

Reasons for Malpractice Claims

The most common reasons for APN malpractice claims were for obstetric and anesthesia errors. This is due to the disproportionate number of APNs who practice in these specialties compared to physicians and PAs. If these are excluded, the top ranking reasons for malpractice payments were the same for PAs and APNs: in order they are errors in diagnosis, treatment, medication and surgery. For physicians they were in order errors in diagnosis, surgery, treatment, obstetrics and medication.

What PAs can do to avoid medical malpractice

Recent research suggests that patient communication, compassion and apologizing for mistakes are major deterrents of malpractice litigation.  So for God's sake be nice to your patients. Take time to listen to and address their concerns.   It's your patient's life, not your license, that should always be the foundation of your decision making . Tweet That!

The following is an excerpt from the book Becoming A Physician Assistant by Jody Tomic PA-C. Download it for free on Kindle Unlimited:

Many lawsuits against mid-level practitioners and their supervising physicians cite the failure of the mid-level to contact the physician.

The mid-level may fail to recognize the significance of a finding on the history and physical examination and not see the need for contact. Comprehensive protocols as well as ongoing education can help minimize this risk.

A Physician Assistant may be apprehensive about disturbing their supervising physician with frequent questions. Both the supervising physician and the PA must cultivate a collaborative relationship so the PA feels comfortable asking any questions necessary to provide excellent patient care and safety.

The PA should always have reliable contact information for the supervising physician.

A preceptor of mine told me about a PA who was monitoring a man hospitalized with the flu. The man complained that he was having trouble breathing, and the PA was afraid to bother her supervising physician at home. It turned out that the man had developed Guillain-Barre Syndrome. GBS often follows a minor illness, such as a lung infection or gastrointestinal infection. Most of the time, signs of the infection have disappeared before the symptoms of GBS begin. It can result in ascending paralysis that may affect the diaphragm, requiring breathing assistance. The patient died, and the PA and physician were sued.

Obviously the physician should encourage communication from his PA because he is liable for their errors. The PA should realize that he or she can also be sued. So, even if the doctor is testy about being called, do it anyway.

If communication with your supervising physician is bad, you should take steps to remedy the situation, including finding a new job. Patients’ lives depend on your communication and teamwork.

Most of the time, doctors cover their PAs under their malpractice insurance. You should definitely have a dialogue to confirm this.

The question also arises whether mid-level practitioners should obtain their own malpractice insurance. When the employer is your only insurer, your best interest may not be your employer's best interest.

With personal malpractice coverage, you have an attorney who represents you, not your employer. Some basic types of malpractice insurance are “Claims Made” and “Occurrence.”

Claims Made insurance covers you for incidents that occur during the term of the insurance, only if they are reported during the coverage period. Occurrence coverage covers you for incidents that occur during the coverage period, regardless of when they are reported. So if a patient sues you one year after the incident occurred and your Claims Made policy has lapsed, you will not be covered. You might want to discuss this with your employer. It’s a good idea to take some continuing education courses on risk management.

Good documentation, excellent communication, and detailed protocols for emergency situations are all important ways to avoid exposure.

Finally, if you feel uncomfortable performing a procedure or prescribing a medication, listen to your intuition and get help. If you aren’t sure about anything, ask. The only stupid question is the one that isn’t asked.


Scholarships, Grants and Loan Repayment Programs for Physician Assistants

How to Bankroll PA School Without Going BrokeIt goes without saying, PA school is expensive.

PA school is also demanding, which means you will have limited time (if any) to work while attending school.

With the average undergraduate education debt prior to PA school at $36,300 and the average anticipated debt load from PA school at $75,000-$124,000, it is important that you have a rock-solid plan for how you are going to pay for your PA school education.

Funding sources vary and federal loan programs will probably form the foundation of your assistance package, many states also offer financial aid funding.

Additionally, there are specialized scholarships, traineeships, and loan programs available. Remember — apply the resources from scholarships and grants before you accept loans. Then, only accept loans that you need.

Work closely with your financial aid department. They will be able to inform you about special loans and scholarships for which you may be eligible.

Federal and State Resources

  • Numerous loans and grants guaranteed by the federal government are available to qualified students. Visit the website for Federal Student Aid sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education.
    • Direct Subsidized Loans are loans made to eligible undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need to help cover the costs of higher education at a college or career school.
    • Direct Unsubsidized Loans are loans made to eligible undergraduate, graduate, and professional students, but in this case, the student does not have to demonstrate financial need to be eligible for the loan.
    • The Federal Perkins Loan Program is a school-based loan program for undergraduates and graduate students with exceptional financial need. Under this program, the school is lender. You must check with your school's financial aid office to see if your school participates in the Federal Perkins Loan Program
    • Federal Stafford Student Loan Program: These loans are offered through your bank, credit union, or other lending institutions. Graduate students may borrow up to $8,500 per year up to a total of $65,000. To qualify for a Stafford loan, you must demonstrate financial need as determined by the CM formula mentioned above. The interest rate varies. These loans are based on need, not creditworthiness. Therefore, no cosigner is necessary.
  • State sources of financial assistance include an agency in each state that guarantees federal student loans. Also, some states offer their own educational assistance programs with loans or grants. Check with your financial aid office to locate the office(s) in your home state.
  • Tax Credits are another option to explore.                                            

Scholarships and Traineeships

  • Americorps is a national network of hundreds of programs throughout the U.S. and is open to U.S. citizens, nationals, or lawful permanent residents aged 17 or older. This program helps pay for education in exchange for a year of service.
  • The Indian Health Service (IHS) scholarship program provides financial assistance for American Indian and Alaskan Native (federally recognized only) students enrolled in health professions and allied health professions programs. The IHS Loan Repayment Program (LRP) was created to support this mission by providing health professionals the financial freedom to fulfill your career goals. The IHS LRP awards up to $20,000 per year for the repayment of your qualified student loans in exchange for an initial two-year service obligation to practice full time at an Indian health program site.
  • The National Health Service Corps Program (NHSC) is a competitive federal program. Students dedicated to practicing primary care in communities of greatest need can compete for educational scholarships. I was a NHSC Scholar and you can read more about that here. They also offer a generous loan repayment program in exchange for 2 years service in a designated healthcare shortage area (see the next section below).
  • The Physician Assistant Foundation offers competitive scholarships for PA students who are currently attending an accredited PA program, are in the professional phase of the program, and are student members of AAPA. Visit the Foundation web pages for a current application or see below.
  • The United States Navy Health Services Collegiate Program is designed to provide financial incentives for college students in designated health care professions while completing baccalaureate degree requirements.
  • The U.S. Army Health Care team, offers a three-year loan repayment program for any PA- C who wants to serve as an Army PA.
  • PAs for Latino Health (PALH), a caucus of the AAPA, offers a $500 scholarship to currently enrolled PA students each year.

Loans, Repayment Programs, and Consolidation Services

  • The National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Loan Repayment Program is available to PAs in primary care or current students who plan to become primary care providers after graduation. You must agree to provide primary care services in a priority health professional shortage area for a minimum of two years.
  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program: The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program forgives the remaining balance on your Direct Loans after you have made 120 qualifying monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan while working full-time for a qualifying employer. Physician assistants qualify.
    • IMPORTANT: Loan forgiveness is an option after 10 years of payments, but it may not be an option if you refinance your loan during that period. So make sure you read the fine print!
  • Sallie Mae Tuition Pay Plans provide quality, low-cost, innovative solutions to paying for education. Tuition Pay is an interest-free plan that lets you break down the large lump-sum payments due at the beginning of each semester into easy-to-manage installments.
  • Common Bond: Ever wished your student loans could have a positive effect on society? Common Bond seeks to "reimagine finance based on our belief that business has a responsibility to further social good and promote welfare outside of its immediate customer base." Common Bond is unique in that they bring a 1-for-1 model to education through Social Promise. For every fully funded degree on the CommonBond platform, they fund the education of a student in need for one year through the nonprofit Pencils of Promise. They even fund a trip to Ghana with Pencils of Promise so that borrowers (and employees) can go and meet some of the children who the Social Promise has helped to fund.

Insider's tip: Looking to refinance a loan? Magnify Money is a wonderful website that lets you compare and contrast student loan options.  Just beware that if you have federal loans, refinancing to private loans may result in losing protections like special repayment plans (such as the public loan forgiveness program) that can help you in a time of need. Make sure you can comfortably afford your new payments if you refinance. And take the time to get rates from several providers.

AAPA Constituent Organization Scholarships

  • The Physician Assistant Foundation offers competitive scholarships for PA students who are currently attending an accredited PA program, are in the professional phase of the program, and are student members of AAPA. Visit the Foundation website for a current application.  Here are some of their current offerings. The 38 PA students who were awarded scholarships during the 2014 application cycle are listed here.
    • Bristol-Myers Squibb Endowed Scholarship — four $2,500 awards
    • National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) Endowed Scholarship — six $2,000 awards
    • Procter & Gamble Endowed Scholarship — six $1,000 awards
    • AAPA Rural Health Caucus Scholarship — two $2,000 awards to students from a rural area, who are committed to serving a rural community.
    • Ron Pace Memorial Scholarship — one $1,000 award to Florida-based students who are veterans and in their second year of PA school. Named in memory of Ron Pace, a Florida Academy of Physician Assistants past president and AAPA Outstanding PA of the Year Award recipient, who served in the U.S. Navy for 20 years.
  • Association of Physician Assistants in Oncology offers a $2,500 award for PA students. The award consists of two parts: $500 to help with travel to AAPA's Annual Conference to receive the award and $2,000 (unrestricted). Apply by March 1st.
  • California Academy of Physician Assistants offers three annual student scholarships for student members. Apply online by December 31.
  • Lesbian, Bisexual, and Gay Physician Assistant Caucus offers $1,000 grants for two PA students to attend AAPA's Annual Conference to help foster involvement and awareness of the caucus within the AAPA. Apply by January 15.
  • Pennsylvania Society of Physician Assistants has six annual student leadership scholarships and three scholarships for students who choose to enter the writing competition. Apply online by June 30.
  • Physician Assistant Academy of Vermont offers a scholarship of $1,000 and free attendance at the annual PAAV Winter CME conference for PA students who are residents of Vermont. Apply by June 30.
  • Physician Assistants in Orthopedic Surgery offers one or two $500 scholarships from the Susan Lindahl Memorial Scholarship Fund, established to encourage young PA students to enter the field of orthopedics. Apply by August 15.
  • The Society of Army Physician Assistants honors the memory of Captain Sean P. Grimes, through the Captain Sean P. Grimes Physician Assistant Educational Scholarship Award. Apply by February 1st.
  • The AAPA Veterans Caucus Scholarship seeks to recognize the achievements of an outstanding veteran of one of the seven branches of the Uniformed Services who is currently enrolled in a PA program.

Note: Grants are similar to scholarships, and availability is based on resources and financial need. When you submit your FAFSA form, you will be considered for Pell Grants.

Also, check your place of employment, organizations and place of worship for any grants for which you may be eligible.

Scholarships and Grants Awarded by the AAPA

They are all due January 15, 2015.

  • Student Academy Outstanding Student Society
    • Description: This award recognizes three student societies for their outstanding service to the profession.
    • How to apply: Download the Student Academy Outstanding Student Society Award application
    • Award/Prize: $500 for each of the three top placing programs
    • Additional details: All of these student societies documented their work in the following categories: public education and advocacy of the profession, public service and outreach, promotion of the diversity and professional involvement. Seventy-five percent membership is required to participate in this award.
  • Student Academy Travel Grant Awards
    • Description: A $500 grant for AOR student society representatives and Student Academy selected HOD student delegates or alternates to minimize travel expenses to the annual conference.
    • Eligibility Criteria: HOD students must be one of the selected students; all applicants should be members of AAPA
    • How to apply: Download the Student Academy Travel Grant application
  • Student Academy PA Student Mentor Award
    • Description: This award recognizes a PA who has demonstrated exemplary service to PA students and has furthered the leadership, educational, and professional development of PA students.
    • Eligibility Criteria: none specified
    • How to apply or nominate someone: Download the Student Academy PA Student Mentor Award application
  • Student Academy PAragon Student Award
    • Description: This award honors a PA student who has demonstrated exemplary service as a PA student.
    • Eligibility Criteria: Need at least 5 applicants; student should be a member of AAPA
    • How to apply or nominate someone: Download the Student Academy PAragon Student Award application

If you have any questions about these scholarships and grants, you can contact the Student Academy Staff at the following email address:

Unites States Military Service and Loan Repayment Programs

  • National Guard Healthcare Bonuses and Loans
    • Physician Assistants and Social Workers:
      • $20,000 per year for a three-year contract
      • $15,000 per year for a two-year contract
      • $10,000 per year for a one-year contract
  • National Guard Student Loan Repayment Program
    • Must have 1 or more qualifying and disbursed Title IV federal loans
    • State and private loans are ineligible for repayment
    • PLUS loans are eligible
    • Loans must be listed on the Department of Education National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) aid summary website
    • Must enlist for a minimum 6 year term of service
    • Must enlist for a critical skills (CS) vacancy in the grade of E-4 or below
    • Information:
      • Payments will not exceed $50,000 with annual repayments not to exceed the maximum amount established by law
      • Must enlist into a qualifying position in an MTOE or Medical TDA unit only
      • Must score a minimum of 50 on the Armed Forces Qualifying Test (AFQT)
  • Navy Clinical Care Provider
    • To qualify for Active Duty employment consideration as a Physician Assistant in the Navy Medical Service Corps, you must meet these basic requirements:
      • Be a U.S. citizen currently practicing in the U.S.
      • Bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university
        Completion of a physician assistant education program approved by the Committee on Allied Health Education and Accreditation (CAHEA)
      • Certification by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA)
      • Be willing to serve a minimum of three years of Active Duty
      • Be between the ages of 18 and 41
      • Be in good physical condition and pass a full medical examination
      • General qualifications may vary depending upon whether you intend to serve Active Duty or Reserve Duty, and whether you are currently serving, have served before or have never served before.

Who Gets the Most Financial Aid?

You might think that the families who receive the most financial aid would be the families with the most need. In fact, this is not necessarily true. The people who receive the most aid are the people who best understand the aid process.

Can I afford Not To Go To PA School?

Can I afford to go to PA school? The question you should be asking is: can I afford not to go to PA school? If your goal is to become a PA, then the answer to this question is easy. The worst thing you can do is shy away from applying because you think you won’t be able to afford it, and then live the rest of your life wondering, What if?

When I applied to the Rutgers Physician Assistant Program and spoke with students at the open house, they explained that if I were to be accepted the program would do its best to ensure I got through financially. They were right.

I may have borrowed a little more than I intended, but the money was available and after an initial setback I ended up with a highly coveted NHSC Scholarship.

As you will soon find out, there are plenty of opportunities for loans, grants, scholarships, etc. It does, however, take a little work on your part. But since you have set your goals and you’re focused, you are prepared for anything.


Bonus: The Today Show recently had a very good program about loan refinancing and avoiding debt. Take a look at the video here and review their 7 ways to stop loans from ruining your life.

Physician Assistant Personal Statement Workshop: “To say I was an accident-prone child is an understatement”

The Physician Assistant Personal Statemeent Workshop Essay 8 - To say I was an accident-prone child is an understatement

In this latest installment of the personal statement workshop, we continue to pull essays submitted from the comments section through our free essay submission process and provide you, and our users, with a more detailed analysis of their essays.

This submission is by Katie, whose life experiences combined with a traumatic injury at the age of 13, are what inspired her to want to become a physician assistant.

We will present you with her original essay and our suggestions.

As always, use this as a guide to see where you can improve your own writing, and respect the work of others. It should go without saying this is not your essay, so don’t plagiarize.

Personal Statement Workshop: "To say I was an accident-prone child is an understatement."

By: Katie

100px-Essay.svg“To say I was an accident-prone child is an understatement. I frequented doctors’ offices and emergency rooms for a variety of injuries and ailments. I remember staying home sick from elementary school, curling up on the sofa to watch marathons of “Medical Mysteries” and “Trauma: Life in the ER”. My squeamish parents were somewhat disgusted by my gruesome choice of entertainment and were puzzled by my infatuation with medicine. Even so, my interest and enthusiasm for medical care persisted.

In 2006, after I was involved in a serious golf cart accident, I knew for certain that I would pursue a career in healthcare. I suffered extensive injuries after being ejected from the vehicle, run over, and dragged along the pavement. I remember the rushed atmosphere and commotion of the emergency room as I lay there feeling shocked by the gravity of the situation. Then, Michelle walked in, a smiling brunette clad in a crisp white coat. I assumed she was a physician as she explained the imaging procedures and tests I would soon undergo. She addressed me not as a naïve thirteen-year-old but simply as a concerned patient. She answered all my questions and stayed engaged in our conversation even as she performed an intra-articular injection to determine if my knee joint had been compromised. I was in awe at the combination of her technical proficiency and calm disposition. Not until years later, after attending a physician assistant symposium in college, did I realize Michelle was a physician assistant.

After my accident, my passion for medicine persisted. In high school, I enrolled in Honors Anatomy and Physiology and was fascinated by the field trips to watch an open-heart surgery and visit a cadaver lab. My teachers noted my enthusiasm for the subject and nominated me to attend a medical leadership conference at Georgetown University. When selecting a college major, I chose Nutritional Sciences because of the strong focus on biological science; it also provided a unique perspective on clinical work and emphasized the critical thinking skills necessary in practice. I worked assiduously because I knew exemplary academics were necessary when applying to graduate programs. However, despite struggling with a personal crisis during my sophomore year, I was determined not to let one semester mar the academic record I had worked so hard to achieve. I made significant changes in my life and learned how to maximize my academic potential while managing stress in a healthy way. This experience was a critical point of self-exploration, and I am confident it was an important step in preparing me for the rigors of PA school.

Once I was comfortable managing the challenges of a science-heavy course load, I began to focus on gaining more experience working in healthcare. Although my interest to learn the intricacies of medicine was undeniable, I was still unsure about which career would be the best fit for me. I spoke with doctors, nurses, and PAs to determine the differences between these types of practitioners. While trying to make a decision, I repeatedly thought of Michelle, my earliest inspiration. I saw clearly that compared to other healthcare professionals, PAs have a unique opportunity to build a rapport with their patients by getting to know them on a personal level, which is what I value most.

However, it was not until I became a certified nursing assistant at an assisted living facility that I truly understood how much I valued being a part of someone’s healing process. Initially, I saw the job as an opportunity to work collaboratively with other healthcare professionals, but I realized quickly the magnitude of this experience was much greater than I anticipated. It is remarkable to watch the aging process unfold and see the devastating progression of diseases. It is my responsibility to not only provide care to the residents, but also to be vigilant about changes in their condition, to be compassionate about the struggles they endure in light of their impending mortality, and to listen to them when nobody else will. These moments make me realize what an honor it is to be a healthcare provider.

Although my academic journey has always been aimed towards a career in medicine, my unique life experiences are what inspired me to become a physician assistant. The PA profession encompasses my passion for scientific knowledge and my desire to build relationships with patients. Pursuing such a fulfilling and exciting career leaves me with a profound sense of purpose and the definitive notion I will be a successful physician assistant.

Suggestions and Revisions

By: Sue Edmondson

Note: These are very brief suggestions and revisions offered through our free submissions process in the comments section. For a full-featured edit of your personal statement, please see our paid service offerings


Hi Katie,

I like the image of you as a kid watching medical shows on TV, but for purposes of this essay, you’re taking up valuable space that could be used to talk about your healthcare experiences in more detail. When I interviewed Admissions Directors and faculty from across the country, every person said they weren’t interested in hearing childhood experiences. I’d delete the entire first paragraph of your essay.

Your second paragraph is good (skip the brunette in your description of Michelle — it’s a wasted word).

The third paragraph needs editing — it reads well, but it has extra verbiage that has little significance. Remember, the people reading your essay are literally reading more than a thousand so save words where you can. And the word passion is so overused, it’s meaningless. I rarely recommend using it.

This is what I’d do in an edit:

“My interest in medicine persisted. When selecting a college major, I chose Nutritional Sciences because of the strong focus on biological science; it also provided a unique perspective on clinical work and emphasized the critical thinking skills necessary in practice. Despite struggling with a personal crisis during my sophomore year, I was determined not to let one semester mar the academic record I had worked so hard to achieve. I made significant changes and learned how to manage stress in a healthy way. This experience was a critical point of self-exploration, and I am confident it was an important step in preparing me for the rigors of PA school.”

Use the extra space to elaborate a bit more on why you’re choosing to be a PA as opposed to any other health care professional.

Best of luck.

Sue Edmondson Physician Assistant Essay CollaboratveSue Edmondson - editor - the physician assistant personal statement collaborative.

Is your mom or dad really giving you honest feedback on your personal statement?

Parents are full of great advice, but when it comes to your personal statement family and friends don't always make the best editorial team.

mom giving adviceWe offer a bit of free guidance to anyone who takes the time to submit their essay in the comments section of the blog. But your essay needs more than the sympathetic feedback provided by a friendly relative.

Our Essay Review Service Includes:

  1. Personal guidance from our team of professional (unbiased) writers, with inside knowledge of the PA school personal statement. (We have personally interviewed 12 of the top PA school admissions directors from across the country.)
  2. Telephone consultations are included with all purchases above the single edit level. It's often hard to communicate exactly what you want hundreds of miles away; for this reason, we offer the option to edit right alongside us over the telephone while sharing in real-time over Google Docs.
  3. We provide feedback, advice and help with brainstorming and topic creation.
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Interested? Click here to learn more.

Here is what one of our recent clients had to say: 

Awesome service. Duke did a great job editing my personal statement - his feedback was top notch. For the 2014-2015 cycle, I applied to one school. I was selected for an interview and yesterday I received an offer of admission ... which I quickly accepted. I know my Personal Statement played a huge role in my success. I highly recommend this service.Nikki R. PA-S

We are currently accepting essays in all iterations. We have flexible pricing and can do everything from a single one-time edit to a full-service review that will take you from beginning to a finished product.  Hurry, as we can only accept a few essays each month.

Click here to post your essay or learn more about our service.

Have you enjoyed what you read?

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Physician Assistant Recruiting Video: Spoiler Alert, There’s a Dolphin!

Why become a physician assistant? Find out from a guy with a beard and cool posters. Spoiler alert: there's a dolphin!

Key Points in their order of appearance:

First and foremost it is important to understand that physician assistant is the greatest profession known to humankind!

What do you do? Follow the doctor along all day? Why don't you just go to medical school?

The name is confusing I get it.  Physician assistants work under the supervision of a physician or some fancy legal mumbo jumbo called respondeat superior that means physician assistants can do most and, in some states, almost everything a doctor can do but the doctor is ultimately responsible for the actions of the physician assistant.

They're doctors, they're not doctors, what does a PA even do?

PAs do just about everything a doctor does, including giving medical interviews and performing high "Kuality" physical exams:


Making diagnoses, ordering and interpreting tests and prescribing medications (warning coffee may not be covered by many insurance providers).


PAs also assist in surgeries and use penlights (refer to the video for an example of correct penlight usage time 2:38).

So do PAs only work in hospitals? Or what?

You can find PAs working in just about any healthcare setting and in just about any specialty.  The majority work in primary care and many work in rural or inner city areas helping out the medically underserved.

I am already a "fancy" medical professional what does the PA career have to offer me?


The physician assistant career started in 1965 when there was an influx of people coming back from the Vietnam War who had a lot of medical training.  At the same time there was a critical need for more primary care providers in the United States. So the physician assistant career was designed for people who already have a great deal of medical experience. That way they can become providers quicker and get out and help people much sooner.

As a "fancy pants" medical provider you might be interested in the core competencies that the physician assistant profession has defined for themselves to make sure we get the best patient care.

The American Academy of Physician Assistants defines its core competencies as follows:

  • Medical Knowledge
  • Interpersonal & Communication Skills
  • Patient Care
  • Professionalism
  • Practice-based Learning & Improvement
  • Systems-based Practice

For more information visit

I am just not buying the whole "greatest career known to humankind". What kind of hat-wearing beard-having man would say something like that getting my hopes up?

The Math


The bureau of labor statistics predicts that between 2012 and 2022 there will be a 38% growth in the PA profession, that's much higher than average and I read that in this "fancy pants" book. This is  going to keep going up because doctors are leaving areas where PAs tend to specialize such as primary care. Not to mention the median annual salary for physician assistants is over $90,000.

PAs also report very high levels of job satisfaction, much higher than most other careers so it's a good job.

So how do I do this? I'm in college now what can I expect if I apply to PA school?


The best thing you can do if you want to go to PA school is find out about the programs you are interested in. Comb their websites see what their prerequisites are - do they require prior healthcare experience. Hint - They probably do.

It's a good idea to become an EMT of maybe a medical assistant

Then, you will have to go to a school that is accredited by the ARC-PA.

Most accredited programs last 2-3 years and bestow a master's degree upon completion. PA school education is intense!

The first year is called the didactic year and you will take courses on everything from pathophysiology to giving patient exams to completing recruiting videos during your ample spear time. Then, you will go onto the clinical year where you will go to rotations in various fields of medicine then you will sit for the certification exam called the PANCE.

Physician Assistant Taking off his PANCE

PANCE stands for "Physician Assistant National Certification Exam" it's not the things you wear so you don't get arrested.

Pass the PANCE and you will be a PA but you have to recertify every 10 years.

There you have it, why the PA profession is the greatest career known to humankind spoken by a hat wearing beard having man... Who also happens to be a PA student. 

What do you think? Is the PA profession the greatest career known to humankind? If you have an opinion feel free to share it in the comments section.

My hat goes off to Mike West for this hilarious and brilliantly informative video. You rock!

A Surgeon Speaks: 7 Reasons Why You Should Choose PA Over MD

A Fellowship Trained Surgeon Shares 7 Reasons You Should Choose PA over MD

I am a fellowship-trained surgeon.

Besides the financial aspect, the following 7 points will make your decision of PA vs. MD easy:

1.  It takes on an average at least 15 years (after high school) of head in the sand (books) to complete fellowship and reach the $200,000 debt figure that you are quoting.

2.  A 40-50 hour work week is a dream for most MDs. Most of my colleagues work 60 hrs and some up to 80 hours a week.

3.  Not counting the hours after you go home and come back for ’emergencies’.

4.  Family life is a ‘possibility’ for PAs. Look around and see how many MDs have kids before 30. You will be surprised by the small number.

5.  Most of my PA friends work two jobs (totaling 60-80hrs/week), so their salaries go up accordingly. Ever heard of an MD working two jobs. I guess 120-160 hrs/week is kinda difficult. Huh..

6.  PAs work just as well and earn just as much respect by their patients and colleagues.

7.  The only trajectory this trend is going is upwards. Mid-level providers’ need and utilization has been increasing exponentially.

I am totally happy with what I am doing. But if I were to advise an aspiring student for MD vs. PA, I would totally refer him/her to this post. I think the round 1 showdown is won by PAs, not MDs.

- Dr. S

Dr. S is a fellowship trained surgeon who was kind enough to weigh in on the PA vs. MD debate in the comments section of this blog.

What do you think? Is Dr. S spot on or dead wrong? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.  You probably know where I stand on this debate. :-)

The Audio PANCE and PANRE Board Review Podcast Episode 21

Welcome to episode 21 of the FREE Audio PANCE and PANRE Physician Assistant Board Review Podcast.

The Audio PANCE and PANRE is an audio board review series that includes 10 Multiple Choice PANCE and PANRE Board Review Questions in each episode.

I hope you enjoy this free audio component to the examination portion of this site. The full series is available to all members of the PANCE and PANRE Academy.

  • You can download and listen to past FREE episodes here, on iTunes or Stitcher Radio.
  • You can listen to the latest episode, download the transcript and take an interactive quiz of the questions below.

adobe pdfDownload the FREE PDF transcript for FREE here or on  Scribd.

Listen Carefully Then Take The Quiz

If you can't see the audio player click here to listen to the full episode.

Questions 1-10

The Audio PANCE and PANRE Episode 21

1. A 28-year-old female, who has experienced occasional painful migratory arthralgias, complains now of a tender, swollen, and hot left ankle. The joint was aspirated and the synovial fluid showed 55,000 WBCs, 75% polymorphonuclear lymphocytes, low glucose level, and no crystals. Which of the following would be the most likely diagnosis?

A. Rheumatoid arthritis
B. Septic arthritis
C. Gouty arthritis
D. Osteoarthritis

Click here to see the answer

2. When the diagnosis of gonococcal urethritis is confirmed, which of the following is the treatment of choice?

A. Ceftriaxone (Rocephin)
B. Azithromycin 1g orally in a single dose
C. Ceftriaxone 250 mg IM in a single dose PLUS Azithromycin 1g orally in a single dose
D. Doxycycline (Vibramycin)

Click here to see the answer

3. Erythema nodosum is characterized by

A. subcutaneous red tender nodules.
B. brown pigmentation on the lower extremities.
C. tender lymph nodes in the groin.
D. scaling red macules.

Click here to see the answer

4. Use of systemic corticosteroids can cause which of the following adverse effects in the eye?

A. Cortical blindness
B. Optic atrophy
C. Glaucoma
D. Papilledema

Click here to see the answer

5. It is determined that a woman has a nonexistent rubella titer level during her first trimester of pregnancy. When should she receive the rubella vaccine?

A. During the first trimester of pregnancy
B. During the second trimester of pregnancy
C. During the third trimester of pregnancy
D. After delivery of the infant

Click here to see the answer

6. A patient with which of the following is at highest risk for coronary artery disease?

A. Congenital heart disease
B. Polycystic ovary syndrome
C. Acute renal failure
D. Diabetes mellitus

Click here to see the answer

7. A 44-year-old female presents with ongoing arthralgias and myalgias with intermittent flares of arthritis. She is found to have a malar rash that worsens with sun exposure. She is known to have progressive renal damage and has recurrent infections that are slow to respond to therapy. She takes ibuprofen (Motrin) as needed for her joint pain and takes no other medication. Which of the following tests would be the initial test recommended to screen for this diagnosis?

A. Rheumatoid factor
B. Antihistone antibodies
C. Anti-Smith (Anti-Sm) antibodies
D. Anti-nuclear antibodies (ANA)

Click here to see the answer

8. Upon stroking of the lateral aspect of the sole from the heel to the ball of the foot, the great toe dorsiflexes and the other toes fan. This is a positive

A. Kernig's sign.
B. Brudzinski's sign.
C. Babinski's sign.
D. Gower's sign.

Click here to see the answer

9. Which of the following strategies promotes improved carbohydrate metabolism and is recommended for all Type 2 diabetic patients?

A. Low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet
B. Routine aerobic exercise
C. Metformin (Glucophage)
D. Acupuncture

Click here to see the answer

10. Acute rebound hypertensive episodes have been reported to occur with the sudden withdrawal of

A. verapamil (Calan).
B. lisinopril (Prinivil).
C. clonidine (Catapres).
D. hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ)

Click here to see the answer

Looking for all the episodes?

This FREE series is limited to every other episode, you can download and enjoy the complete audio series by joining The PANCE and PANRE Exam Academy.

I will be be releasing new episodes every two weeks. The Academy is currently discounted, so sign up now.

This Podcast is also available on iTunes and Stitcher Radio for Android

  1. iTunes: The Audio PANCE AND PANRE Podcast iTunes
  2. Stitcher Radio: The Audio PANCE and PANRE Podcast Stitcher


While you are over there, download and subscribe to Brian Wallaces' excellent Physician Assistant Exam Review Podcast. Follow along with Brian who covers new topics twice monthly and really does an amazing job!


Stephen Pasquini PA-C

Who Gets Into PA School? Here’s What You Need to Know

What Does it Take to Get Into PA School? Here's What You Need to KnowLeslie Mean is a 27 year old single white female who presents to the PA school admissions committee on her first attempt to get into PA school.

She has a 3.5 overall GPA and a 3.4 science GPA. She is holding a bachelors of science degree in biochemistry, had an SAT score in the 1000-1100 range and above average GRE scores.

She has 2 years of hands-on clinical experience working as a CNA and a long history of volunteer work which exemplifies her desire to help her fellow man.

She is kind and considerate and has reference letters which demonstrate her maturity and strong interpersonal skills.

She was accepted into PA school on her first attempt.

Who is Leslie and Why did she get into PA School?

When asking the question: What do I need to do to get into PA school? You would be smart to talk to Leslie.

Leslie is a hypothetical PA school applicant who went on to become a PA school student, a perfectly average PA school student.

She also embodies what PA school's all across the country are looking for at this very moment.

How do I know this?

Because the most recent data from the PAEA semi annual report, representing responses from over 85% of PA programs detailing characteristics of applicants and students enrolled in PA school, show that they are filling their seats with Leslie.

As much as I like to talk about not being average and differentiating yourself from the pack it is good to know what average is. Average provides a baseline by which you can measure your own progress, set goals and develop an application timeline.

Does this mean you have to be just like Leslie to get into PA school?

Absolutely not, first of all, factors such as race, age, ethnicity, etc. are of no importance and you certainly don't have to be female to get into PA school  (I myself am living proof).

But, it is safe to assume that most schools are looking to keep their graduation and certifying exam pass rates high. They have an incentive to take less risks and because of this, anything below average is considered a risk.

Thus, take a good look at Leslie and focus on factors that you can control to differentiate yourself, like your academic standing, your experience, your volunteer activities, your references and your essay.

If you set the bar at Leslie, and end up being a Mother Theresa, I am pretty sure you will be accepted into PA School, although I have no data on religious preference and PA school acceptance rates. :-)

So what does an average PA school applicant who is admitted to PA school (i.e student) look like?

Let's take a look:

→ The average PA school students age is 27 years old

The average age of first-year students ranged between 25 and 28 for all categories.

Average age of Physician Assistant School Applicant

→ The average PA school student is female

The gender distribution of first-year students has started to stabilize after nearly a 20-year trend of a gradually increasing proportion of females:

  • Female: 72.4%
  • Male: 27.6% (mean)

First Year Enrollment in PA School by Gender

→ The Average PA school applicant has a bachelor’s degree

The majority of PA school applicants hold a baccalaureate degree.

  • No academic degree: 8.1%
  • Certificate: 0.2%
  • Associates Degree: 2.6%
  • Baccalaureate Degree: 70.5%
  • Master’s Degree: 6.6%
  • Doctoral Degree: 0.9%

→ Most students had four years of hands-on clinical experience prior to applying*

PA school applicants come to the table with a variety of medical experience, especially if they are strong applicants. On average, four years of prior experience in one of the following areas is common:

  • Nursing
    • Registered Nurse (RN)
    • Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)
    • Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)
  • Allied Health
    • Physical Therapist
    • Occupational Therapist
    • X-ray Technician
    • Athletic Trainer
  • Emergency Services
    • Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)
    • Paramedic
    • Emergency Room Technician
  • Miscellaneous
    • Phlebotomist (that was me!)
    • Medical Researcher
    • Medical Volunteer


Average healthcare experience years and hours of PA School Student or Applicant

* 2015-2016 update: Some recent data suggests HCE hours are significantly declining with a new average of 1.88 years of health care experience among matriculating (accepted) students.

→ SAT/GRE scores of those accepted tend to be in the above-average range

SAT scores are in the 1000-1100 range.

→ The average PA school student has between a 3.36 and 3.47 overall GPA and an undergraduate science GPA between 3.36 and 3.47

  • The average undergraduate overall GPA for PA school applicants who WERE ACCEPTED into PA school was 3.49, undergraduate science GPA was 3.36 and non science GPA was 3.56.
  • The average GPA for students who WERE NOT ACCEPTED into PA school was 3.16

Interesting factoid: As the age of applicants increases, GPA tends to be lower.

Average GPA for PA School Student Undergraduate and Science

→ Most PA school students are White

Skin color has nothing to do with acceptance rates, but it is interesting (and maybe a bit sad) to know that the vast majority of first year students were White (86.5%) followed by Asian (11.1%) and Black or African American 4.1%.

First Year Student PA School By Race and Ethnicity

→ What are your chances of being accepted into PA school?

  1. If you apply to one PA program - you have a 25% chance of getting in
  2. If you apply to 12 programs (or more) - you have a 49% chance of getting acceptance

Interesting factoid: There is no additional benefit for applying to 12 programs or more!

→ Pucker up baby, most PA students are single!

Most students are single (67.7%), though just over a quarter were married (26.4%). A little over two percent were divorced and over one percent were in a domestic partnership/civil union. Most students (85.1%) have no legal dependents. For the nearly 15% of students that reported having legal dependents other than themselves, the average number of dependents was 2.02, with a range of 1 to 7 dependents. Over 30% of respondents said they were considered a dependent of their parents.

→ Most PA students are from "The Burbs"

Half of students reported spending most of their time in a suburban setting. One quarter of respondents reported spending most of their time in a rural environment, followed by 15% in an inner-city setting.

Where do PA School Students Come From

→ PA school students don't smoke pot and are not drug dealers or part of the Italian Mafia

Over three-quarters (82.8%) of programs reported that students were required to have a background check upon matriculation to the program, while 78.7% of responding programs now mandate drug testing.

Some Important Points

It's not Rocket Science: It is important that a candidate demonstrates reasonable aptitude in the hard sciences such as anatomy and physiology, chemistry and biology. It is more likely that the committee may overlook a grade of C in U.S History or Spanish I. They will be less tolerant of a marginal grade in the sciences.

Show compassion: Your GPA is stellar and you've amassed an impressive amount of medical work experience in the little spare time you have while keeping your grades pristine, but you still get that dreaded rejection letter. Why? You didn't do enough volunteer work. Volunteering exemplifies your desire to help your fellow man—the attribute identified by schools as one of the most integral to becoming a successful PA. "Students who have had experience in working with underserved populations, rural or diverse populations, performing volunteer service or disaster relief, or other experiences that illustrate a drive and compassion for others often stand out to the admissions committee,"

Quote Run of a Ladder Thomas Henry HuxleyIt's an easy race to the bottom, so set your sights at the top: Many people will be set aback when they read that only 25% of applicants will be accepted into PA school on any given year, but this should actually be good news. Being in the top 25% in any field is not nearly as hard as it sounds, simply because the majority of the competition is in the bottom 75% and has bottom 75% qualifications. For example, you have read this entire post so you now know what the average PA school applicant who has had some success looks like. You understand what a top 75 percent applicant looks like. Your goal now is to be better than the average 75% and exceed the top 25%.  If you aim high, you will be competing with a much smaller minority, and your odds of getting an acceptance letter will increase dramatically. It also helps if you apply to 12 programs.  😉

Tables and data were sourced from:

The 28'th and 29'th PAEA Annual Report

238 Free Online Science, Math and Pre-Medical Courses

238 FREE Science and Math Courses Guaranteed to Blow Your Mind

Below is a comprehensive list of over 238 free online science, math and premedical courses.

Many of these are geared to the pre-pa student, but there are several courses covering more advanced medical topics, such as the free Stanford Mini Med School, topics in endocrinology, brain and behavior, physiology, global health and genomics.

Whether you are looking to augment current coursework, prep for your GREs or relax after a long day with some advanced astrophysics there is bound to be something here for everyone.

Biology and Biomedical Science Courses

  1. Adolescent Health and Development – Free iTunes Audio – Free Online Audio – Robert Blum, Johns Hopkins
  2. Anatomy & Physiology – Free Web Course – Carnegie Mellon
  3. Animals in Research: Law, Policy, and Humane Sciences – Free Online Audio & Course Info – Paul A. Locke & Alan M. Goldberg, Johns Hopkins
  4. Animal Behavior – Free iTunes Audio – Free Online Audio & Course Info – Gerald Schneider, MIT
  5. Animal Science – Free iTunes Audio – Bert de Groef, La Trobe University – Australia
  6. Autism and Related Disorders – Free iTunes Video – Fred Volkmar, Yale
  7. Behavioral Endocrinology – Feed – Johns Hopkins
  8. Biochemistry – Free Web Course – Carnegie Mellon
  9. Biochemistry for Pre-Meds – Free iTunes Video – Kevin Ahern, Oregon State
  10. Biodiversity and the Meaning of Human Existence – Free Online VideoFree iTunes Video – E.O. Wilson, Duke
  11. Biophotonics – Free iTunes Video – UC Davis
  12. Bioscience in the 21st Century – Free Online Video – Team taught, Lehigh University
  13. Brain and Behavior – Free Online Video – Free Online Video & Course Info – Wendy Suzuki, NYU
  14. Brain Structure and its Origins – Free iTunes Audio – Free Online Audio & Course Info – Gerald Schneider, MIT
  15. Cardiovascular Grand Rounds – Free iTunes Video – Multiplate faculty, Emory
  16. Case Studies in Primary Healthcare – Free iTunes Video – Free Online Audio & Course Info – Henry Taylor & Henry Perry, Johns Hopkins
  17. Computational Molecular Biology – Free Online Course Info & Video – Douglas Brutlag, Stanford
  18. Darwin’s Legacy – Free Online Video –  Team taught – Stanford
  19. Diet and Nutrition – Free iTunes Audio – La Trobe University – Australia
  20. Enhancing Humane Science – Improving Animal Research – Free Online Video/Audio & Course Info – Alan M. Goldberg & James Owiny, Johns Hopkins
  21. Environmental Health Sciences – Free iTunes Video – Free Online Video – Free Course Video – Kirk Smith, UC Berkeley
  22. Evolution – Free iTunes Video – James Bonacum, University of Illinois, Springfield
  23. Evolution and Medicine – Free Online VideoFree iTunes Video – Stephen C. Stearns, Yale
  24. Evolution, Ecology and Behavior – Free Online Video – Free iTunes Audio – Free iTunes Video – Course Info – Stephen C. Stearns, Yale
  25. Exercise Science and Wellness – Free iTunes Audio – Arizona State
  26. Foundations of Computational and Systems Biology – Free Online VideoFree Online Video + Course Info – Christopher Burge, David Gifford, Ernest Fraenkel, MIT
  27. Frontiers in Biomedical Engineering – Free Online Video – Free iTunes Audio – Free iTunes Video – Course Info – W. Mark Saltzman, Yale
  28. Fundamentals of Biology – Free Online Video – Free iTunes Video – Free Online Video + Course Info – Multiple Instructors, MIT
  29. General Biology 1 – Feed – John Hopkins
  30. General Biology 1 – Free iTunes Video – Free Course Info & Audio – Brian White, UMass-Boston
  31. General Biology 2 – Free iTunes Video – Free Course Info & Audio – Brian White, UMass-Boston
  32. General Biology – Free Online Video – Free iTunes Video – Free Course Video – Multiple professors, UC Berkeley
  33. General Biochemistry and Molecular Biology – Free iTunes Video – Multiple professors, UC Berkeley
  34. General Human Anatomy – Free Online Video – Free Course Video – Marian Diamond, UC Berkeley
  35. General Introduction to Plant Development, Form, and Function – Free Online Video – Free iTunes Video – Free Course Video – Multiple profs, UC Berkeley
  36. Genetic Engineering in Medicine, Agriculture, and Law – Free Online Video – Robert B. Goldberg, UCLA
  37. Genomes and Diversity – Free Course Info & Video – Mark Siegal, NYU
  38. Genomics & Computational Biology –  Free Online Course Info & Audio – George Church, MIT
  39. Genomic Medicine – Free Online Course Info & Audio – Isaac Kohane, MIT
  40. Global Problems of Population Growth – Free Online Video – Free iTunes Video – Course Materials – Robert Wyman, Yale
  41. Growing Up in the Universe – Free Online Video – Richard Dawkins, Oxford
  42. Hacking Consciousness: Consciousness, Cognition and the Brain – Free iTunes Video – Michael Heinrich, Stanford
  43. Health and Culture – Free iTunes Audio – Arizona State
  44. Health Behavior Change at the Individual, Household and Community Levels – Free Course Info & Audio – Free iTunes Audio – Peter Winch, Johns Hopkins
  45. Human Behavioral Biology – Free iTunes Video – Free Online Video – Robert Sapolsky, Stanford
  46. Introduction to Biochemistry – Free iTunes Video (see free related ebook on iPad) – Kevin Ahern, Oregon State
  47. Introductory Biology –  Free Course Info & Online Video – Multiple professors, MIT
  48. Introduction to Biology – Free Online Video – Multiple Professors – UC Berkeley
  49. Introduction to Biology – Free Web Course – Carnegie Mellon
  50. Introduction to Cellular & Molecular Biology – Free iTunes Audio – Lawrence Chasin & Deborah Mowshowitz, Columbia U.
  51. Introduction to Human Nutrition – Free Online Audio – Nancy Amy, UC Berkeley
  52. Introduction to Human Physiology – Free iTunes Audio – Robin Ball, UC Berkeley
  53. Introduction to Immunology – Free iTunes Video – Gregory Beck, U Mass-Boston
  54. Introduction to Toxicology – Free Online Video – Free iTunes Video – Daniel Nomura, Christopher D. VULPE, Wally Wang, UC Berkeley
  55. Issues in Mental Health Research in Developing Countries – Free iTunes Audio – Free Online Course Info & Audio – Judith Bass, Johns Hopkins
  56. Life, Concepts and Issues: Introduction to Life Sciences for Non-Science Majors – Free Online Video – Jay Phelan, UCLA
  57. Modern Biology – Free Web Course – Carnegie Mellon
  58. Molecular Biology: Macromolecular Synthesis and Cellular Function – Free iTunes Audio – Multiple Professor, UC Berkeley
  59. Molecules and Cells – Feed – Johns Hopkins
  60. Pharmacology – Free iTunes Video – Sharon Burke, La Salle University
  61. Plant Science – Free iTunes Audio – Michael Emmerling, La Trobe University
  62. Pre-Med Primer: What Your Advisor Won’t Tell You – Free iTunes Video (plus related textbook on iPad and or PDF) – Kevin Ahern, Oregon State
  63. Principles of Human Development – Free iTunes Video – Jim Meyer, Missouri State
  64. Principles of Human Nutrition – Free iTunes Audio – Regina Belski, La Trobe University – Australia
  65. Pulmonary Medical School – Free iTunes Audio – Matthew Exline, Ohio State
  66. Replaceable You: Stem Cells and Tissue Engineering – Free iTunes Audio – Jill Helms, Stanford
  67. Stem Cells: Policy and Ethics – Free iTunes Audio – Christopher Scott, Stanford
  68. The Brain: A User’s Guide – Free iTunes Video – Barry Jacobs, Princeton
  69. The Future of Human Health – Free Online Video  – Jennifer Raymond, Stanford
  70. The History of Public Health – Free iTunes Audio – Free Course Info & Online Audio – Graham Mooney, Johns Hopkins
  71. The Stanford Mini Med School (Fall) – Free Online Video – Free Course Video & Info – Multiple Professors
  72. The Stanford Mini Med School (Winter) –  Free Online Video – Free Course Video & Info – Multiple Professors
  73. The Stanford Mini Med School (Spring) –  Free Online Video & Course Info – Multiple Professors
  74. The Stanford Mini Med School: The Heart – Free iTunes Video – Free Online Video – Multiple Professors
  75. Urban Health in Developing Countries – Free Web Cours – Abdullah Baqui and William Brieger, Johns Hopkins
  76. Virology – Free iTunes Video – Free Online Video – Vincent Racaniello, Columbia University

Chemistry Courses

  1. Biochemistry 1 – Free Online Video – Free Video Download – S. Dasgupta, IIT
  2. Chemical Structure and Reactivity –Free Online Video –  Web – Peter Vollhardt, UC Berkeley
  3. Chemistry (Chemical Stoichiometry) – Free Web Course – Carnegie Mellon
  4. Core Concepts in Chemistry – Free iTunes iOS Course –  Stephen L. Craig – Duke
  5. Freshman Organic Chemistry – Free Online Video –  Free iTunes Video – Course Materials – J. Michael McBride, Yale
  6. Freshman Organic Chemistry II – Free Online Video – Free iTunes Audio – Course Materials – J. Michael McBride, Yale
  7. Fundamentals of Chemistry – Free iTunes Video – Free Online Video – Vernon Thielmann, Missouri State
  8. General Chemistry – Free iTunes Video – Matthew Stoltzfus, Ohio State
  9. Green Chemistry: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Sustainability – Free Online Video –  John Arnold, UC Berkeley
  10. Introduction to Chemistry – Free Web Course – Carnegie Mellon
  11. Introduction to Chemical Engineering – Free Online Video – Free iTunes Video – Channing Robertson, Stanford
  12. Introduction to Green Chemistry – Free Online VideoPaul Anastas, Yale
  13. Introduction to Solid State Chemistry – Free Online Video – Free iTunes Video – Free Video & Course Info – Donald Sadoway, MIT
  14. Introductory Quantum Chemistry – Free Online Video – Free Video Download – KL Sebastian, IISc Bangalore
  15. Life, Universe & Everything: Chemistry of Our Daily Lives – Free iTunes Video – Sean Hickey, University of New Orleans
  16. Lights, Camera, Action: The Chemistry of Movies & TV – Free iTunes Video – Sean Hickey, University of New Orleans
  17. Organic Chemistry – Free iTunes Video – James Nowick, UC Irvine
  18. Organic Chemistry 1 – Free iTunes iOS Course – Sean Hickey, U. of New Orleans
  19. Organic Chemistry 2 – Free iTunes iOS Course – Sean Hickey, U. of New Orleans
  20. Organic Reactions and Pharmaceuticals – Free Online Video – Steven Hardinger, UCLA
  21. Organic Spectroscopy – Free iTunes Video – James Nowick, UC Irvine
  22. Physical Chemistry 1 – Free iTunes Video – James Lisy, University of Illinois
  23. Physical Chemistry 2 – Free iTunes Video – James Lisy, University of Illinois
  24. Principles of Chemical Science – Free Online Video – MIT, Catherine Drennan and Elizabeth Vogel Taylor

Physics Courses

  1. A Brief Guide to Everything – Web Video – John Ellis, King’s College London, CBE
  2. A Descriptive Introduction to Physics – Free Online Video – Steven W. Stahler, UC Berkeley
  3. A Descriptive Introduction to Physics – Free Online Video – Free iTunes Video – Free iTunes Audio – Yury G. Kolomensky, UC Berkeley
  4. Advanced Quantum Mechanics – Free Online Video – Leonard Susskind, Stanford
  5. Atomic and Optical Physics I – Free Online Video – Free Online Video + Course Info – Wolfgang Ketterle, MIT
  6. Atomic and Optical Physics II – Free Online Video – Free Online Video + Course Info – Wolfgang Ketterle, MIT
  7. Classical Field Theory – Free Online Video – Free Video Download– Suresh Govindarajan, IIT Madras
  8. Classical Physics – Free Online Video – Free Video Download – V.Balakrishnan, IIT Madras.
  9. Effective Field Theory – Free Online Video – Free iTunes Video – Free Online Video + Course Info – Iain Stewart
  10. Exploring Black Holes: General Relativity & Astrophysics – Free Online Video – Free iTunes Video – Course Info & Free Video  – Edmund Bertschinger, MIT
  11. Descriptive Introduction to Physics – Free iTunes Video – Free iTunes Audio – Richard Muller, UC Berkeley
  12. Electromagnetism and Optics – Free iTunes Video – Michael Thorpe, Arizona State
  13. Fundamentals of Physics – Free Online Video – Free Video & Course Materials – Ramamurti Shankar, Yale
  14. Fundamentals of Physics II – Free Online Video –  Free iTunes Video – Free iTunes Audio – Web Site – Ramamurti Shankar, Yale
  15. History and Mysteries of the Universe – Free Online Video + Course Info – Max Tegmark, MIT
  16. Inflationary Theory – Free Online Video – Alan Guth, MIT/World Science U
  17. Introduction to Astrophysics – Free iTunes Audio – Free Online Video – Josh Bloom, UC Berkeley
  18. Introduction to Cosmology and Particle Physics – Free Online Video – Sean Carroll, Caltech
  19. Introduction to Cosmology – Free iTunes Audio – James Bullock, UC Berkeley
  20. Introduction to Solar System Astronomy – Free iTunes Audio – Feed – Richard Pogge, Ohio State
  21. Introductory Physics – Free Online Video – Free iTunes Video – Melvin Pomerantz, UC Berkeley
  22. Introduction to Physics – Free Web Course – Carnegie Mellon
  23. Modern Theoretical Physics: Classical Mechanics –  Free iTunes iOS Course – Free Online Video – Video & Materials – Leonard Susskind, Stanford
  24. Modern Theoretical Physics: Quantum Mechanics (2008)  – Free Online Video – Leonard Susskind, Stanford
  25. Modern Theoretical Physics: Quantum Mechanics (2013)–  Free iTunes Video – Free Online Video – Video & Materials – Leonard Susskind, Stanford
  26. Modern Theoretical Physics: Special Relativity – Free Online Video – Leonard Susskind, Stanford
  27. Modern Theoretical Physics: Special Relativity (2013) – Free iTunes Video – Free Online Video – Video & Materials –  Leonard Susskind, Stanford
  28. Modern Theoretical Physics: Einstein – Free Online Video – Leonard Susskind, Stanford
  29. Modern Theoretical Physics: Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity (2012) – Free iTunes Video – Free Online Video – Video & Course Materials
  30. Modern Theoretical Physics: Cosmology (2009) –  Free Online Video – Leonard Susskind, Stanford
  31. Modern Theoretical Physics: Cosmology (2013) – Free iTunes Video – Free Online Video – Video & Course Materials – Leonard Susskind, Stanford
  32. Modern Theoretical Physics: Statistical Mechanics (2013) – Free iTunes Video – Free Online Video – Video & Course Materials – Leonard Susskind, Stanford
  33. New Adventures in Spacetime – Web Video – Eleanor Knox, King’s College London
  34. Physics: What We Still Don’t Know – Web Video – David Tong, Cambridge
  35. Principles of Physics – Free iTunes Audio – David Hoxley, La Trobe
  36. Quantum Electrodynamics – Free Online Video – Richard Feynman, Presented at University of Auckland
  37. Quantum Entanglement Part 1: (Video)  – Free Online Video – Leonard Susskind, Stanford
  38. Quantum Entanglement Part 3: (Video) – Free Online Video – Leonard Susskind, Stanford
  39. Quantum Mechanics – Free iTunes Video – Free Online Audio & Video – Free YouTube Video –  JJ Binney, Oxford University
  40. Quantum Mechanics – Free iTunes Audio – Feed – John Terning, UC Davis
  41. Quantum Mechanics 1 – Free iTunes Audio – Ruza Markov, UC Berkeley
  42. Quantum Mechanics 2 – Free iTunes Audio – Ruza Markov, UC Berkeley
  43. Quantum Physics 1 – Free Online Video & Course InfoFree iTunes Video – Allan Adams, MIT
  44. Quantum Physics 2 – Free Online VideoFree iTunes Video – Barton Zweibach, MIT
  45. Quantum Physics Made Relatively Simple – Free Online Video – Our Post – Hans Bethe, Cornell University
  46. Quantum Theory – Free Online Video – Free Video Download – Prasanta Tripathy, IIT Madras
  47. Physics I: Classical Mechanics – Free Online Video – Walter Lewin, MIT
  48. Physics II: Electricity and Magnetism – Free Online Video – Walter Lewin, MIT
  49. Physics III: Vibrations and Waves – Free Online Video – Walter Lewin, MIT
  50. Physics for Future Presidents – Free Online Video – Web – Richard Muller, UC Berkeley
  51. Physics for Scientists and Engineers – Free Online Audio – Free iTunes Audio – Achilles Speliotopoulos, UC Berkeley
  52. Physics for the 21st Century – Free Online Video & Course Materials –  Matthew H. Schneps – Harvard/Smithsonian
  53. Science and Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to the Science of Soft Matter – Free Online Video – Team taught, Harvard
  54. Soft X-Rays and Extreme Ultraviolet Radiation – Free Online Video – David Attwood, UC Berkeley
  55. Solid State Basics – Free iTunes Video – Free Online Video & Course Info – Steven Simon, Oxford
  56. Space, Time and Einstein – World Science U
  57. Special Relativity – Free Online Video – Brian Greene, Columbia/World Science U
  58. Special Theory of Relativity – Free Online Video – Free Video Download – Shiva Prasad, IIT Bombay
  59. Stars, Galaxies, and the Universe – Free iTunes Audio – Feed – Richard Pogge, Ohio State
  60. Statistical Mechanics I: Statistical Mechanics of Particles – Free Online Video + Course MaterialsFree iTunes VideoFree Online VideoMehran Kardar, MIT
  61. Statistical Mechanics II: Statistical Physics of Fields – Free iTunes Video– Mehran Kardar, MIT
  62. String Theory, Black Holes, and the Laws of Nature (Video) – Free Online Video – Andrew Strominger, Harvard
  63. String Theory and M Theory – Free Online Video – Free iTunes Video – Leonard Susskind, Stanford
  64. The Character of Physical Law – Free Course Video – Free Online Video – Richard Feynman, Cornell
  65. The Early Universe – Free iTunes Video – Free Online Video – Free Online Video + Course Info – Alan Guth, MIT
  66. The Feynman Lectures on Physics, Vol. 1: Mainly Mechanics, Radiation, and Heat – Text/Web – Richard Feynman, Caltech
  67. The Mechanical Universe – Free Online Video – Cal Tech
  68. The Past and Future of Unification – Free Online Video – Robbert Dijkgraaf, Institute for Advanced Studies, Princeton
  69. Universe or Multiverse – Free Online Video + Course InfoAndrei Linde, Stanford
  70. Wave Physics – Free Online Video – F. Romanelli (University of Trieste)

Math Courses

  1. A First Course in Linear Algebra – Free Online Video – N J Wildberger, UNSW
  2. Abstract Algebra – Free Course in Multiple Formats – Benedict Gross – Harvard
  3. Against All Odds: Inside Statistics – Free Online Video – Pardis Sabeti, Harvard
  4. Algebraic Topology: A Beginner’s Course – Free Online Video – NJ Wildberger, University of New South Wales
  5. Analytic Geometry and Calculus – Free Online VideoFree iTunes Video – Benjamin Johnson, UC Berkeley
  6. Analytic Geometry and Calculus (Continuation of above) – Free Online VideoFree iTunes Video, Thomas Scanlon, UC Berkeley
  7. Brief Calculus – Free iTunes Video – Omayra Ortega, Arizona State
  8. Calculus – Free iTunes Audio – F. Michael Christ, UC Berkeley
  9. Calculus 1 – Free Online Video – Free Online Video & Course Info – Matthew Leingang, NYU
  10. Calculus One – Free iTunes iOS Course – Jim Fowler, Ohio State
  11. Calculus Revisited: Single Variable Calculus (1970) – Free Online VideoFree iTunes VideoFree Course Info & Online Video – Herb Gross, MIT
  12. Calculus Revisited: Multivariable Calculus (1970) – Free Online VideoFree iTunes VideoFree Course Info & Online Video –  Herb Gross, MIT
  13. Calculus Revisited: Complex Variables, Differential Equations, and Linear Algebra (1972) – Free Online Video – Free iTunes Video – Free Course Info & Online Video –  Herb Gross, MIT
  14. Causal & Statistical Reasoning – Free Web Course – Carnegie Mellon
  15. College Algebra – Free Online Video – Free iTunes Video – Patti Blanton, Missouri State
  16. College Algebra – Free iTunes Video – Oiyin Pauline Chow, HACC
  17. College Mathematics – Free iTunes VideoFree Online Video – Patti Blanton, Missouri State
  18. Computational Science and Engineering I  Free Online VideoWeb Site – Gilbert Strang, MIT
  19. Core Science Mathematics – Free Online VideoFree Video Download – SK Ray, IIT
  20. Differential Equations – Free Online Video –  Free Online Video & Course Info – MIT – Arthur Mattuck
  21. Differential & Integral Calculus – Free Online Video – Steve Butler, UCLA
  22. Empirical Research Methods – Free Web Course – Carnegie Mellon
  23. Engineering Statistics – Free Web Course – Carnegie Mellon
  24. Geometric Folding Algorithms:Linkages, Origami, Polyhedra – Free Online Video & Course Info – Erik Demaine, MIT
  25. History of Mathematics – Free Online Video – N J Wildberger, UNSW
  26. Hyperbolic Geometry – Free Online Video – N J Wildberger, UNSW
  27. Introduction to Probability and Statistics – Free Online VideoFree iTunes Video – Deborah Nolan, UC Berkeley
  28. Introductory Probability and Statistics for Business – Free Online Video– Free iTunes Video – Fletcher Ibser, UC Berkeley
  29. Introduction to Statistics and Data Analysis – Free iTunes Video – Brenda Gunderson, University of Michigan
  30. Linear Algebra – Free Online Video –  Free Course Materials – Gilbert Strang, MIT
  31. Logic & Proofs – Free Web Course – Carnegie Mellon
  32. Mathematical Logic – Free Online VideoFree Video Download – Arindama Singh, IIT Madras
  33. Mathematics in India – From Vedic Period to Modern Times – Free Online VideoFree Video Download – Multiple profs, IIT Bombay
  34. Mathematics for Computer Science – Free Web Video – Tom Leighton, MIT
  35. Mathematics: Making the Invisible Visible – Free iTunes VideoFree Online Video – Keith Devlin, Stanford
  36. Mathematics Illuminated – Free Online Video & Course Materials – Dan Rockmore, Dartmouth College
  37. Multiple View Geometry – Free Online VideoDaniel Cremers, Technische Universität München
  38. Multivariable Calculus – Free Online Video –  Free Video & Course Info – Dennis Auroux, MIT
  39. Probability and Statistics – Free Web Course – Carnegie Mellon
  40. Probability for Math Science – Free Online Video – Herbert Enderton, UCLA
  41. Rational Trigonometry – Free Online Video – N J Wildberger, UNSW
  42. Real Analysis – Free Online VideoFree Video Download – S.H. Kulkarni, IIT Madras
  43. Real Analysis – Free Online Video – Francis Su, Harvey Mudd
  44. Regression Analysis – Free Online Video – Free Video Download – Soumen Maity, IIT Kharagpu
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9 Simple Steps to Avoid Silly Spelling and Grammar Goofs in Your PA School Personel Statement


If not take a second look at the title.

You have spent days, weeks, and months writing and perfecting your personal (not personel) statement.

You have slaved countless hours in front of the computer screen trying to shed a creative light on your background and highlight your experiences.

Don’t overlook the most common and possibly most devastating mistakes many applicants make when submitting their personal statement.

Spelling and grammar mistakes make us look careless and/or illiterate. Neither of these are favorable aspects of a PA school applicant.

In order to maximize your chances of receiving a precious interview spot you are going to want to do everything in your power to avoid them.

Today I am going to give you 9 simple steps to avoid these silly goofs and make sure your personal statement is flawless.

1. Don’t trust your spellchecker

A spellchecker is probably one of the best innovations to come out of the 21’st century, but it doesn't catch all spelling mistakes. To spot typos, read your text backwards or ask someone else to proofread your text.

  • Use Grammarly, which offers a feature-packed set of spell-check and proofreading options in their free web app.  They also have a MS Word plugin that will take your spellcheck to the next level.
  • Download and install this medical dictionary for MS Word. It was built with love by a medical transcriptionist and he gives it away for free!
  • Write like Hemingway: The author and journalist, Ernest Hemingway, was the master of simple language. His writing is direct and lacks flowery prose. This makes it an ideal model for writing a winning PA School Personal Statement. With this in mind, one of the most useful tools for aiding and improving writing is the Hemingway App.

2. Know how to write physician assistant

We have reviewed 100's of essay through our personal statement editing service. Not a day goes by where we don't see these three common "PA specific" writing mistakes. According to one admissions director we interviewed making just one of these mistakes will land your personal statement in the trash bin - ouch!

  1. It is PAs not PA’s  - Trust me, the managing editor of the AAPA wrote me personally and corrected me on this one!
  2. It is physician assistant not physician's assistant
  3. The words physician assistant are not capitalized unless it's part of a name and precedes the name:
    • Here is an example
      • Physician Assistant John Smith has been in medicine for 10 years - This is capitalized because it is part of a name (Physician Assistant John Smith) and it proceeds the name.
      • If the word physician assistant (notice I didn't capitalize physician assistant) follows the name as in this example: John Smith, a physician assistant, drinks a lot of coffee, it is not capitalized.

Consider creating your own proofreading checklist which includes a list of the types of mistakes you commonly make. Refer to this list each time you proofread.

3. Proofread on paper

Take the time to print out your final draft on paper. You, and those who you have reading your essay, are less likely to skim the text and miss errors.

4. Read your essay aloud

This is a very simple yet commonly overlooked piece of advice that can make a big difference when it comes to editing your personal statement. Sit in a quiet room and read your essay aloud, record yourself reading your essay on your smartphone, rewrite the text where you stumble as you read aloud and listen to yourself read the essay, taking note of text that seems awkward, unnecessary or out of place.

Another effective method is to have the computer read aloud for you.

If you own a Mac, you can copy the text of your paper into a TextEdit file (found in Utilities or Applications). If you have a PC, you may have a reader installed, or check out Natural Reader for free.


  1. Print out a copy of your paper, double spaced.
  2. You need a pen/pencil and highlighter.
  3. Prepare a text file that can be read by your voice software.
  4. Choose a voice you like if you have a choice.
  5. Listen to your paper as you follow along on the printed copy. Stop the program when you hear a problem and note it on your paper.

Listen especially for:

  • Grammar problems, especially missing endings or subject-verb agreement errors.
  • Ideas that don’t fit together—for example, sentences that jump around or don’t seem to be in the right place.
  • Repetition of words or simple repetitiveness.
  • Sentences that don’t make sense to you.
  • Unnatural pauses, or lack of pauses, in the reading. This indicates you probably haven’t punctuated properly.
  • Words the program can’t pronounce, which could indicate a misspelling.
  • Wrong words.

5. Read your essay backwards

This is a common technique used by writers: read your essay backwards.

We often become "blind" to our own mistakes, seeing the correct word or grammar on the page when it really isn't there. In order to break this pattern you can read your writing backwards, phrase by phrase, or word by word. This will help you see your text in a new way.

6. Make several passes for different types of errors

Try checking spelling and end punctuation on one pass, grammar and internal punctuation on another, and format on yet another pass. Develop a system.

If you are editing in Microsoft Word you can choose to turn formatting marks on or off. This will allow you to go carefully through your document looking for extra dots (spaces) or arrows (for tab characters) as well as returns and paragraph spacing.

Proofreading your PA School Personal Statement

7. Consider using an online service

Invite someone else to proofread your text after you have reviewed it. A new set of eyes may immediately spot errors that you've overlooked. We provide a detailed proofread of your essay as part of our essay review service.   Or, consider sending your personal statement to a service such as eangel which is a very inexpensive email proofreading service.

8. Check for logical order

This is an interesting activity I have done with clients as part of our essay collaborative. I'll describe it, but here is also a short video demonstrating the process.

Take your personal statement and follow these instructions:

  1. Make a copy of it on your computer so you are working with a new version.
  2. At the end of every sentence, put a 'return' and leave a few spaces. Do this for your entire piece of writing.
  3. Adjust the size or spacing so you can see only two sentences on your screen. Read the sentences aloud. As a pair of sentences, do they work together? That is, does one sentence follow logically from the one before it?
  4. Now, scroll down so you see your second sentence + third sentence only on the screen. Ask the same question: does one sentence lead to another? If it doesn't, add transitions, pronouns, or other information to make the two sentences work together.

Do this process for your entire essay-yes, it's long and time-consuming, but you'll get faster at it. This exercise will really help you with understanding organization, transitions, and how your writing works together, not just as a series of disconnected sentences.

9. Pay attention to last-minute changes

If you do make a last-minute change to a few words, be sure to check the entire sentence or even paragraph over again.

Many errors are the result of changes made without adjusting other, related words. I do this all the time! Make sure to check the entire document.

Bonus Tip:

Identify and write to the admissions committee

A good exercise is to create a profile of one or two admissions committee members and make it into a separate document.  Go to Google image search and input "physician assistant school faculty" and grab one of those images.

What does their profile look like? Are they middle-aged? Experienced administrators, teachers or a PA student? What are they looking for? Creativity, enthusiasm, knowledge of the PA professions, uniqueness?

Once you have created an actual profile for your reader go ahead and re-read your essay.  Does your reader understand it? Does she like it? Does it persuade him/her to take action and send you an invite to interview?

Would you like some more great tips on writing your physician assistant personal statement?

HOW TO WRITE YOUR PHYSICIAN ASSISTANT PERSONAL STATEMENTCheck out our new book "How to write your physician assistant personal statement" which includes 12 interviews with some of the nation's top PA school faculty and admissions directors from across the country-It's available on Amazon for instant download from the Kindle Store and also in paperback.

Click here to read more about the PA school essay collaborative where you can get free advice on your personal statement or submit your essay for one-on-one help through our professional editing/proofreading service.


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