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Faculty with Students in Problem Based Learning

CHA/PA Program Overview

University of Colorado PA Program offers an innovative 3-year program

The three-year, innovative curriculum of the University of Colorado PA program is designed to integrate clinical and basic sciences to prepare graduates with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to practice medicine as part of the health care team. Graduates practice in all areas of medicine and serve patients of all ages.


Curriculum OverviewSandy Hoops, PA-C teaching students how to do injections

The University of Colorado PA Program has gained national recognition for its curriculum in primary care medicine. The Program confers a Professional Master’s Degree (MPAS). In accordance with the mission of the program, the CHA/PA Program curriculum provides comprehensive physician assistant education in primary medical care with additional training in pediatrics and the need for service to disadvantaged, at risk and medically underserved populations. There are specific requirements that all students must complete to receive the MPAS degree from our fully accredited PA Program. Graduates are well prepared to perform in primary care practice with patients across the lifespan. Historically our students have performed above the national average in score and passing rate on the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) examinations.

The program curriculum aims to provide a strong foundation to equip students for a lifetime of learning, clinical care, and service. Students are expected to be self-directed, motivated, and responsible for their own learning using critical thinking and reasoning. Courses emphasize the integration of basic sciences and clinical medicine through the presentation of information in clinical context, employing the use of lectures, collaborative sessions, small group experiences, and case-based learning to build knowledge, skills, and attitudes important for physician assistants. Interdisciplinary training is woven throughout to facilitate the development of a collaborative approach to patient care.

Educational content is enhanced through the applications of family-centered care, behavioral and psychosocial perspectives as well as social and community initiatives for health and wellness. The program has integrated content in public health, oral health, professionalism, and interprofessional education. Students with a personal area of interest may also have the opportunity to participate in specialized tracks to enhance learning in Rural, Urban-underserved, Global Health, Pediatric Critical and Acute Care, and Leadership and Advocacy.

The curriculum includes a fully integrated clinical curriculum across all three years with clinical rotations in the hospital and community settings. During clinical experiences, students participate in history-taking, physical examination and assessment, development of a differential diagnosis and clinical decision-making and planning of treatments and interventions. Students work closely with preceptors and other members of the health care team and are evaluated on skills and competencies required for patient care.

As a part of the University of Colorado School of Medicine, the faculty of the entire school of medicine and affiliates contribute greatly to the quality of the learning experiences provided at the CHA/PA Program. Affiliations with the University of Colorado Hospital, Children’s Hospital Colorado, and Denver Health and Hospitals in addition to community centers and clinics provide a network of clinical rotations to enhance the training of students. The faculty within the departments of Pediatrics, Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, Surgery, and others regularly participate in both classroom and clinical training of the CHA/PA Program students.

Graduation and awarding of the Masters of Physician Assistant Studies is based upon the following requirements:

  • Successful completion of all coursework and rotations of the University of Colorado PA Program
  • Exhibiting professionalism throughout the course of study
  • Successful completion of the Comprehensive Clinical Knowledge and Clinical Skills Examinations


1st Year Curriculum1st Year Students CPR Class

In the first year of the program, student learning utilizes a variety of approaches including small group problem-based tutorials, lectures, seminars, interprofessional sessions, laboratories and clinical experiences. Hands-on learning is gained through clinical skills and laboratory sessions in addition to direct clinical experience. Clinical rotations in the first year (from August to May) evolve over the course of the year, from observational experience to hands-on practice. Students must pass all first year courses in order to be promoted to second year.

Summer (11 hours)

Fall (22 hours)

Spring (26 hours)

Human Anatomy

Psychosocial Aspects of Healthcare I

Physical Diagnosis I

Introduction to Clinical Reasoning I

Integrated Sciences Basic to Medicine I

Medical Microbiology

General Pathology

Pediatric Growth & Development

Assessment and Care of the Neonate

Physical Diagnosis II

Women's Health

Problem Based Clinical
Reasoning II

Professional and Clinical
Practice I

Clinical Cornerstones I

Community Clinic

Integrated Sciences Basic to Medicine II

Systemic Pathology


Psychosocial Aspects of Healthcare II

Problem Based Clinical Reasoning III

Prevention Across the Lifespan

Professional and Clinical Practice II

Clinical Cornerstones II

Community Clinic

Evidence Based Medicine

Interprofessional Education & Development

*Subject to Change

1st Year Course Descriptions


2nd Year Curriculum2nd Year Students

The second-year classroom curriculum includes pharmacology, interprofessional education and risk management and several clinical medicine courses. The format is mostly lecture and seminar, but small group learning opportunities continue. Second year clinical rotations are completed during the summer and one day per week for seven weeks during the fall and spring semesters. All second-year rotations are primarily hands-on with direct supervision by physicians and advanced practice providers. Before being promoted to third year, students must complete all second-year classroom and clinical courses and pass the end of year exam consisting of written knowledge and practical standardized patient components.

Summer (4 hours)

Fall (19 hours)

Spring (21 hours)

Surgical Clinical Preceptorship

Clinical Rotation

Pharmacology I


Applied Behavioral Medicine I

Pediatric Clinical Medicine I


Adult Clinical Medicine I

Emergency Medicine I

Professional and Clinical
Practice III

IPE/Ethics II

Clinical Cornerstones III

Clinical Rotation (1)

Pharmacology II

Applied Behavioral Medicine II

Pediatric Clinical Medicine II

Adult Clinical Medicine II


Emergency Medicine II

Evidence-Based Medicine

Professional and Clinical Practice IV

Clinical Cornerstones IV

Clinical Rotation (1)

*Subject to Change

2nd Year Course Descriptions 

3rd Year CurriculumClass of 2010

The third year (June through May) consists of ten, one month long rotations and one two-week rotation held in a variety of settings. Both required rotations and elective rotations are completed and dependent on the student’s track. All students, regardless of track, must complete a one month clinical rotation in a rural site and a one month clinical rotation in a site designated as medically underserved.

Students complete a capstone project during year three, returning to campus during the final month of the program to present their topic as part of a Clinical Seminar course. The project represents a culmination of student progress through the program and allows students to identify a clinical case that illustrates a systems-based approach to care.

Students are required to pass all third year clinical rotations, the requirements for Clinical Seminar, as well as the third year comprehensive written (knowledge-based) and clinical (practice-based) exams consisting of knowledge and practical standardized patient exams in order to graduate from the program.

Regular Track  (34 hours)

Rural Track (34 hours)

Ambulatory Pediatrics in Academic Setting

Ambulatory Pediatrics (may be in pediatric subspecialty)

Inpatient Pediatric Medicine

Selective Rotation

Family Medicine

Emergency Medicine

Adult Internal Medicine

Women's Health (if not taken in 2nd Year)

Clinical Seminar (May of 3rd Year)


Ambulatory Pediatrics in Academic Setting


Family Medicine at single site in rural CO

Inpatient Medicine/Internal Medicine

Women's Health

Adult Internal Medicine

Emergency Medicine

Selective Rotation

Clinical Seminar (May of 3rd Year)


Total Credits may be an additional +/-1 credit if they take two - 2 week rotations at 2.0 credits each or just one - 2 week rotation and a 2-week vacation.

*Subject to Change 

3rd Year Course Descriptions 


Specialized Tracks of the CHA/PA ProgramCHA/PA Program Rural Track Students

The CHA/PA Program offers an outstanding curriculum with education across the lifespan with additional training in pediatrics.  Our reputation and board pass rates may speak for themselves in preparation for practice!  In response to student requests and the opportunity for additional learning beyond the regular curriculum, the CHA/PA Program offers students the opportunity to participate in tracks to help personalize and extend learning beyond our standard curriculum. These tracks include exciting opportunities for interdisciplinary education, integrating students with others in the School of Medicine and across the campus with similar interests.

Rural Track
In 1993, the CHA/PA Program implemented the rural track and over the past several years, has combined with the School of Medicine to become one of the official interdisciplinary tracks of the School of Medicine. The rural track is specifically designed to prepare students who wish to practice medicine in rural areas, especially in Colorado and Wyoming, with the skills needed to practice in such a setting. 

During the first two years of the program, rural track students participate in interdisciplinary courses with lectures, small group cases, and discussions, along with hands-on workshops. Students also have the option to participate in rural immersion week with other rural track students across the campus during the summer of their second year.  During the third year, rural track students will complete a two month family medicine clinical rotation block in a rural community of less than 15,000-25,000. The student will live in the rural community during the rotation block and are expected to participate as much as possible in community events. The rotation completed at this location will be Family Medicine; however, additional rotations in a rural pediatrics, in-patient and emergency medicine setting may be requested. The curriculum of the rural track does not extend the course of education for rural track students.

Application occurs after the admissions offer and prior to matriculation. Up to 5 students per class may be admitted.

Global Health Track
The Global Health Track is an official interdisciplinary track in the School of Medicine that is committed to equipping PA and MD students with public health skills that can be utilized in a variety of settings, especially global ones. This track goes beyond medical tourism, and requires a true commitment to public health initiatives. The track seeks to promote in-depth projects, completed by students, in developing nations or with local refugee, immigrant or asylum seeking populations that are sustainable and create lasting positive change in a community.

Students in the Global Health Track will complete a clinical experience in a vetted international setting or with a local refugee, immigrant or asylum seeker community during the summer of their second year. During their third year, students may have the opportunity to return to the same site for a month long follow up clinical experience and complete a 2 week Global Health and Disasters Course.

In order to be admitted into the track, students must apply during the summer of their first year. Two applicants are then selected by the global track director and the CHA/PA program.

Urban/Underserved Track (CU-Unite)
CU-Unite is committed to serving the uninsured and those with limited access to health care in urban areas. Students completing CU-UNITE will have a thorough understanding of healthcare disparities and inequities, the multifaceted role of the healthcare provider in urban communities, and knowledge about health issues of specific populations of patients in urban areas.

CU-UNITE is an interdisciplinary program that includes collaboration with the School of Medicine – MD and Physician Assistant programs, and the College of Nursing- Nurse Practitioner program.  This track includes interdisciplinary didactic experiences as well as collaborative opportunities for CU-UNITE students to work in teams on various topics with an urban underserved focus.

A call for applications for this track will be made to accepted students after the admission offer and before matriculation.  This track is limited to 4 students.

LEADS (Leadership, Education, Advocacy, Development, and Scholarship)
LEADS is an interdisciplinary track within the School of Medicine dedicated to addressing the needs of the underserved and disadvantaged. The goal of LEADS is to provide future healthcare professionals with the vision and skills to be leaders and advocates for patients and their needs.

The LEADS track provides learning opportunities to empower students to address currently unmet needs head-on and to create effective change where change is needed. LEADS will help develop skills to improve patients' opportunities and choices and to empower providers to act on their patients’ behalf. The LEADS program does this through leadership and advocacy skills development and by providing guidance and mentorship through interdisciplinary coursework and projects.

A call for applications for this track will be made during the first year of the program.


Pediatric Critical and Acute Care
This new educational opportunity gives CHA/PA students specialized instruction and clinical experiences in pediatric critical and acute care. This longitudinal experience was developed over a period of three years by CHA/PA faculty and Children's Hospital Colorado faculty to meet the needs of students wishing to focus in this area. Critical care physicians and physician assistants at Children's Hospital Colorado directly precept students over three years, teaching them skills in acute pediatric care. Continuity over the three years of the program helps to ensure growth and progression of clinical skills, reasoning, and autonomy. Additionally, students complete a customized curriculum through targeted readings and lectures. This individualized educational experience prepares students for careers in pediatric emergency rooms, intensive care units, and other acute pediatric care settings.

A call for applications for this track will be made during the first year of the program.  This track is limited to four students.