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Agnes Scott College Announces Development of New Physician Assistant Program

A professor wearing a lab coat smiles overlooking two students doing work on a laptop in a laboratory.

DECATUR, Ga.—Agnes Scott College is developing a physician assistant program and announces the appointment of LeAnne Martinelli, DHSc, RPh, PA-C, as program director and professor of physician assistant studies. Dr. Martinelli is president-elect of the Georgia Association of Physician Assistants (GAPA). Previously, she served as a clinical associate professor and academic director in the Department of Physician Assistant Studies at Mercer University in Atlanta. She earned her Master of Medical Science in Physician Assistant Studies from Emory University before completing a Doctor of Health Science degree from Nova Southeastern University.

The program is slated for the 2025-2026 academic year—pending the accreditation process of both the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA)—to meet the urgent, growing need for healthcare professionals. In rural Georgia, some 3.3 million people do not have access to a primary care physician. The Kaiser Family Foundation identified Georgia as a Primary Care Health Professional Shortage Area, noting that the state has met only 40 percent of its healthcare needs. Agnes Scott endeavors to address these disparities head-on with the development of the new program. 

Dr. LeAnne Martinelli

Demand for physician assistants is expected to grow 34.2 percent in the Metro-Atlanta area in the next decade, 25.9 percent above the national average. Among the demand is a dramatic increase in the need for maternal, neonatal, pediatric and mental health specializations. Agnes Scott has developed mission-aligned, health-focused graduate programs to address community and workforce needs while providing pathways for careers in healthcare for underrepresented minorities in medicine. Currently, approximately 70 percent of its graduate student population in medical sciences and pre-medical programs identify as students of color. 

“Agnes Scott’s mission and values empower students to think deeply, innovate and promote inclusivity. These values are the core of the physician assistant profession,” said Martinelli. “PAs were established in 1967 to increase healthcare availability. Today, PAs pledge as part of their oath to provide compassionate and culturally competent medical care to all patients. The PA program will embody the diverse culture of Agnes Scott and educate students to provide community-based healthcare.”

Based on workforce demand and local healthcare partner feedback, Agnes Scott is designing its program to ensure students are equipped to address maternal, neonatal and pediatric health. The program creates a pipeline to fill high-need jobs in Georgia by educating diverse students to become healthcare practitioners. The programs will also align with the culture of Agnes Scott – a real-world learning environment designed to mobilize and empower students and their families. 

“Agnes Scott is responding to the community need for healthcare professionals by working to develop a master’s level Physician Assistant Program. Our goal is to increase the diversity of physician assistants in the community through this program, as we have been doing through our medical science and pre-medical post-bacc programs,” said Kelly H. Ball, PhD, associate vice president and dean for graduate studies.

Before the program can recruit and admit students, the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant must accredit the program and a substantive change application must be filed with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. 

For information or to learn more about health sciences at Agnes Scott, visit here.