For Distribution to Nation’s CHC Movement

October 8, 2021


Gary Cloud

C 480-227-4127

Innovative Physician Assistant Training Program for the Community Health Center Movement Launches in California

Central Coast Physician Assistant Program will meet the needs for diverse, highly skilled clinicians

Phoenix, AZ and New York, NY (October 8,2021) – A new program, dedicated to training physician assistants (PAs) for the nation’s community health centers (CHCs), began class with 90 students, in Santa Maria, California on October 4th, 2021.  The program is a partnership of CHC-U, a not-for-profit formed to meet the workforce needs of the health center movement, A.T. Still University of Health Sciences (ATSU), and the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC), with support from the RCHN Community Health Foundation.

The new Central Coast Physician Assistant Program (CCPAP) is designed to meet the primary care needs of underserved communities and serve as a resource for CHCs. “The Central Coast Physician Assistant Program is the result of over a decade of visioning, planning, and implementing. This innovative training model helps to fulfill the health center vision of identifying mission-driven students, training and retaining them to serve their hometown communities”, says Ron Yee, MD, MBA, NACHC CMO.

The program was granted provisional accreditation status by the Accreditation Review Commission for Physician Assistant Education (ARC-PA) on July 15th, 2021, allowing for the admission of the first incoming class. CCPAP will focus on recruiting and training a culturally diverse profession.  The program is based out of ATSU’s new 27,000 square foot state-of-the-art Santa Maria facility, which includes a large learning theater, clinical simulation rooms, library space, student break room, and faculty and staff workspaces. Administrative offices for Community Health Centers of the Central Coast, Inc., a local community health center partner instrumental in developing the program, are also located at the new facility.

PA students will spend the first year of the innovative two-year program in Santa Maria, engaging in facilitated learning with case studies, interactive projects, and preclinical community experiences. In the second year, students will complete their clinical training with small cohorts embedded in one of 20 community health center campuses across the nation. Consistent with the health center movement’s focus on promoting diversity and advancing health equity, the program seeks Hometown Scholar applicants, candidates endorsed by CHCs based on their ‘CHC Hearts,’ or passion and motivation to serve the community. Hometown Scholar candidates are often first-generation college students, from historically underrepresented or economically disadvantaged groups and diverse cultures and backgrounds, who have demonstrated a commitment to serving those most in need.  

“As the nation emerges from the pandemic, it is essential that health centers have well qualified staff to meet community need,” said RCHN Community Health Foundation President and CEO, Feygele Jacobs.  “We’re excited to support CHC-U and the collaborating partners in launching the new Central Coast Physician Assistant Program to help ensure that every community has exceptional, diverse, highly competent clinicians.”

Tom Curtin, MD, Board Chair for CHC-U said “we are absolutely thrilled with this historic partnership. This program will provide care to under-served communities, but it is a first step, as we are committed to working with our partners on additional innovative strategies and programs to address the clinical workforce needs of the nation’s CHCs.”

To learn more about Hometown Scholars, visit ATSU Hometown Scholars, to view complete, detailed admissions requirements and prerequisites, visit ATSU Admissions, and if interested in partnering to become a future CHC clinical learning hub, email


About CHC-U

CHC-U is a non-profit entity, governed by Community Health Center leaders, and committed to fostering innovative strategies and endeavors that assure the national safety-net’s supply of compassionate, community-minded healers. 

About A.T. Still University

A.T. Still University of Health Sciences serves as a learning-centered university dedicated to preparing highly competent professionals through innovative academic programs with a commitment to continue its osteopathic heritage and focus on whole person healthcare, scholarship, community health, interprofessional education, diversity, and underserved populations.

About the National Association of Community Health Centers

The National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) was founded in 1971 to promote efficient, high quality, comprehensive health care that is accessible, culturally and linguistically competent, community directed, and patient-centered for all.

About RCHN Community Health Foundation

The RCHN Community Health Foundation (RCHN CHF) is a not-for-profit foundation established to support community health centers through strategic investment, outreach, education, and cutting-edge health policy research. Founded in 2005 as the only foundation in the U.S. dedicated solely to community health centers, RCHN CHF will sunset in 2021.