linked in pixel

Xavier University and Ochsner Health Launch New Physician Assistant Program

NEW ORLEANSXavier University of Louisiana and Ochsner Health System teamed up to launch a new Physician Assistant (PA) Program* for the inaugural class matriculating in January 2020. The 28-month, full-time graduate program, which leads to a master’s degree in health sciences, is comprised of three semesters of classroom instruction followed by 16 months of clinical training within the Ochsner Health System.  

Commonly known as a PA, a physician assistant is a licensed and trained healthcare professional trained in general medicine who works under the supervision of a physician. The American Academy of PAs estimates there are more than 123,000 PAs in the United States today and, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for physician assistants is projected to grow 37 percent from 2016 to 2026. Currently, Ochsner has 183 Physician Assistants working across its health system. 

“We have greatly expanded our program offerings over the past three years to meet the evolving needs of students to be globally competitive and prepare for successful careers in the current markets,” Dr. Anne McCall, Provost of Xavier University of Louisiana said. “The commitment to establish the new program reflects our mission at Xavier University to prepare students to be servant-leaders who impact transformative change for a more just and humane society.”

Following three semesters of classroom instruction, the PA students will complete approximately 2,000 hours of hands-on clinical experience through 11 rotations at various Ochsner facilities. Students will work and study with healthcare professionals across a variety of specialties, including Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, General Surgery, Emergency Medicine, Behavioral Health and Women’s Health.

“Ochsner has a long history of excellence in medical education. PA students will train with University of Queensland Ochsner Clinical School Medical Students in our integrated health care system. The PA program with Xavier demonstrates our continued commitment to training the next generation of healthcare providers to meet the health care needs of the diverse communities we serve,” said Leonardo Seoane, M.D., Chief Academic Officer, Ochsner Health System.

Varsha Castro Gusman has been appointed as Director of the program. She will serve also as Clinical Assistant Professor of professional programs in the Physician Assistant Department. As the founding director, she will oversee the degree approval process, plan and develop accredited curriculum and serve as a classroom instructor, mentor and advisor to students. A Xavier University alumna, Gusman earned a bachelor’s degree in biology, and a master’s degree in the physician assistant program at Our Lady of the Lake College. Gusman served as the Lead Physician Assistant for the Neuro Critical Care Unit while at Ochsner for the last 5 years

“The future of the healthcare system is projected to be collaborative and diverse, with many different professions working at their highest levels to care for patient needs,” said Gusman. “The physician assistant program at Xavier University has the potential to have great impact on the health of our communities. Graduates will acquire the knowledge and skills needed to advocate for patients, reduce disparities in access to health care, recognize and treat disorders and advance prevention of chronic disease.”

The new PA program is the next evolution in a long-standing relationship, which dates back to the early 1980s when Ochsner and Xavier’s College of Pharmacy established an affiliation agreement partnership to provide educational experiences to pharmacy students. Through this partnership, Ochsner has provided clinical training for an average of 80 Xavier pharmacy students each year.

For more information or to apply to the new Xavier University and Ochsner Physician Assistant program, visit call (504) 520-5119.

*Note: Xavier University Physician Assistant Program is in the process of applying for Accreditation-Provisional from the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). This Program is also pending approval from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Xavier University anticipates matriculating its first class in January 2020 pending achieving Accreditation-Provisional status at the September 2019 ARC-PA meeting. Accreditation-Provisional status is an accreditation status granted when the plans and resource allocation, if fully implemented as planned, of a proposed program that has not yet enrolled students appears to demonstrate the program’s ability to meet the ARC-PA Standards or when a program holding Accreditation-Provisional status appears to demonstrate continued progress in complying with the Standards as it prepares for the graduation of the first cohort of students. Xavier University Physician Assistant Program will not commence in the event that provisional accreditation status is not received. Students are accepted on a conditional basis. In the event of non-accreditation, a refund of applicable tuition deposits will be returned to those students.

About Xavier University of Louisiana

Xavier was recently ranked as the nation’s #2 HBCU (Historically Black College and University) by College Consensus, a unique college ratings website that aggregates publisher rankings and student reviews, in its newly released publication, Best HBCUs for 2018. Xavier was also among the four colleges selected by Beyonce and her BeyGood Foundation as the recipient of a Homecoming Scholars Scholarship Award announced after her much lauded performance at Coachella, while actor and comedian Kevin Hart has joined forces with UNCF and KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) to help 18 more KIPP students earn a college degree – three of whom were Xavier students.

At Xavier eXcellence awaits yoU. For more information about Xavier University of Louisiana visit us online at or follow us on Facebook, YouTube, or Twitter @XULA1925. To book interviews about our recent accomplishments and/or to speak with our experts in the field of pharmacy, education, premed, public health, science, technology, math, business, English, communications and the arts, contact Diana Hernandez at (504) 520-5120 or

About Ochsner Health

Ochsner Health is Louisiana’s largest non-profit, academic, healthcare system. Driven by a mission to Serve, Heal, Lead, Educate and Innovate, coordinated clinical and hospital patient care is provided across the region by Ochsner's 40 owned, managed and affiliated hospitals and specialty hospitals, and more than 100 health centers and urgent care centers. Ochsner is the only Louisiana hospital recognized by U.S. News & World Report as a “Best Hospital” across three specialty categories caring for patients from all 50 states and more than 70 countries worldwide each year. Ochsner employs nearly 25,000 employees and over 1,300 employed physicians in over 90 medical specialties and subspecialties, and conducts more than 700 clinical research studies. Ochsner Health is proud to be a tobacco-free environment. For more information, please visit and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

You may also be interested in: