Picture: Physician assistant student Ohood Elzibak and her supervising physician orthopedic surgen Dr. Ivan Wong in
his office in Hamilton Ontario.
Hospital News article by Laura Thompson (January 2011)
A new class of health professionals
are working in hospitals and
family practices across Ontario
following the completion of their training
through McMaster University’s physician assistant education program.
Twenty-one graduates received their
Bachelor of Health Sciences (Physician
Assistant) degrees during convocation
ceremonies Nov. 19, 2010.
The new breed of health-care workers,
who work directly under the supervision
of a physician, are now employed
in range of specialties including emergency
medicine, family medicine, internal
medicine, critical care and orthopedic
surgery at hospitals and health care
centres from Windsor to Ottawa.
“Our physician assistant graduates
are exceptional ambassadors of this new
profession,” said Dr. John Cunnington,
assistant dean of the physician assistant
program.“Through their commitment to excellence
and collaborative care, they have
positioned themselves as essential members
of today’s interprofessional healthcare
teams. Their McMaster foundation
in problem-based, small-group learning
will serve them well as they move forward
in their careers.”
Employment opportunities for physician
assistant (PA) graduates were
announced this past summer by the
Ministry of Health and Long-Term
Care. The ministry provided grants to
support the hiring of PAs as part of an
overall strategy to reduce wait times
and improve access to patient care in
high-need areas. “The physician assistant role is one
of several new roles we have introduced
as part of our government’s collaborative
Health Human Resources Strategy,”
said Deb Matthews, Ontario’s Minister
of Health and Long-Term Care. “I’m
pleased to support these graduates and
look forward to further expanding this
valuable patient care role.”
Ohood Elzibak, a 23-year-old
Hamiltonian and McMaster alumna,
was drawn to the PA program out of her
desire to work in a clinical setting and
pioneer a new role in health care.“I felt very confident going down
this route,” she said. “I felt like this
was the right role for me, and I knew I
needed to explore that. “It’s been a phenomenal two years.
You develop a really close relationship
with your classmates, the facilitators
and the staff. We were all in this
together. It was a new experience for
During her clerkship year, Elzibak
discovered a passion for the intense,
fast-paced operating room environment
during a two-month rotation with Dr.
Ivan Wong, an orthopedic surgeon at
Hamilton Health Sciences. Elzibak was
hired by Wong as the first physician
assistant member of his surgical team.
Wong, an assistant professor of
surgery at McMaster, had previously
worked with PAs during his fellowship
training in the United States. Physician
assistants have been part of the U.S. health-care system since the 1960s.
In Canada, the health-care workers
have been employed by the Canadian
military for several decades. They were
introduced into the civilian health care
system in 2007 through a joint initiative
between the Ministry of Health
and Long-Term Care and the Ontario
Medical Association. PAs also train
at the University of Toronto and the
University of Manitoba.
“In the future, I see just about every
orthopedic surgeon working with
PAs, and sometimes multiple ones,”
Wong said. “In the United States, it’s
already been shown many times that
PAs improve the cost-effectiveness of
practice, increase patient care as well as
Mark MacLeod, president of the
Ontario Medical Association, also
reflected that sentiment in a statement
that congratulated the graduates and
commended the introduction of the new
PA role and the impact it will have on
health care.“Ontario’s doctors are long time
supporters of PAs,” he said. “PAs are
valuable contributors to our health care
system because Ontario’s doctors know
that when all health care providers
work together, patients benefit from an
enhanced level of care.
Physician assistants are health-care
professionals who work under the
supervision of doctors to provide care.
PAs take histories, conduct physical
examinations, order and interpret tests,
diagnose and treat illnesses, counsel on
preventive health care and may assist
in surgery, depending on the specialty
of their supervising physician. A PA’s
practice may also include education,
research and administration.
Launched in September 2008,
McMaster’s consecutive 24-month program
was founded upon the problem-based
learning model of the Michael G.
DeGroote School of Medicine. The first
year of study focuses on the clinical sciences
supporting health-care delivery.
In the second year, PA students rotate through clinical placements.
The inaugural physician assistant
class of 21 students was selected from
a pool of more than 250 applicants.
The students came from diverse backgrounds
including paramedic practice,
social work, genetics, epidemiology,
journalism and engineering.
In addition to all completing the
program, the inaugural PA graduates
have also successfully transitioned to
employment in Ontario.
Laura Thompson is Editor, Public
Relations, in the Faculty of Health
Sciences at McMaster University in