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YU News

100% of Katz School's 1st PA Class Passes PANCE Certifying Exam on First Attempt

The first graduating class of the Katz School's M.S. in Physician Assistant Studies.

All 22 students in the first graduating class of the Katz School’s M.S. in Physician Assistant Studies have passed the profession’s national board certification exam on the first attempt and did better than the national average in key content areas.

“We are really very happy with the results, and a lot of our students have already let us know that they're getting good jobs,” said Sharon Verity, program director and clinical associate professor. “They’re really thrilled.”

To become a certified physician assistant, or PA, candidates must pass a 300-question, five-hour multiple choice exam called PANCE, which tests medical and surgical competency, as well as critical thinking and clinical reasoning skills, to ensure they are ready for clinical practice and patient care.

The PANCE pass rate has been declining every year since 2019, dropping to 92% in 2023 for first-time test-takers, according to the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). Verity credits professor Dwayne Williams, director of didactic education, for the outstanding performance of Katz School graduates on the exam.

“In terms of this exam, Dwayne was the key to their success,” said Verity. “I think each one of our students would say that he is an amazing teacher—persistent, passionate and patient. YU is extremely fortunate to have him.”

Williams, author of the definitive guide PANCE PREP PEARLS, said the PA faculty not only provided expert clinical instruction, they instilled in students the intangible qualities, or soft skills, that inspire a superior bedside manner.

“This first class has great communication skills, are empathetic and have extraordinary interpersonal skills that not only contribute to a positive patient experience but promote better health outcomes,” he said. “They have the ability to be one with the patient.”

The Katz School program consists of a year in the classroom and a year of clinical rotations, and follows a medical model, with emphasis on data gathering, diagnosis and treatment. Verity said feedback from preceptors, who played a central role in the clinical education of the first class of students during rotations, was overwhelmingly positive—not surprising given the selectivity of the PA program, which accepts only 50 students from over 2,000 applications.

“One of the constant things said about our students was they were well-rounded, had a good understanding of medicine, were very inquisitive and helpful, driven to learn and showed outstanding initiative,” said Verity. “They not only represented YU and the Katz School with distinction, they established this program’s reputation for clinical excellence. These results also set a strong foundation for continuously improving the program year after year to meet the changing needs of patients.”