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SUNY Downstate Medical Center’s PA Program is currently offering a select group of its students an opportunity to concentrate their studies on HIV. The chosen HIV track students will follow the same curriculum as their fellow PA students, but will be given additional lectures specific to the presentations and management of HIV-infected patients. In addition to a more in-depth HIV education, these students will have the chance to shadow clinicians in SUNY Downstate’s HIV clinic during their didactic year and will be able to spend nine weeks of their clinical rotations working exclusively with this specific population. In addition to providing the HIV track students with an enhanced education and mentorship, we will also help to facilitate the students progress toward an HIV specialist certification.
Didactic topics include:
Since the arrival of HAART (Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy), individuals infected with HIV have a dramatically increased lifespan, better overall health status and are less infectious. The medical community thus no longer sees HIV as a terminal illness, but rather as a chronic illness such as hypertension, diabetes and asthma. Much like these diseases, however, HIV infection and its multi-drug therapy are not without long term effects.
Need for Practitioners
In order to properly manage patients infected with HIV, a medical practitioner must possess a thorough knowledge of the long term sequelae of infection with the virus, as well as a detailed understanding of treatment options and complications. In New York State, there is currently a dearth of primary care practitioners that have a specialized knowledge of long term management of HIV. This lack of practitioners is especially alarming for denizens of Brooklyn, as there were 27,788 HIV-infected people living in Brooklyn 2011 and Brooklyn currently has the largest number of new HIV infections out of all five boroughs. Kings County is thus in dire need of practitioners that are able to effectively manage HIV in a primary care setting and the Physician Assistant is the perfect clinician to fill this gap in service.
Role of the Physician Assistant
Under the supervision of a Physician, the Physician Assistant conducts physical exams, orders and interprets tests, diagnoses and treats illnesses, prescribes medications, and counsels patients on preventive health care. They receive an accelerated general medical education that typically lasts for just under three years. Beginning in 1965, the PA profession has grown rapidly and can now be found in nearly every aspect of the healthcare system.