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Major Change: Doctorate in Medical Science

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Yes, but this is a new and important development. It is the quickest way to a PHD that I have seen.

The real problem I have with it-- they only talk about how this somehow puts PAs on par with physicians to fill a gap. This is a lie. Every PA with this degree WILL STILL BE A DEPENDENT PRACTITIONER AND SUBJECTED TO HAVING A SUPERVISING PHYSICIAN.


Sorry for the caps. It's a money grab from a school who wants to charge graduate prices for another piece of paper on the wall.

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So it is unclear from the stories, but I think it isa DMS instead of a PhD.   Still, it seems to be the quickest.  I am interested to see how it develops in comparison to our DHSc and our PhD.  It may be very competitive.  We welcome the competition, I think.

Good point DMS or DHSc, just another option or a competitor to the DHSc since acceptance of it appears to be lukewarm...IMHO

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from the site




Harrogate, Tennessee, January 14, 2016 – Lincoln Memorial University (LMU) is pleased to announce a new type of medical training with its launch of the brand new Doctor of Medical Science (DMS) degree. The only one of its kind, this program bridges the gaps between physician and physician assistant (PA) training for the development of a new type of doctorally trained provider to aid Appalachia and other health care shortage areas. The University has received approval from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, and the program will accept the first cohort of students to start fall of 2016.




U.S. physician residencies are capped by federal dollars. Every practicing physician must complete a residency therefore these caps limit the impact medical schools can have on the impending provider shortage. The greatest users of health care resources, including the elderly and chronically ill, are expected to increase by 46% over the next 10 years, and the Affordable Care Act is projected to add between 26 and 32 million new patients to the health care system. As a result, despite the aggressive approach and success of medical colleges and schools to increase total enrollments by 30% from 2003 to 2020, the ratio of patient demand to physician supply continues to grow. (AAMC.org)


In November of 2015, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) reported that “the demand for physicians continues to grow faster than the supply, with a projected shortfall between 46,100 and 90,400 physicians by 2025.” It further highlights that the “projected shortfalls in primary care will range between 12,500 and 31,100 physicians by 2025.” The “lower ranges of the projected shortfalls reflects the rapid growth in supply” of physician assistants, nurse practitioners and nurse anesthetists.


Physician assistants are trained in a medical model developed by physicians. The curriculum mimics the physician training model, but is slightly shorter in duration, and includes one year of clinical training instead of two. Practicing physician assistants are licensed by the state medical boards, and practice medicine with the supervision of a physician.


In the April 2015 edition of the AAMC Reporter, the AAMC Chief Health Care Officer noted that “the doctor shortage will not be solved by any one approach, but rather will require a number of strategies. Medical schools and teaching hospitals must do their part in care, delivery and medical education.”


In 2009, the physician assistant (PA) profession held the PA Clinical Doctoral Summit to investigate the need for a doctoral degree for PAs. Composed of 50 professionals from the health care community representing multiple health care professions, the summit prescribed some foundations for what a doctoral program should look like. In the final report of the summit, recommendations were made for colleges and universities to explore the development of a model for advanced clinical training for physician assistants, and recommended a “doctorate of medical science degree.”


Answering the challenge noted by the AAMC’s Chief Health Care Officer and the 2009 PA Clinical Doctoral Summit recommendations, Lincoln Memorial University is doing its part to address the continued primary care provider shortage by taking an already well-trained physician assistant medical provider and enhancing his or her skills, education and training to help supply the demand for highly qualified doctorally prepared health care providers.


“As home to one of the largest PA programs in the country, and Tennessee’s largest medical school by enrollment, LMU has a special opportunity to meet the need for advanced medical education in Appalachia and beyond,” LMU President B. James Dawson said.




The LMU Doctor of Medical Science program is comprised of 50 credits. Eligible candidates must have PA master’s level training and a minimum of three years of clinical experience.  The first year curriculum includes online didactics delivered by clinical and Ph.D. subspecialists from the LMU-DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine, other teaching hospitals and the community. The second year is comprised of online didactics specific to a clinical specialty. Students in the clinical practicum will achieve defined clinical competencies over the course of the two-year program. There are three tracks to choose from: primary care, hospital medicine, and emergency medicine. In lieu of the clinical practicum, experienced PAs can choose an academic track to be delivered by the LMU Carter and Moyers School of Education’s Doctor of Education program for the purposes of enhancing medical education. Students will be able to participate in the program while continuing with full-time clinical practice as a PA.


The University has announced that Paul Serrell, M.D., a board-certified nephrologist and associate clinical professor of medicine at the University of Tennessee, will work with the program and serve as associate dean. A permanent dean will be announced later in the year.


“The program’s curriculum is designed to fill the educational gaps between the foundational physician and physician assistant curricula,” Serrell said. “It will incorporate current clinical trends and evidence-based medicine modeled after physician graduate medical education.”




Looking into the future of health care, LMU seeks to impact the provider shortage by providing advanced training for PAs. Currently, LMU has authorization to offer the Doctor of Medical Science program to students residing in 39 states.


“This DMS program is truly groundbreaking,” Autry O.V. “Pete” DeBusk, chairman of the LMU Board of Trustees, said. “Our program addresses both the clinical shortage of physicians and the shortage of professors in the medical field. There is not a university out there offering this for physician assistants.”


The DMS program will begin accepting applications on February 1, 2016, for the fall semester. For more information about the Doctor of Medical Science program contactDMSadmissions@lmunet.edu or visit www.LMUnet.edu.


Lincoln Memorial University is a values-based learning community dedicated to providing educational experiences in the liberal arts and professional studies. The main campus is located in Harrogate, Tennessee. For more information about the undergraduate and graduate programs available at LMU, contact the Office of Admissions at 423-869-6280 or e-mail at admissions@lmunet.edu.

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If the degree was a bridge program to DO with an independent license it would be tempting. The article is misleading and seems to say it is filling in the knowledge gap between PA and physician but doesn't end up with an equivalent degree.

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The thing is, what does it do for the PA with a DMS who is still a PA and not an independent practitioner? I fail to see how this fixes any shortages. It insinuates that lesser-trained PAs (aka most of us) are not adequately prepared to meet the health care needs of Appalachia. This is not at all true. We know it's the arbitrary limitations set by state practice laws and local credentialing bodies and third-party payor meddling that really slows down progress in meeting the healthcare needs of these communities.

Seems like an interesting degree for teaching but unless LMU-DCOM has a plan up their sleeve to offer enhanced autonomy to these DMS PAs, it's only interesting and not useful.


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It comes down to price. The program isn't formally on website yet, but here are the prices for other graduate degrees at the school (and let me say-- it better be equal to that DNP degree and not closer to that DO price tag):


Doctor of Education: $784 per semester hour

Doctor of Jurisprudence: $1,073 per semester hour

Doctor of Nursing Practice: $650 per semester hour

Doctor of Veterinary Medicine: $41,728 per year

Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine: $46,348 per year (1st and 2nd year students)

Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine: $44,322 per year (3rd and 4th year students)

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Even if it doesn't add more autonomy through increased scope of practice laws, this is still an excellent way to obtain a clinically relevant doctorate so we can compete on the same level as DNPs for positions. Looks to be a excellent curriculum as well, very relevant.


I think if this becomes more common, it also will add to the credence that there should be a pathway to autonomy and will help pave the way for that.


Hope it doesn't end up being a dud.

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I would like to see the rigor of the curriculum. Also definitely curious about the cost and how they propose extending care to patients in Appalachia while ostensibly transferring the burden of the cost of training from the government (residency funds) to the DMS PA (sounds like a bad deal to me....)

I considered all the doctorates and was admitted to the DHSc back in 2009 but wasn't passionate about it. I knew that for me the only doctorate I cared to earn was a clinical one--as you all know I went back to med school. It was the right choice for me and I am now halfway through residency and happier overall.

I think it's an interesting prospect to compare DMS for PAs with DNPs but if there isn't a change in scope of practice or independent practice I think it falls short of solving our health care provider crisis.


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I agree with all.  My immediate concern given that I direct a DHSc program is how a shorter and potentially cheaper program will impact us, even though we have a proven curriculum with good results for PAs and non-PAs as well.  If I were a 30 year old PA the DMS would definitely look like an attractive option.  It will not automatically change practice rights, but every step in the direction of more education over the past four decades has led to a better practice environment.......not that PAs without masters had inferior educations (that's never been proven) but the perception was there.  Much of this is perception and not proven fact.  Do PAs need two more years of education and how much better as clinical PAs will they be as a result?......no one knows.     Just as the first masters program and the first post professional PA masters program changed the playing field, this has the potential to do that as well.   No curriculum has yet been published, and that would be something to see prior to making more judgments. 


More education does not always lead to better outcomes, neither for students nor for patients.   Sometimes it does.......but it is no guarantee.  It does have the tendency to make those outcomes more expensive in the long run.  How much more debt will those students incur because of tuition costs?  Will they all gravitate towards EM instead of primary care? 


I agree with Prima that you should not undertake a degree you are not passionate about. 

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More posted now.  Cost of attendance for the entire program is slightly over $56,000.    It does appear to be roughly akin to a two year medical school in terms of curriculum. 




The curriculum is didactic and clinical and it is emphasized that it is taught and run by their college of medicine faculty.




An interview is required for admission. 

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From the website:

Frequently Asked Questions


Why is this degree necessary?

The physician to patient shortage, especially in primary care is real. Despite aggressive efforts to increase medical school enrollments, the physician to patient ratio continues to decline nationally, with the greatest deficits found in primary care. Physician Assistants have graduate training in the medical model and extensive clinical experience. Without the redundancy of traditional medical school, this new training provides the already highly skilled physician assistant with additional knowledge, skills and competencies to further meet the growing healthcare demand in just two years and without using ACGME dollars.


Is this a Physician Assistant program?


No. While this Doctoral training is designed for and targets physician assistants, this program is in no way affiliated with a physician assistant program. Rather, the LMU-DCOM medical school has designed and implemented this training specifically for experienced physician assistants. The medical school was very careful to adhere to each of the recommendations of the 2009 PA summit meeting.


Is this a shortcut to becoming a doctor?


No. This is not a shortcut to becoming a doctor. In fact, upon completion, the Doctor of Medical Science graduate will have no less than seven years of post-bachelor’s degree training and clinical experience. Rather, this is a means of training an alternate doctoral level clinician to help meet the demands of the U.S. healthcare needs.


Will there be additional clinical tracks in the future?


LMU-DCOM is constantly studying the health care needs of Appalachia and other underserved regions. Once the Doctor of Medical Science program, with its current primary care focus, is deemed successful by the University, the health care profession, and patients then the demand for doctoral trained physician assistants in other areas of highest medical need will be investigated.


Why an education track?


With the rapid expansion of medical training programs, the demand for medical educators continues to increase. DMS graduates from the Education track will have advanced medical knowledge as well as educational training for effective delivery of medical academia.


Why is your program not offered in my state?


The Doctor of Medical Science Curriculum is delivered predominantly by distance learning methods. This requires strict adherence to Federal and State legislation. Currently, LMU-DCOM can offer this program to students in the state of Tennessee, and to students residing in states that are either members of the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) through the Electronic Campus Regional Reciprocity Agreement (SECRRA), or the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA). Additional states will be pursued as need and demand dictates.


What is the cost?


Tuition for the entire program is $48,000. See the Tuition / Financial Aid section for more details.


Is the program accredited?


As a member of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, the Doctor of Medical Science degree program has been reviewed by the Commission’s Board of Trustees who issued the following statement:

The Board of Trustees of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools

Commission on Colleges reviewed the materials seeking approval of the Doctor

Of Medical Science degree program. It was the decision of the Board to approve

the program and include it in the scope of the current accreditation. Nov 11, 2015.

There are currently no other regulatory bodies to accredit this new program.


When will the application process begin?


The online electronic application will open February 1, 2016.


Where is the LMU-DCOM campus?


The medical school is located in Harrogate, TN. Harrogate is located approximately 1 hour north of Knoxville, TN. The campus sits below the Cumberland Gap, bordering VA and KY.

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