St. Ambrose University healthcare programs score a triple play


For The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — St. Ambrose University’s College of Health and Human Services (CHHS) excelled this year in its first-time pass rate on the national licensure exams taken by graduates in three departments.

The 2019 Master of Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS) and Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) cohorts each achieved 100 percent first-time pass rates on their respective national licensure exams. In addition, graduates of the Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) also achieved first-time pass rates of 100 percent.

“Each program has outstanding faculty and staff who support the program, and very capable instructors who are not only excellent at what they do but also have a wide range of clinical and practice backgrounds. The students have terrific role models and instructors to learn from,” said Sandra Cassady, dean of the College of Health and Human Services. “These programs have a reputation for being rigorous, collectively. The faculty holds students to high standards and at the same time, supports them extremely well.”


The three programs receive hundreds of applications each year. A selective admissions process considers past academic achievement and a student’s fit with the program’s mission. “We have very high retention and graduation rates. We identify students with a high probability of finishing the program and successfully passing the licensure or certification exam for the field on an early attempt. Additionally, within a short period of time, 100 percent of graduates from each program are employed,” Cassady said.

In addition to achieving a 100 percent pass rate on the National Commission on Certification for Physician Assistants (NCCPA) exam, the MPAS cohort scored at or above the national average in all eight task areas, and 13 of the 14 content areas in which they were tested.

“The program’s didactic year is providing students with a good base of knowledge and as they do their clinical rotations with providers in the Midwest, they are gaining strong clinical experience,” said Kerry Humes, associate professor and director of the MPAS program.

The 2019 DPT cohort was the sixth group of SAU graduates to achieve a 100 percent first-time pass rate on the National Physical Therapy Exam. “Certainly, it speaks to how our students are prepared by expert faculty from a variety of practice areas. We don’t teach to the test, but to prepare our students for clinical practice,” said program director Priscilla Weaver. “They go to several clinical sites and provide care in a variety of settings. They learn across the continuum of care.”

St. Ambrose transitioned its long-standing Master of Occupational Therapy program to a doctoral program in 2016. The 2019 OTD graduates were the first to take the National Board for Certification of Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) exam. “This tells me that our program continues to prepare entry-level students to meet the practice demands of today. To me, that is an important distinction,” said professor and program director Lynn Kilburg.

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