Dan Bewley, News On 6
TULSA, Oklahoma -- The University of Oklahoma School of Community Medicine is reaching a milestone this week as it graduates its first class of Physician Assistants. The 20 men and women are part of a growing industry that, school officials say, could go a long way to helping the underserved in Oklahoma.
Marty Hytche is about to start the next chapter in his life. He's graduating from the OU School of Community Medicine as a physician assistant.
"I'm more than excited, I'm ecstatic right now," Hytche said.
Hytche worked the last ten years as a machinist for the Ford glass plant in Broken Arrow. But, he says, there was something missing.
"I was just sitting there one day thinking I'm not really helping anybody. I'm just sitting here with this biology degree, all I'm doing is just punching a time clock and collecting a check," he said.
So Hytche enrolled at OU-Tulsa and this week he joins 19 other graduates.
"We've been counting down the days since the beginning of school which is 30 months ago," said Bill Huynh, a graduate.
A physician assistant does similar work as physician. They help in surgeries, prescribe medication, and tend to patients in a hospital or clinic. School officials say these grads will go a long way to improve conditions in Oklahoma.
Physician assistants is expected to be one of the most needed jobs as the healthcare industry continues to grow. Officials here expect there to be more than 200 jobs available, just in the Tulsa area alone, in the next few years.
"What we have found with our graduates is they've had people offering them jobs, some as early after 12 months in the program," said Program Director Meredith Davison, Ph. D.
The average starting salary for a PA is more than $80,000 a year and 60% of this class already has a job lined up.
Hytch will be working at St. John Broken Arrow. He says he can't wait to change that S, for student, on his smock and get to work.
"There's one more letter I want to get on this coat and that's the C part of it, that means we're certified and able to go out there and do it," he said.
The program takes two-and-a-half years to graduate. It costs close to $30,000 dollars total, but there are scholarships available. Another 48 students will graduating over the next two years.