During a special presentation on April 21, U.S. Rep. Pete Aguilar formally awarded a $2 million check in federal funding to Cal State San Bernardino for its developing Master of Science in Physician Assistant (MSPA) program.

Aguilar, D-San Bernardino, along with U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., had secured the federal funding for the program earlier this year as part of the federal fiscal 2023 appropriations package. The presentation, with a symbolic ceremonial check, was held at the university’s Yasuda Center. The center will be renovated and expanded to house the MSPA program, which plans to matriculate its first class of 40 students in August 2025.

This funding is going to help purchase state-of-the-art equipment, lab equipment and support and renovate this facility dedicated to teaching physician assistants here in this region,” Aguilar said to the audience, which consisted of CSUSB students, administrators, deans and staff.

Aguilar said the region needed more health professionals.

Our region is under an extreme shortage of health care professionals with just 35 primary care physicians per 100,000 residents,” Aguilar said. “Our hospitals and health care facilities are doing the very best that they can, but they need help.”

Aguilar said the population growth in San Bernardino and Riverside counties continues while the rest of the state’s counties have seen declines in population, which reiterates the importance of increasing the region’s opportunities, especially for students and “continue to support them as they navigate the challenges and as they serve as health care professionals is one of the most important things we can do.”

Robert Nava, the vice president for University Advancement at CSUSB, thanked the congressman for his incredible support and those in attendance, especially the university’s student leaders, who he said were the future leaders of government, industry and the community.

Sonia Otte, who serves as the MSPA’s founding program director, said the federal funding will help expand and improve health care in the Inland Empire.

“Through this $2 million investment, our program will be able to contribute to resolving regional and state shortages of health care access. So, our MSPA program will be able to increase the number of qualified, culturally humble, and future-ready health care providers entering the local workforce,” Otte said. “Our program curriculum is being designed to advance not only the health, but also the well-being of our local community.” 

Otte said the the funds will cover a portion of the construction costs and additions to the Yasuda Center as well as purchase high quality and technologically advanced medical and laboratory equipment, including 3D virtual anatomy platforms, patient simulators, clinical trainers, telemedicine equipment, examination tables and more.

In addition to the facilities, over the next two plus years, Otte said they will be building the MSPA team, its curriculum, clinical sites and partnerships as the program applies for professional accreditation.

“I believe that our program will make a tangible and lasting impact on the health of the Inland Empire, with even conservative estimates,” Otte said. “A single graduating class of 40 will see approximately 144,000 patients per year, which is truly remarkable.”

Otte thanked Aguilar for his work.

“None of it would be possible without your support,” Otte said. “So, thank you sincerely for the opportunity to better serve our future students as well as to help our community achieve optimal health. Thank you.”

Following the check presentation, Otte led Aguilar and the other attendees on a tour of the Yasuda Center.

The CSUSB MSPA program started recruiting for faculty and staff positions in January 2023. The initial positions include a director of didactic education, director of clinical education and a part-time medical director. Additional faculty and staff positions will be available over the next few years as the program continues to develop.

Cal State San Bernardino has applied for Accreditation-Provisional from the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). CSUSB anticipates matriculating its first class in August 2025, pending achieving Accreditation-Provisional status at the March 2025 ARC-PA meeting.

Accreditation-Provisional is an accreditation status granted when the plans and resource allocation, if fully implemented as planned, of a proposed program that has not yet enrolled students appear to demonstrate the program’s ability to meet the ARC-PA Standards or when a program holding Accreditation - Provisional status appears to demonstrate continued progress in complying with the standards as it prepares for the graduation of the first class (cohort) of students.

For more information, visit the CSUSB MSPA program website. The page will be updated frequently to include more information about the program, including admissions criteria, curriculum and more.