1st Lt. Cindy Fernandez graduated from the program in October 2016. She was previously an enlisted member in aerospace propulsion, but now she’s serving as a physician assistant in Virginia.
She said, “Ever since I was a kid, and before I enlisted, I always loved medicine. Nurse, physician assistant, doctor, whichever opportunity was offered to me I was going to take. When I heard about this program, I was already pretty close to getting in and did some of my own digging to find out more.”
Once accepted, members attend a 16-month Phase I training program at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. Once Phase I is complete, a Bachelor’s degree is awarded and the member progresses on to a 13-month Phase II program at one of seven clinical sites (Langley, Nellis, Keesler, Travis, Eglin, Offutt, San Antonio Military Medical Center). Once Phase II is complete, the member is awarded a Master of Physician Assistant Studies degree from the University of Nebraska Medical Center and is commissioned as a First Lieutenant.
“The program is challenging, but it’s made to be that way,” Fernandez said. “It moves at a faster pace. It’s condensed. But it’s worth it. You’re putting in a lot of time and dedication to get through it. It’s really time consuming and takes a lot of mental stamina to pull through and stay focused.”
The Physician Assistant is a vital part of the Air Force Medical Service and is one of the fastest growing professions in civilian medicine. Physician Assistants are able to diagnose diseases, prescribe medications, provide full spectrum healthcare for military and civilian patients and are nationally certified, credentialed providers.
Physician Assistants in the Air Force are assigned their own patients and practice medicine autonomously with a physician preceptor available as needed.
“I’ve got a brand new career I can focus my time and energy into. Not only am I able to provide healthcare, but in a way I’m giving back to the Air Force for what they’ve provided me,” Fernandez said. “I’m most excited about putting everything into practice and sharpening up my healthcare skills. In the future I could potentially specialize in a surgical field.”
To be considered for the IPAP, an enlisted member must be on active duty in grades E-3 through E-8 with a minimum of two years active duty service, but no more than 14 years active military service as of August 31, 2018. Officer applicants must have less than eight years active duty service as of August 31, 2017.
A Bachelor’s degree is not required for this commissioning program, but applicants must have at least 60 college credit hours with a minimum 2.5 GPA or better on a 4.0 scale. A minimum of 3.0 GPA is required on all math and science prerequisite courses.
Students in the grade of E-4 or below are promoted to E-5 upon the class start date. Students with a grade of E-5 or above remain in their current rank through completion of the program.
Fernandez said, “If you set yourself a goal and really want to do it, it’s obtainable. I’ve learned a lot in the last two and a half years. It’s very well worth it.”
More information on prerequisites and how to apply can be found at https://kx2.afms.mil/kj/kx3/afbsceducation (CAC-required site) under the Interservice Physician Assistant Program tab.