The Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies (MSPAS) at Milligan is a 28-month, 108-credit hour program that prepares highly trained healthcare professionals with a foundation in primary care to work with physicians and other members of the healthcare team in a variety of medical specialties. Applicants must have an earned bachelor’s degree and have completed the prerequisite requirements for admission to the program.

Milligan’s MSPAS program has received the status of Accreditation-Continued from the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) and began its first class in January 2018. The program continues to begin a new class of students in January of each year.

Milligan PA


The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc. (ARC-PA) has granted Accreditation-Continued status to the Milligan University Physician Assistant Program sponsored by Milligan University. Accreditation-Continued is an accreditation status granted when a currently accredited program is in compliance with the ARC-PA Standards.

Accreditation remains in effect until the program closes or withdraws from the accreditation process or until accreditation is withdrawn for failure to comply with the Standards. The approximate date for the next validation review of the program by the ARC-PA will be June 2032. The review date is contingent upon continued compliance with the Accreditation Standards and ARC-PA policy.

The program’s accreditation history can be viewed on the ARC-PA website at


The 108-credit hour curriculum unfolds in two phases over the course of 28 months. Graduation takes place in May of each year.

  • Didactic Phase consisting of 72-credit hours of course work delivered in face-to-face instruction over the course of 15 months
  • Clinical Phase consisting of 36-credit hours of clinical rotations. Each student completes a series of eight, six-week clinical placements over the course of 13 months. Students may suggest a clinical rotation site and/or clinical preceptor at least three months prior to the start of a rotation. However, students will NOT be required to provide or solicit clinical rotation sites or preceptors. Approval of a student requested rotation site and/or preceptor lies with the clinical coordinator and other PA faculty.

A financial investment from Ballad Health established the Ballad Health Physician Assistant Center, housed in Milligan’s B. D. Phillips Building. This area has three private exam rooms equipped with appropriate medical equipment along with a larger space that has an open floor plan with 13 patient exam tables.  Eight of these exam tables are equipped with medical equipment including ophthalmoscopes, otoscopes, blood pressure cuffs, thermometers, wall desks, and privacy curtains that separate each area. The Center is used to train students in a wide array of clinical competencies, including communication, history taking, physical examination, counseling, and patient safety.  Clinical skills training, such as practice with urinary catheter trainers, IV injection manikin arms, casting, and suturing, also take place in the Ballad Health PA Center.

In addition to brand-new facilities, an anatomy lab in Milligan’s Science Building allows PA students to study and dissect human anatomical gift donors. The program’s close proximity to other healthcare programs, which allow for numerous interprofessional education opportunities, and Johnson City Medical Center, a reputable tertiary teaching hospital, are other advantages that set Milligan’s PA program apart from many other programs.

Mission & Goals

Mission: To prepare physician assistants as servant leaders who provide clinical expertise while making positive contributions to the profession, the communities they practice in, and society as a whole.

Goals: The Milligan University Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies Program goals are designed to educate physician assistants who:

  • provide competent and compassionate health care to diverse individuals and populations across the lifespan
  • effectively interact and communicate with all health professionals, patients and patients’ families
  • engage in life-long learning to maintain professional quality
  • demonstrate competence in social, legal, and ethical issues related to healthcare practice
  • apply evidence-based medicine into all areas of practice
  • demonstrate the ability to integrate practice with a Christian worldview

Learn how Milligan’s PA Program is achieving its goals »

Student Success

Milligan’s PA program has a 94% overall first-time pass rate on the PANCE (Physician Assistant National Certification Exam). The national average for all PA program first-time test takers in 2022 was 92%.
Review Milligan’s report here »


Milligan’s attrition rate for the class of 2023 was 0%. The graduation rate was 100%.
Review Milligan’s report here »


The Milligan University PA Program competencies are defined using the “Competencies for the Physician Assistant Profession” and can be viewed here »

Professional Licensure

ARC-PA accredited physician assistant programs satisfy the states’ educational requirements in all states.  Students  graduating from an ARC-PA accredited program are eligible to take the Physician Assistant National Certification Exam (PANCE) and apply for licensure in any state.  For more information regarding state qualifications and licensure requirements, please refer to the AAPA Initial Licensure Requirements.

Get ready to change lives

Admission & Aid

All applicants to the Milligan University Physician Assistant Program must apply through the Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA).  The application cycle opened on April 25, 2024 and will close on September 1, 2024. All applications must be verified on or before this date. Applications that are not verified by this deadline will not be reviewed.

Application Process

The Milligan PA program utilizes a rolling admission process, meaning we review applications as they are completed and make decisions throughout the admissions cycle until the class is filled. Applicants should apply as early as possible and check the CASPA site frequently until all requirements including references have been submitted and the application is complete.

Selected candidates will be considered for a face-to-face on-site interview. Each cohort/class will have a maximum of 26 students. No advanced placement status will be given to students in the program.

All applicants who are offered a seat of admission will be required to pay a $1000 non-refundable deposit which will be applied to your account upon matriculation.

Veterans: Milligan University is a military-friendly institution. Learn more »

Admission Requirements

The minimum requirements to be considered for admission to the Physician Assistant program are as follows:

  • baccalaureate degree with a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0.
  • minimum 3.0 GPA for prerequisite science courses
  • Health care experience with a minimum of 300 documented hours of direct patient care or observation experience. Click here for more info »
  • Strong verbal and quantitative reasoning skills as reported on the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). A minimum composite score of 289 will be accepted, and the exam must have been taken within the past five years. GRE scores are to be submitted directly through Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA), and the Milligan University PA GRE code is 7342.  Click here for Applicant FAQ for GRE Scores »
  • Three completed reference forms through CASPA from persons who have adequate knowledge of the applicant’s Christian commitment, character, and professional qualities of potential for success as a graduate student. At least one reference must be from someone with/for whom the applicant has worked/volunteered in a health care setting.
  • Meet technical standards (download PDF)
  • Clear level one background check if offered and accept a seat of admission
  • Obtain BLS certification through the American Heart Association prior to starting the program
  • A completed baccalaureate degree that includes the following prerequisite courses:
    • Math and Science
      • General Biology – 4 semester hours*
      • Anatomy & Physiology – 8 semester hours*
      • Microbiology – 4 semester hours*
      • General chemistry – 8 semester hours*
      • Organic chemistry or Biochemistry – minimum 3 semester hours, lab not required
      • Statistics – 3 semester hours
      • *courses must include live hands on lab; courses with online laboratory will not be accepted. More competitive applications will show successful completion of science courses that are above the introductory or “essentials” level.
    • Social Science
      • Intro to Psychology, Intro to Sociology, OR Intro to Anthropology – 3 semester hours
      • Developmental Psychology OR Lifespan Psychology – 3 semester hours
    • Communication
      • Writing/English Composition – 6 semester hours
      • Public Speaking – 3 semester hours
    • Medical Terminology – 1 semester hour
  • International students whose native language is not English or do not hold a bachelor’s degree completed in residency in the U.S. must also provide proof of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) score of at least 79 or International English Language Testing System (IELTS) score of at least 6.5. Click here for information on the immigration/visa process »

DISCOUNTED PRE-REQ COURSES: You might be able to take some prerequisite courses at Milligan at a reduced rate. Learn more »

Substitution or waiver of a requirement for any of the above prerequisite courses may be granted by the Physician Assistant program admissions committee on an individual basis.

Academic Profile

For reference, the academic profile of each individual class is as follows:

YearAverage Cumulative Undergrad GPAAverage Prerequisite Science GPAAverage GRE Score

Prospective students meeting the minimum admission criteria will be considered for a face-to-face on-site interview. However, meeting the minimum requirements guarantees neither an invitation for a face-to-face on-site interview nor admission to the program as most if not all successful applicants will generally exceed these minimum requirements. Selection for the physician assistant program is very competitive, and all parts of each application are reviewed including undergraduate cumulative and pre-requisite course GPAs, health care experience, letters of reference, personal statement, and GRE scores. Personal interviews with the principal physician assistant faculty will be required for final admission and will be offered only to the most qualified individuals. Final selection of students will be made by the admissions committee of the Physician Assistant program. See the Admission section above for interview and admission timeline.

International Students

International students must provide proof of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) score of at least 79 or International English Language Testing System (IELTS) score of at least 6.5. Please have your score sent directly from the Educational Testing Service to Milligan’s PA Admissions Office. All international applicants must have taken the TOEFL within the last two years. You cannot be exempted from this requirement unless English is your native language, you are a U.S. citizen, or you have received an undergraduate or graduate degree from an accredited U.S. college or university.

After a student is admitted, there is required documentation to submit BEFORE form I-20 can be issued.  Students may begin gathering and submitting this information even prior to admission, but no I-20 will be issued until a prospect has been fully admitted AND has submitted the required documentationClick here for information on the immigration/visa process »

Military Affiliation

Did you know that the PA profession originated in the military?

The Milligan PA program welcomes and encourages applicants with military affiliation—active duty, reservists, veterans, and family. We’ll walk you through and assist you with enrollment, financial aid, and achieving your personal and academic goals.

Two of our PA faculty members have served in the military and several of our university staff have military affiliation. The following individuals—and many more—are ready to welcome you and your family to Milligan and Northeast Tennessee.

  • Shane Smith, PA-C, is a veteran of the U.S. Army. Prior to becoming a PA, he worked as a pharmacy tech, medic, and flight medic in the United States Army, and he has served in multiple roles in several different deployed theaters around the world.
  • Dr. Ron Blackmore completed his medical residency at Eglin Air Force Base Family Medicine and spent his first year in practice in Turkey while in the Air Force.

We understand what it’s like to transition from the military into a civilian world. And we honor and appreciate your service to our nation.

The university allows for payment deferments while awaiting properly applied-for educational benefits. Milligan also provides individual counseling during the application and admission process.

Milligan is located in a veteran rich area with almost 10% of the region’s population military veterans. A highly-rated VA hospital and health care system are 10 minutes from campus. There is a vibrant support system in the Tri-Cities Military Affairs Council. And it’s a beautiful location with an attractive cost-of-living and many regional amenities.

VA Educational Benefits
We are honored to assist students who have served in the United States Armed Forces and now desire to use their Montgomery GI Bill®, Post 9/11 GI Bill®, or VA Vocational Rehabilitation educational benefits. We look forward to assisting you to reach your education goals as well as those of dependents and or spouses of deceased soldiers through Dependents Educational Assistance.

GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

CONTACT: Becky Robertson, Associate Registrar/ VA School Certifying Official

Yellow Ribbon Scholarship
Milligan University has been approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs to participate in the Post 9/11 GI Bill ® Education Enhancement Program, also known as the Yellow Ribbon Program. Milligan has agreed to provide scholarship contributions for up to 10 graduate students. These scholarships are on a first-come-first-serve basis. Learn more »

Admissions Assistance
Give Stacy Shankle in our Office of Graduate Studies a call at 423.461.8424, and we’ll be glad to help you with questions and help make your educational goals a reality!

Click here » for more benefit information and resources.

Tuition & Fees

The Milligan PA program is priced competitively, and we will work with you every step of the way to help investigate all the options available for financing your education.

The tuition rate for 2025 is $855 per credit hour, for a total approximate tuition cost (108 credit hours) of $92,340 plus applicable fees.

Tuition (per credit hour)$855 x 108 credit hours = $92,340
Technology Access Fee*$375/semester x 4 semesters = $1,500 total
Graduate Activity Fee (Wellness Center, Health Services, etc.)*$100/semester x 4 semesters = $400 total
Life-time academic records fee$100 one time fee
Additional course fees$7,500 (click here for details)
Criminal Background Screening$145 one time fee (additional fees may apply)
Repeat Criminal Background Screening for Clinical Year$115
AAPA & TAPA Student Membership Fees$125 one time fee
Professional Instruments$1,000 (approximate)
Textbooks$1,440 (approximate)
Laptop Computer$1,500 (approximate)

Cost of Attendance elements by program »

Financial Aid & Scholarships

There are many college and university choices, and on the surface, many may look a lot like Milligan, but few can claim and prove our outcomes with exceptional academic quality, student satisfaction, and graduate success. Milligan is committed to keeping college affordable for our students. We’ll work with you individually every step of the way to help investigate all the options available for financing your education.

Financial aid is available for graduate students. Learn more about cost & aid »


If you qualify for VA Chapter 33 Yellow Ribbon benefits, you may also be eligible for a Yellow Ribbon scholarship from Milligan. There are a limited number of scholarships available each year so apply now! For more information about VA Educational Benefits at Milligan, click here »

Student Profile
Milligan PA student Mattie Rogers at MD Anderson Cancer Center.
Mattie Rogers, '21

Milligan University prepares professionals to lead and serve at the highest levels. For Mattie Rogers, a conversation with her PA professor opened the door for her to complete a clinical rotation at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, the largest cancer center in the United States.

Learn More


The faculty of Milligan’s Physician Assistant Program are committed to preparing PAs as servant leaders with clinical expertise. Combined, our faculty have over 70 years of clinical experience in different specialties along with many years of teaching experience. Five of the faculty members are certified physician assistants who practice clinically, while two other faculty members hold a Ph.D. Our faculty members value Milligan’s longstanding tradition of forming great mentoring relationships with students, and they are dedicated to ensuring that students are successful both during the program and as practicing PAs.

David Knechtel on the cover of Tri-Cities Business Journal

In the news . . .

David Knechtel

With the perfect blend of real-world experience and a passion for preparing tomorrow’s medical professionals for the workforce, Knechtel has been the driving force behind the clinical phase of the Milligan’s PA program. Recently, he was recognized as a Healthcare Hero. Read more »

Andy Hull
Area Chair of Physician Assistant Studies; Director of Physician Assistant Studies; Associate Professor of Physician Assistant Studies

Medical Director of Physician Assistant Studies

Rebekah Ensley
Program Manager, Physician Assistant Studies

Carrie Floyd
Clinical Site Manager, Physician Assistant Studies

David Gibbons
Associate Professor of Physician Assistant Studies

Karen Kelly
Professor of Anatomy

David Knechtel
Clinical Coordinator and Associate Professor of Physician Assistant Studies

Maureen Knechtel
Associate Professor of Physician Assistant Studies and Academic Coordinator

Shane Smith
Assistant Professor of Physician Assistant Studies

Whitney Hanor
Assistant Professor of Physician Assistant Studies

Stacy Shankle
Admissions Recruiter for Healthcare Programs

Adjunct Instructors

Randy Belt, DO, Emergency Medicine Physician, Greenville Community Hospital East

David Cluck, PharmD, BCPS, AAHIVP, Associate Professor, East Tennessee State University Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy

Will Dodd, MD, Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics, East Tennessee State University

T. Watson Jernigan, MD, MA, Professor, Quillen College of Medicine Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology

John Kitsteiner, MD, Emergency Medicine Physician, Greenville Community Hospital East

Connie Pennington, MD, Colorectal Surgeon, Colon and Rectal Surgery Consultants, P.C.

Jim Thigpen, PharmD, BCPS, Associate Professor, East Tennessee State University Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy

Robert Wood, PharmD, BCPS, VHA-CM, Inpatient Medicine Pharmacy Specialist, Mountain Home VA Healthcare System

Advisory Committee

The Milligan University Physician Assistant Program Advisory Committee serves the PA program by being an advocate for the program in the community and by assisting the program in maintaining and improving all aspects of the program, especially the clinical phase.  The Committee also serve the program by providing increased communication between the program and community leaders to help faculty members have a better understanding of the community outlook of the program, to create better learning opportunities for students, and to provide a connection for potential employment opportunities for graduates.

The PA Program Advisory Committee is composed of healthcare professionals, leaders of healthcare organizations, Milligan University faculty and staff, the PA program director, and other leaders of our community who support the mission and goals of the program.  Advisory Committee membership is by invitation from the program director and is based upon recommendation from program faculty, a member of the Milligan University faculty/staff, or a member of the professional community.

Specific responsibilities of the PA Program Advisory Committee include:

  1. Identification of healthcare providers in specific specialties who are willing to serve as clinical preceptors
  2. Serving as program advocates by supporting and promoting the program
  3. Reviewing program policies and procedures as needed
  4. Assisting the PA Program Admissions Committee with the admissions process as needed
  5. Assisting with evaluation of students as needed

The committee will meet on an annual basis with additional meetings to be scheduled if the need arises.  We are very grateful to each member for their willingness to serve on the Milligan University PA Program Advisory Committee.

Jim Aderhold, PA-CFamily Medicine Physician AssistantUnicoi Medical Associates
Ryan Bader, PA-CFamily Medicine Physician AssistantSOFHA Blue Ridge Family Medicine
Emily Campbell, MDFamily Medicine/Sports MedicineHolston Medical Group
Stephen P. Combs,
Chief Medical OfficerBallad Health
Medical Associates
Eric Deaton, MBAChief Operating OfficerBallad Health
Mark FoxRetired Athletic DirectorMilligan University
Mark Harrell, MDEmergency Room MedicineMorristown Hamblen
Healthcare System
Andrew Hull, PA-CPhysician Assistant Program Director
and Area Chair
Milligan University
Christy Isbell, PhDAssociate Professor of Occupational TherapyEast Tennessee State University
Bailey Jessee, PA-CEmergency Medicine Physician AssistantSchumacher Clinical Partners
Sheree King, PTPhysical Therapist and Certified
Lymphedema Therapist
Wellmont Cancer Institute
Michael Mabry, DOFamily MedicineSOFHA Family Physicians of Johnson City
Richard McDavid, MDFamily MedicineVeterans Administration
Myra O’Dell, MBAPartner and Investment AdvisorBCS Wealth Management
Jim Pearson, MDRetired PediatricianFirst Choice Pediatrics
Rebecca Sapp, PhDDirector of the Counseling Center and
Associate Professor of Counseling
Milligan University
Seeger's Steeple infant of a yellow sunset