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Our Mission

The University of California San Diego School of Medicine Atkinson Physician Assistant Education Program will recruit and retain learners who reflect the diverse population of California. Graduates will be prepared to provide safe, effective, person-centered healthcare in various settings to improve the health and well-being of the patients and communities we serve.

About Our Donors

Telemedicine Building, UC San Diego

Welcome from the Dean

What a wonderful journey this has been thus far! My spirits lift with each recruitment event as future learners arrive on this picturesque campus or meet us online, their minds full of questions and hearts brimming with excitement. The application and provisional phase of a Physician Assistant program’s inception serves as a time of communication and connection as we hire a full cadre of faculty and staff committed to our mission. Campus and virtual spaces are abuzz with creativity and innovation. Final drafts of syllabi are being drawn up. Faculty and staff are prepping their hearts and minds to soon welcome learners. Throughout all my years in higher education, this time of optimism and elation serves as a reminder of the beauty of higher education and our vital role in society. It is my honor and pleasure to welcome you to the Atkinson Physician Assistant Education Program.

– Elias Villarreal, Jr., DMSc, PA-C
Associate Dean & Founding Program Director

Dean Elias Villareal

Globally Recognized

A Top 20 Medical School


Health care system in San Diego*


Students accepted for first cohort


Top medical schools in the U.S**

* ** U.S. News & World Report

Clinician Educators

We welcome your interest in educating the future of the physician assistant profession. We are conducting a survey to gauge our clinician educator partners' interests, assess opportunities and determine best placements for both learners and educators. We are looking for clinicians to participate in either or both didactic and clinical phases of the program.

Become a Clinician Educator Partner


Important Dates

 Apr 27 2023  CASPA and UC San Diego PAE supplemental applications open (both required) 
 Aug 1 2023  Application and materials deadline
 Sep 1 2023  CASPA verification deadline
 Sep 2023  ARC-PA provisional accreditation decision expected
 Oct 2023  Admissions interviews
 Nov 2023  Acceptance notification
 Early 2024
 Program launch and matriculation (Class of 2026)

Application Information

Learn more about our standards and policies in these two recently-published documents:

Technical Standards Policy & Procedure


Read more

Admissions Policy


Read more


The University of California San Diego School of Medicine Richard C. and Rita L. Physician Assistant Education program has applied for Accreditation - Provisional from the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). The University of California San Diego School of Medicine Richard C. and Rita L. Physician Assistant Education program anticipates matriculating its first class in January 2024, pending achieving Accreditation - Provisional status at the September 2023 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.

In the event that Accreditation - Provisional status is not granted by the ARC-PA, the University of California San Diego School of Medicine Richard C. and Rita L. Physician Assistant Education program will not matriculate its first class in January 2024 as planned. The University will not be responsible for refunding application fees or expenses incurred by applicants during the application and/or interview process (e.g., CASPA fees, supplemental application fees, travel to/from campus, etc.).