This study shows the impact of a 3-part population health and interprofessional education (IPE) curriculum on Physician Assistant (PA) students’ knowledge and experience of population health and systems thinking (PHST) and to promote a team-based approach to patient care and improve patient health and preventative services.


Human Resources and Services Administration funded a 5-year Primary Care and Training Enhancement grant in PHST. With this funding, the Department of Family and Community Medicine developed a three-part plan emphasizing interprofessional learning. The impact was measured using a 22-item survey measuring knowledge and experience of PHST delivered to PA students annually. Survey responses were statistically compared across phases.


There were 394 student responses analyzed comprising of 36.3% phase I, 38.1% phase II, and 25.6% phase III. After exposure to the PHST curriculum, students were significantly more likely to report choosing primary care (40% phase I to 54% phase III; p=0.0073). Knowledge and experience in all 13 educational goals significantly increased from phase I to phase III (ps < 0.0001) with only 13% of PA students reporting no current knowledge by phase III. PA students’ reported need for additional training significantly decreased (ps < 0.01), but an average of 75% of phase III students still reported needing additional training across the 13 educational goals.


The enhanced curriculum, emphasizing interprofessional collaboration, delivered in the PA program was effective in providing experiences and applying the knowledge surrounding PHST, which is consistent with other educational strategies in population health education. This study validates the need for continued education and training with the integration of PHST in the education of future clinicians being extremely vital for continued efforts in improving health outcomes for all patients.