Munsell to lead MSU-Meridian’s new Physician Assistant program

Debra S. MunsellMERIDIAN, Miss.—A veteran administrator and clinician with more than three decades of experience in the field has been selected to lead Mississippi State University-Meridian’s new Master of Physician Assistant Studies degree program.

Debra S. Munsell, who led the launch of and currently leads LSU Health Sciences Center-New Orleans’ Physician Assistant program, will now lead the implementation of MSU-Meridian’s new program. Her appointment is pending formal approval by the Board of Trustees, State Institutions of Higher Learning.

“We are thrilled to have a highly respected educator in the Physician Assistant field like Dr. Munsell lead our program,” MSU-Meridian Administrative Director and Head of Campus Terry Dale Cruse said. “Her efforts as the inaugural program director at LSU resulted in full accreditation in addition to producing a 100 percent pass rate on the exit exam for the first three cohorts of graduates.”

MSU will become the first public institution in the state to offer a Physician Assistant program. Housed on MSU-Meridian’s Riley Campus in downtown Meridian, the program will prepare clinical practitioners to meet critical needs in rural healthcare. The new program was designed with community impact in mind, and the search committee for the first director included extensive community representation. John G. Anderson, president and CEO of Anderson Regional Health System, served on the search committee.

“There is no question Dr. Munsell is exceptionally qualified to lead the Physician Assistant program at MSU–Meridian,” Anderson said. “Her wealth of knowledge and expertise is invaluable. The PA program under Dr. Munsell’s leadership is a huge value add to the healthcare of this community and region both in terms of education and access.” 

Munsell’s first major task will be leading the PA program through the accreditation process with the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). A site visit is scheduled for April 2019 with a review by ARC-PA's board set for September of 2019. The first classes in the program are expected to take place in January 2020, with approval of ARC-PA.

Munsell has led the LSU Health Sciences Center Physician Assistant program since 2011. Prior to joining LSU, she spent approximately a decade as a faculty member in physician assistant programs in Illinois, California and Texas. She also has more than 30 years of experience in related clinical positions. The Port Arthur, Texas, native holds degrees from Stephen F. Austin State University, the University of Texas Medical Branch-Galveston, the University of Nebraska Medical Center and Nova Southeastern University.

“This program is answering the need for more access to healthcare in Mississippi,” Munsell said. “I have been overwhelmed at the response to the creation of this program, and it is an honor to work with the community to develop it. I look at this as a team effort and everyone I have met is so enthusiastic that it will make my job easier.”

With a research focus on physician assistant workforce issues, health policy and oral cavity cancer, Munsell has served on many national and statewide committees focused on physician assistants.

The Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning approved MSU-Meridian’s proposal to plan the new degree program in June. Physician assistants serve under the supervision of doctors of medicine or osteopathy, making clinical decisions and providing a broad range of diagnostic, therapeutic, preventative and health maintenance services.

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