The University of Iowa Carver School of Medicine PA Interview Questions

Advice & Insight From PA Application Specialists

General Interview Information

For the 2020 class, the successful applicant had a GPA of 3.76, with a science GPA of 3.63. They had 2491 hours of research experience and 3468 hours of healthcare experience. Average age was 26. The program is 28 months long and non-thesis, awarding the MPAS degree upon completion. Classes are made up of only 25 students. You should have taken 2 or 3 upper-level Biological and Chemical Science courses per semester and taken a majority of upper-level Biological and Chemical Science courses from a 4-year institution. You must have a minimum of 1000 hours of direct patient contact. You must have a minimum GPA of 3.00 Selection of interviewees is based on several criteria including:

– academic achievement (particularly in the sciences)
– type and extent of health related experience
– 3 letters of recommendation (1 must be a collegiate academic reference and 1 must be a direct patient healthcare supervisor)
– GRE/MCAT scores
– the candidate’s personal narrative and interview evaluation.

Interview Format for Physician Assistant Studies at Iowa

Iowa explains that they try to make the interview process ‘relaxed and fun’ so try not to get too nervous! You should expect a pre-interview orientation session along with student panels, an MMI interview, and a campus tour. The MMI (Multiple Mini Interview) is a commonly used interview format that combines multiple stations  each of around 5 minutes’ duration. You will rotate from one to the other until the interview (of around 6-8 stations) is complete.

Key Dates

Applications are accepted from April onward, and must be filed by October 1st. All application materials must be filed by this point. Admission is on a rolling basis, and you will be offered admission within two weeks of your interview if you are successful. The rolling process continues until the end of the cycle. If any seats are remaining to be filled, they will be filled at this point. All notifications of admission will be made by March 1st.

Sample & Recent Interview Questions

As this is an MMI, you should expect a range of stations, with a mixture of questions and scenarios.

​Motivation and Insight into Physician Assistant Studies and Career

  • What is a dependent practitioner? What does this term mean when applied to the role of a physician assistant?
  • How do you believe that the role and responsibilities of physician assistants may change in the future?
  • What are you anticipating to be the most difficult parts of working as a PA?
  • Which one element of becoming a PA are you most excited about?
  • Can you explain this particular part of your application to us in detail?
  • Which specific part of healthcare interests you the most?
  • What is the single most important element of a relationship between a PA and their physician supervisor?
  • How do PAs fit into our current healthcare model? Is that healthcare model fit for purpose as it stands?
  • What do you think is the most important challenge facing US healthcare at the moment?
  • Are you more interested in becoming a surgical PA or a medical PA?
Optimise Your Interview Performance

Learn the best interview strategies and practice with interview questions & model answers.

Ethical Dilemmas

  • Talk me through your personal viewpoint on euthanasia?
  • A doctor comes to you on a busy night in the ER. You are triaging patients. He tells you to ‘just glance at’ any patient who’s drunk with minor injuries, and save time by not properly examining them. He explains that ‘they’ve caused their own problems anyway.’ How would you deal with such a situation and what do you think of this attitude?
  • A nurse, whom you don’t recognise, approaches you whilst you are looking through patient notes and asks if she can use them. When you ask why, she becomes flustered and admits that the patient is a neighbour of hers. How do you proceed?

Communication Stations

  • Imagine that you have to tell a patient that they had poor results in a recent test or examination. They are an athlete, and this result means that they will likely lose their ability to play the sport that is their passion and their livelihood. How do you proceed?

Teamwork Tasks

  • In a group, please discuss the following statement: ‘good communication is the foundation of all good medical care.’
  • Do you work well in a team? Please illustrate your ability to work in a team through describing an experience you’ve had of winning as a team, and contrast it to an experience of losing as a team. What did you learn from each?

The University of Iowa Carver School of Medicine PA Interview Questions

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