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PA Program: Am I being too ambitious?

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Hi guys,

The more im researching the more I feel excited about the PA program. Sounds like a dream job for me, to be able to help patients directly and contribute to the quality of health care. But am I being too ambitious in thinking I could apply and get into this program? I'm an international medical graduate I graduated in 2010 and due to personal reasons did not pursue Canadian licensing exams here but I have some clinical experience not recent but I'm volunteering to gain more clinical direct patient care experience. I'm passionate about patient care and I believe the role of PAs can greatly improve Canadian health care system. 

What more can I do to improve my application? I feel that I won't be able to compete with other applicants because my current application is lacking exciting projects. 

Also what books, sites and other resources should I be accessing to make myself more knowledgable about the program and the certification exams as I'm gaining more clinical experience. 


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If you are an Ontario resident I would highly suggest reaching out to some practicing or formerly practicing Physician Assistants in Ontario.  


From speaking to the civilian trained PAs that work in the civilian world, the consensus so far is that it has been a lack luster endeavour.  I do not pass on this information to be or make you cynical, I just wouldn't use the American example of what a PA's SOP can be and what has come to fruition in Canada. The Canadian PA SOP has been highly nerfed outside of the military, especially in Ontario thanks to the powers that be in both the Medical Doctor and Nursing realms.  

It was a great idea in theory but it just doesn't seem that the profession has been around long enough in Canada to offer a smooth entry to practice for those who are qualified.

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I would say that it is not too ambitious if you do the right research and  meet minimum criteria for the PA program at UofT. Once you meet the minimum criteria 

For PA Shadowing experience

  •  the best way is to contact Cathy who coordinates PA shadowing in Ontario - her email (to prevent her from getting spammed it is posted in a private forum on FB) you can find her info searching through threads here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/canadaprepa/requests/

There are tons of American Pre-PA & PA Facebook Groups :

  • e.g. the Pre-PA Club run by Savannah, Pre-PA Rockstars, etc.
  • A lot of questions regarding applications, MMI may be helpful for Canadian PA applicants as well.
  • You can also join the Physician Assistants FB group, which is huge but has lots of practicing PAs, and the occasional pre-PA student that does ask questions (usually 5-6 people respond so its a good place to go!).
  •  Don't discount American PA resources! - PAs in Canada and the US have the same job description (seeing and assessing patients, diagnosing, ordering and interpreting investigations, treatment plan, therapeutic and diagnostic procedures, assisting in surgery), the context is different and a few other things (e.g. as a Canadian you'd pay international student fees, obtaining a visa to work in the US) are different

The Physician Assistant Forum: 

  • https://www.physicianassistantforum.com/ was the first and only resource I had about PAs back in 2009 when I applied. IT continues to have excellent information about PA curriculum, admissions, and there are a few IMGs in there who have posted questions. 

Here is a link to the Supplemental Application from 2017. 

  • I would recommend reviewing it, you'll notice the supplemental application questions don't ask you to list experiences chronologically. This app is posted on their website: http://www.paconsortium.ca/file/951/download?token=ODtTWTjM
  • Although worth considering, you can gain volunteer experiences or work on projects and initiatives that interest you (i.e.. whether its related to the health care field or not) -- I think this is a much better and more authentic approach than, "this experience will look good on my resume".* I also wanted to clarify that is my personal opinion and not reflective of what admissions may or may not want. 

Helpful PA Articles

  • I've also written about strengthening your PA application, the MMI interview, a whole list of articles here. http://canadianpa.ca/prepa/
  • Many of my PA colleagues were former IMGs who went on to become PAs. Some of them did get some experience in other fields prior to becoming a PA (e.g. Respiratory Therapist, massage therapy, etc.) but that is not a requirement.

With regards to employment, its best to ask practicing PAs. 

  • I recently interviewed the Ontario PA Chapter President and she talks about funding, employment and outlook for the profession: http://canadianpa.ca/ontario-chapter-president/ 
  • PA employment does fluctuate (like any field) and is dependent on several funding sources, including Provincial grants like Ontario Career Start Program geared towards new PA grads only (Alumni, American, military PAs do not have access to this funding), LHIN, Department (e.g. Department of Emergency), Hospital, and out of pocket for solo or group physician practices.
  • PA programs prepare you for employment, these include sessions and workshops for Resumes & cover letters, contract negotiations, and interviews.
  • PA Programs will also email their alumni students about physicians looking for a PA to work with. 
  • Looking at PA job boards, and sometimes these jobs are not advertised. Some PAs have been able to create job opportunities by speaking with physicians about the PA role, or completing a rotation with them during school. 
  • To see where some PAs have ended up working - check out the McMaster PA website "PA Alumni" page: http://mcmasterpa.weebly.com/pa-alumni.html you'll see some hospitals have media releases about where their PAs are working. 

Good luck!

- Anne

Twitter: http://twitter.com/AnneCCPA
Website: http://www.canadianpa.ca
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/annedang/ 

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