Carroll Receives $750,000 Grant for Physician Assistant Program

St. Charles in Winter

Carroll Receives $750,000 Grant from M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust for Physician Assistant Program

HELENA, MT – In support of its mission to expand healthcare education in Montana and the surrounding region, Carroll College is pleased to announce that they are the recipient of a $750,000 grant from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust. This significant award is designated for the college's forthcoming Physician Assistant (PA) Program.

In the year since Carroll announced its plans to develop a graduate-level Physician Assistant Program, considerable progress has been made laying the groundwork for the program. This generous grant will substantially assist in the development of the necessary assets required to establish the program including curriculum development, faculty and staff recruitment, and infrastructure and facility needs.

Carroll College plans to matriculate the first cohort of students into the PA program in the fall of 2026, pending provisional accreditation approval from the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc. (ARC-PA). Accreditation - Provisional is an active accreditation status granted to new programs who have not yet enrolled students when the plans and resource allocation, once fully implemented, 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 cohort of students.

Carroll has been steadily working through the necessary planning and accreditation steps, beginning with the hiring of its Founding Program Director, Claire Hull, who began in her role in early September.

A Carroll College alumna from the class of 1988, Ms. Hull brings with her 23 years of experience in PA education, having served in various faculty roles and administrative capacities at three different PA programs, including Clinical Coordinator, Academic Coordinator, and Associate Program Director. Most recently, she served as Associate Professor in the Division of Physician Assistant Education at Oregon Health & Science University. She has a strong interest and experience in curriculum development, assessments, and remediation. She received a Master of Health Sciences from Duke University School of Medicine, Physician Assistant Program in 1995 and has practiced clinically in family medicine, hospital medicine, and urgent care.

“We are very grateful to the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust for supporting the development of Carroll College's Physician Assistant Program,” said Hull. “Their generous grant will help Carroll achieve its goal of establishing a PA program as a model of excellence in preparing its graduates to provide high quality healthcare, particularly in communities in rural and medically underserved areas of Montana.”

Since its founding in 1909, Carroll College has evolved into a regionally acclaimed liberal arts institution, renowned for its comprehensive majors in allied health and STEM, which represent nearly 45% of the student body. Carroll's reputation in these areas is complemented by its robust liberal arts foundation across all majors, a testament to the commitment of its faculty, staff, and students who tirelessly support the 52 major and pre-professional programs.

Carroll's dedication to student success and its impressive undergraduate programs provided the confidence to venture into post-baccalaureate and graduate programs, with the recent addition of an accelerated nursing option and a Master’s in Social Work. Both initiatives have experienced notable success and interest, underscoring the college's strength in initiating programs that meet a significant statewide and regional need for healthcare professionals in a variety of disciplines and sub-specialties.

Ensuring student engagement is Carroll's hallmark. With an average undergraduate class size of 12 students with all classes taught by faculty, the college maintains a hands-on, personalized approach to learning. Notably, the college boasts an 80% acceptance rate to medical schools for its applicants over the past decade.

Currently, PA programs are limited in the region, with Rocky Mountain College and Idaho State University being the primary providers. The need for healthcare professionals generally, and mid-level professionals and PAs specifically, is significant and increasing both in Montana and across the west. Carroll is in a uniquely qualified position, with its successful history in healthcare education, to bridge this gap and provide a premier PA program.

"The demand for physician assistants continues to be off the charts across the nation,” said Carroll College President Dr. John Cech. “Carroll remains one of only two new programs under consideration by the national PA accrediting body, ARC-PA, in the northern tier states from Washington to Minnesota. We are grateful to the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust for their support of our new program. Their grant is significant and will be invaluable to us as we move forward with curriculum development, hiring of new positions to support the PA program, and planning for our new PA facility inside the Simperman/Fortin Science Complex on campus."

Nearly every Montana county is recognized as a Primary Health Professions Shortage area. The demand for PAs far exceeds the available supply, particularly in rural settings. Carroll’s program will have a strong rural health focus. A recent survey by the Montana Hospital Association identified PAs among the top three most needed healthcare professionals.

Physician Assistants are not only essential in Montana but nationally. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 31% growth for the PA profession from 2020-2030. With only two PA programs in Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho, Carroll's PA program promises to address a crucial need.

Carroll's PA program will have its home in the Fortin Science Center and Simperman Hall building complex which will undergo extensive renovations, including an 8,500 square foot addition, to house labs, classrooms, and offices. Furthermore, the college is working to extend its current clinical partnerships with St. Peter’s Health, Shodair Children’s Hospital, Fort Harrison VA Medical Center, PureView Health Center, and Leo Pocha Memorial Clinic to the PA program students. Collaborations with Benefis Health and Intermountain Health, as well as other clinical partnerships across Montana, the Rocky Mountain West, and the Pacific Northwest are also being explored.

The PA program at Carroll College aligns seamlessly with its mission and values. In addition to addressing a regional need in healthcare, the PA profession's focus on service and patient-centered care resonates with Carroll's motto of "Not for school, but for life."

As Carroll College moves ahead with this significant endeavor, the college is grateful to the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust for their generous support and shared vision of a healthier and better-served Montana and surrounding region.