MSM PA Clerkship Students

Morehouse School of Medicine Physician Assistant students (L-R) Hillary Birago, Madeleine Vinet, Katherine Bandstra, and Detavius Veal are completing clinical clerkships at rural healthcare centers in Maine.

MSM Partners with Northern Light Health to Bring Diverse Students to Maine

Four MSM Physician Assistant Studies students perform clinical clerkships at medical centers in rural areas of Maine.

ATLANTA, GA AND BREWER, MAINE — OCTOBER 4, 2023 — In an effort to grow the provider base in Maine's more rural areas, Northern Light Health is partnering with Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) in Atlanta, introducing skilled physician assistant (PA) students to the state. MSM, a historically Black medical school, offers a renowned Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies program that concludes with clerkships where students receive hands-on education in clinical areas including family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, women's health, and more. The PA students performing their clerkships with Northern Light Health are completing their degrees through MSM's rural health track.

"This collaboration with MSM is a new pathway for Northern Light Health to connect with and recruit diverse and skilled providers, " said Darmita Wilson, vice president of Northern Light Medical Group. "We do have diversity here in Maine, and it's important that we have providers who look like the people receiving care. Right now, we're seeing shortages in rural medicine around the country, and MSM is preparing physician assistants to go out into regions like Maine and serve our patients. We're excited to show them what Maine has to offer."

The first four MSM PA students arrived at Northern Light Health's home office in Brewer on September 25 for training before entering their clerkships. From there, the students began their rotations in four-week increments at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center and AR Gould in Presque Isle, receiving mentorship from local physicians and PAs who serve as clinical preceptors. Those students will also have the opportunity to receive clinical practice experiences at Acadia Hospital in Bangor and Mercy Hospital in Portland.

"The MSM PA program was implemented as an option to increase access to quality care and improve health outcomes in underserved and rural communities across Georgia and the country," says Pangela Dawson, PhD, MSPAS, PA-C, assistant dean, department chair, and founding program director of MSM's physician assistant studies program. "Our mission at MSM continues to focus on creating and advancing health equity. Birthing new collaborations such as this one allows both entities to enhance the healthcare system while expanding and diversifying the healthcare workforce."

"Programs like the clerkship with Morehouse School of Medicine have played a pivotal role in Northern Light Health recruiting talented providers to Maine's most rural areas, where we know access can be a struggle," says James Jarvis, MD, FAAFP, director of clinical education at Northern Light Health. "Through a variety of preceptor programs, we've seen a lot of success for the students, and for our patients, communities, practices, and hospitals. We're looking to continue to expand these programs in the coming years, and this collaboration with MSM is certainly an exciting step in that direction."

Last week, Hillary Birago joined three other MSM PA students for orientation at Northern Light Health's Cianchette Building in Brewer and Eastern Maine Medical Center. It was her first time ever visiting Maine, and earlier this week, she began her clerkship at AR Gould.

"I believe that a group of people who can work collaboratively toward a common goal can make a beautiful impact together," says Birago. "I chose physician assistant studies because I want to make a difference in the lives of those who are marginalized by the healthcare system. Being able to represent diversity and inclusion is what I'm most excited about starting my clerkship here in Maine."

About Morehouse School of Medicine

Founded in 1975, Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) is among the nation's leading educators of primary care physicians, biomedical scientists, and public health professionals. An independent and private historically-Black medical school, MSM was recognized by the Annals of Internal Medicine as the nation's number one medical school in fulfilling a social mission — the creation and advancement of health equity. MSM faculty and alumni are noted for excellence in teaching, research, and public policy, as well as exceptional patient care. MSM is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award doctoral and master's degrees. To learn more about programs and donate today, please visit or call 404-752-1500.

About Northern Light Health

At Northern Light Health, we're building a better approach to healthcare because we believe people deserve access to care that works for them. As an integrated health delivery system serving Maine, we're raising the bar with no-nonsense solutions that are leading the way to a healthier future for our state. Our care team—in hospitals, primary and specialty care practices, long-term and home healthcare, behavioral healthcare, and ground and air medical transport and emergency care—are committed to making healthcare work for you: our patients, communities, and employees. To learn more about Northern Light Health and our locations across Maine, visit


Jamille Bradfield
Morehouse School of Medicine