Pacific PA grad excelling at local hospital

First class of PA graduates helping improve health care in Northern California


Last fall, Cierra Coffman ’19 became the only critical care physician assistant with Sutter Gould Medical Foundation at Memorial Medical Center in Modesto.

Physician assistant studies graduate Cierra Coffman ’19 likes to be a trailblazer. After all, she was in the first class of physician assistant students to graduate from University of the Pacific’s Master of Physician Assistant Studies Program.

Then last fall, she became the only critical care physician assistant with Sutter Gould Medical Foundation at Memorial Medical Center in Modesto. In fact, the entire first class of Pacific physician assistant students left an impression throughout the Northern California health system. Of the first 44 graduates, 38 hold positions at local hospitals.

“As part of the inaugural physician assistant class, my cohort grew very close and we are all still great friends,” said Coffman. “The faculty were so supportive and I am proud to now have them as colleagues. I am so grateful for my experience at Pacific.”

The Department of Physician Assistant Education within the School of Health Sciences trains physician assistants in the art and science of medicine throughout a 27-month graduate program. The program, located on Pacific’s Sacramento campus, matriculates 45 students each January.

Pacific’s physician assistant program provides numerous opportunities for interprofessional education through involvement with Pacific’s highly regarded health-related schools, the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry and the Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, and the university’s new School of Health Sciences through student clinical training experiences at community hospitals and clinics.

“It was amazing to have a pharmacist teach our pharmacy course and be able to interact with other health programs at Pacific such as physical therapy, pharmacy and dental,” recalled Coffman. “This experience helped prepare me to be a more well-rounded health care provider and has benefited me in my current role.”

Coffman’s work schedule has not changed since the COVID-19 pandemic hit California, but her work practices have changed greatly. Her temperature is checked upon arrival each day and she must wear a mask when seeing patients. Also, visitors are not allowed for admitted patients, so a large part of her day is taken up by calling family members to provide updates.

“Although we have done well to flatten the curve in Stanislaus County, I encourage everyone to use safe health practices and listen to government agencies on the latest updates,” Coffman said. “We all should continue to social distance and try to limit our exposure as much as possible.”