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University of the Pacific launching new health programs
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University of the Pacific launching new health programs

New health sciences school, new programs being offered in fall 2020 to meet demands of health care industry

University of the Pacific is leveraging its reputation for preparing health care professionals to create four new programs and a School of Health Sciences to meet the demands of a growing industry.

New accelerated master’s degree programs in clinical nutrition, nursing and social work will begin in fall 2020, and a doctor of occupational therapy will begin in spring 2021. These will join existing popular programs in athletic training, audiology, physical therapy, physician assistant studies and speech-language pathology to form Pacific’s new School of Health Sciences. The school will be housed at the university’s Sacramento Campus and includes programs at its three campuses in Sacramento, San Francisco and Stockton. A nationwide search is underway for a founding dean to lead the school.

“Retiring baby boomers have increased health care needs, resulting in a demand for more health care professionals,” said Maria Pallavicini, Pacific’s interim president. “These new programs include hybrid and online learning and were developed after extensive conversations with our community partners and others in health care. They identified a need for nurses, social workers, clinical nutritionists and occupational therapists, and we are set to prepare health care leaders for generations to come.”

Health care jobs are expected to grow by 14% from 2018 to 2028, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, outpacing all other employment sectors. Other educational programs in Northern California simply cannot meet the demand.

The School of Health Sciences will develop innovative curricula that takes advantage of the university’s opportunities in interprofessional education. Students from the School of Health Sciences, Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy, and Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry will share classrooms and learn from each other, preparing them for clinical settings where integrated teams provide optimal patient care.

“The School of Health Sciences really expands the opportunities for learning experiences that replicate what our graduates will see in their careers,” said Michael Hunter Schwartz, the university’s interim provost. “This builds upon existing practices in which students from various health care programs take classes together so that they are immersed in the culture of interprofessional medicine that is practiced today. We’re preparing our students to be health care leaders by providing lifelong wellness throughout our communities.”

Pacific’s Master of Physician Assistant Studies program, which graduated its first cohort in June, has been very popular since it started in January 2017. The program received nearly 2,050 applications in just the first eight months of 2019 for just 45 seats.

The four new health programs, along with the physician assistant studies program, will be located in the Muddox Building on the Sacramento Campus:

Master of Science in Nursing — An accelerated program designed for licensed nurses who have a bachelor’s degree in nursing and are seeking a master’s in rehabilitation nursing, diabetes management or a self-designed concentration. This 32-unit primarily online program can be completed either part or full time. This program is designed around the needs of working nurses.

Master of Science in Clinical Nutrition — An accelerated program that will lead to eligibility for the Registered Dietician Nutrition exam, and will leverage existing community relationships and partnerships in health care. This will be one of only nine programs in the nation following the latest standards set by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics and the only one in California.

Master of Social Work — An accelerated program that will prepare students to focus in health care areas such as mental health and aging. This hybrid program will be open to students with or without social work academic degrees or job experience. Students with undergraduate social work degrees can graduate in as few as 12 months, or three trimesters. Students without undergraduate social work degrees can graduate in as few as 16 months, or four trimesters. The social work profession centers on improving the quality of life for people and enhancing a person’s potential for full, productive activity. 

Doctor of Occupational Therapy — An accelerated program that will prepare students to help people of all ages live their best lives by working through injury, disability and illness. Instruction will be delivered in a hybrid format, offering interdisciplinary courses via online learning, classroom instruction and simulation labs. The cohort-based, 120-unit program can be completed in eight trimesters, or 32 months. Program graduates will be prepared to promote integrated health and wellness behaviors across a person’s life and in diverse communities.

Pacific has trained health care professionals since 1858 when the university formed the first medical school in California, now the Stanford University School of Medicine. The university’s portfolio of health care programs includes other premier and highly enrolled health programs such as Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry, which was founded in 1896 as the College of Physicians and Surgeons. The Department of Speech-Language Pathology dates back to 1936. Music therapy was introduced in 1938 and will remain in the Conservatory of Music. The Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy opened in 1955, the Department of Physical Therapy was established in 1985 and the Department of Audiology was launched in 2015.

About University of the Pacific

Founded in 1851 as the first chartered institution of higher education in California, University of the Pacific prepares students for professional and personal success through rigorous academics, small classes, and a supportive and engaging culture. Widely recognized as one of the most beautiful private university campuses in the West, the Stockton Campus offers more than 80 areas of study in 11 schools and colleges. The university’s distinctive Northern California footprint also includes its San Francisco Campus, home to the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry and graduate programs in health and technology fields, and Sacramento Campus, home to the Pacific McGeorge School of Law and graduate programs in health, education and public policy. Pacific offers more than 30 graduate degrees and three first-professional programs, with a number of programs offering accelerated options for attaining a graduate or professional degree. For more information, visit

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