Dual degree program gives PA students an insight into public health

The College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences at Campbell University recently launched a dual degree program that provides physician assistant students with an extensive background in public health.  The Master of Physician Assistant Practice and Master of Science in Public Health dual degree allows physician assistant students to complete the requirements for a degree in public health before entering the PA curriculum.


The program blends hands-on clinical care with a broad-based knowledge of how to make a positive impact on the community. While this particular dual degree program is offered at other institutions in the nation, program leaders David Coniglio and Tina Tseng are working hard to maintain the right combination to fit the Harnett County community. Currently, it is the only program of its kind offered in North Carolina.

“Public health is an underappreciated and under recognized part of health care mainly because our society views healthcare as getting fixed when we’re sick versus being well,” said Coniglio, Academic Coordinator of the Physician Assistant program. “So the idea of merging clinical care with public health just made sense.”

The program accepted 9 students this semester, and they began work on their public health curriculum in August. The students will be involved in community health projects and are encouraged to conduct research to make a difference, instead of just looking for results.

In addition to the new dual degree offering, Coniglio and his wife, Lara Campagna, initiated the Campagna Family Physician Assistant/MS in Public Health Annual Scholarship. This scholarship will be awarded annually to off-set costs of the added year in the program.

Campagna, who is a practicing PA in Pinehurst, attributes her success to the foundation laid for her by her family and wanted to honor them with this scholarship. 

“I think that offering the dual degree program is going to attract the best possible PA applicants for Campbell, and we wanted to provide as much assistance as we can to the students,” Campagna said.

This year’s recipients are Laurin Cahill and Angela Cheung, who are both projected to graduate in December 2016. Cahill hails from Florida and has actively been involved in the medical field since her undergraduate career and spent two years as a certified nursing assistant before coming to Campbell.

“As a dual degreed medical practitioner, it is my goal to advocate for public health issues as well as work in underserved, rural areas,” Cahill said in regard to her plans after graduation.

Cheung is a California native, who has consistently served the communities she’s been a part of since she was a child. After spending a summer studying in South Africa and participating in an educational outreach program for women, she decided to continue her clinical education with a rural health background.

“The experiences I have gained volunteering, both at the local and global level, have convinced me of the need for some level of universal health. With the assistance from this scholarship, I will be able to focus on my education and continue on my journey to become a self-supporting missionary,” said Cheung.

With highly motivated students and dedicated support from members of the CPHS faculty, the PA/Public Health dual degree is already making an impact in the Campbell community.

“We were given opportunities in our educational careers and now we are in a place where we can give back,” Coniglio said. “It is essential to us to give back to the university and the students.”

Tseng and husband, Ray, also contributed to the creation of the Campagna Family Physician Assistant/MS in Public Health Annual Scholarship.

If you are interested in contributing to this scholarship, please contact Rich Koepcke at

Photo; Laurin Cahill and Angela Cheung, 2013 Campagna Family Physician Assistant/MS in Public Health Annual Scholarship recipients.