The University of New England has been awarded a $990,000 federal grant to expand its Physician Assistant Program.

The two-year training program is based at UNE’s Westbrook College of Health Professions and is the only one of its kind in Maine. The grant is part of the new Affordable Care Act and is part of an effort to train more primary care providers to meet increasing demand due to health care reforms and aging populations.

Physician Assistants, who are trained to diagnose and treat patients, work under the supervision of physicians and are playing a greater role in medical practices because of a shortage of primary care doctors.

The grant will provide $22,000 in annual tuition reimbursement to each of five additional students accepted into the program each year for five years, the length of the grant. The aid will be awarded to students who show a commitment to practice in an area of primary care in Maine.

Selected students will attend UNE’s Portland campus for the first year, then relocate to Bangor for on-the-job training at the Penobscot Community Health Center and St. Joseph Hospital system.