Medical schools see an increase in candidates, thanks to the “Fauci effect”

Applications in medical schools are increasing, as the coronavirus outbreak leads young people to reconsider the health professions.

Enrollments for medical schools across the country increased 18% nationwide, compared to the same period last year, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

It is called the “Fauci effect”, with academics attributing the increased visibility to Dr. Anthony Fauci, who heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

“You see healthcare professionals on TV and you are obviously taking a heavy toll, but I think it also underscores their importance and the impact they have,” Rahi Patel, a junior at the University of Minnesota at the track doctor, said CBS Minnesota. “I always wanted to be a part of this.”

In addition to the visibility of science and medicine, other factors are at play. The quarantine gave more people the considerable time needed to complete medical school applications. The economic toll of the pandemic, which has cost almost 10 million people their jobs, is also driving some to pursue a well-paid career, say medical school deans.

“All of the many pandemic-related issues have motivated young people to make career decisions and commit to enrolling in medical school,” said Dimple Patel, associate dean of admissions at the University of Minnesota School of Medicine, to CBS Minnesota. (She is not related to Rahi Patel, a sophomore in college.)

Dimple Patel said medical school enrollments increased 40% on the Twin Cities campus and 77% on the Duluth campus. The candidacy essays she reads mention the pandemic and issues of health equity and social justice, she said.

At the University of California, Davis, the medical school, enrollments increased by 40%. Several months after the enrollment season, nearly 10,000 students applied for only 130 places in the program, CBS Sacramento reported.

Nursing programs are also reporting increases. University of Virginia enrollments have increased by more than a quarter for their nursing programs, according to The Daily Progress.

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The University of Wisconsin-Madison, like others, had a record number of candidates for medical schools. Dr. Mary McSweeney, assistant dean of the medical school, attributed the increase to a national purpose.

“After 9/11, there was a huge increase in the number of young people joining the army. And now, we see a doctor, Fauci nationally, and [Dr. Jeff] More locally, two doctors who are inspiring the next generation of young people to come and be part of the solution, “she told Canal 3000, a CBS affiliate in Madison.

The university’s medical school received 6,400 applications for 176 vacancies this year, Sweeney said.

More candidates don’t mean more doctors: Dr. Sweeney noted that the school will not be able to accept more students in the class. However, the aggregate interest allows the school to really consider applicants’ motivations, said Sweeney.