Dec 7, 2020 - Health

"The Fauci effect": Medical school applications up 18% since last year

Illustration of medical doctor’s bag with stethoscope and pluses

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Applications to medical schools have surged nationwide during the coronavirus pandemic in a trend that some admissions officers are calling the "Fauci effect," NPR reports.

By the numbers: The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) says applications are up 18% this year overall.

  • Stanford University School of Medicine saw 11,000 applicants for just 90 seats in its latest round of admissions, marking a 55% increase year-over-year, according to NPR. Boston University saw a 27% increase to 12,024 applications for 110 seats.
  • The trend could have important long-term impacts. The AAMC reports a "growing physician shortage" in the U.S., with the nation on track to be short 54,100–139,000 physicians by 2033.

The big picture: Americans flocking to medical professions during COVID-19 mirrors past crises. Citizens in many ways felt a call to arms after 9/11, causing military enlistments to soar.

What they're saying: Some admissions officers say the national prominence of health workers and officials like Anthony Fauci during the pandemic is likely one of the driving forces behind the surge of applications.

  • Fauci told NPR: "Probably a more realistic assessment is that, rather than the Fauci effect, it's the effect of a physician who is trying to and hopefully succeeding in having an important impact on an individual's health, as well as on global health."
  • "So if it works to get more young individuals into medical school, go ahead and use my name. Be my guest."

Yes, but: Admissions officers also acknowledge that the rise in applications could be a result of students having more time during social distancing to complete the extensive medical school applications process.

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