Since the beginnings of the COVID-19 pandemic, frontline health care workers have become heroic figures, and it seems they’re inspiring students to join their ranks.
"Oh, unbelievable, we have never seen so many applications to the Miller School of Medicine and initially we thought, what’s going on, we had over 10,000 applications by October," said Dr. Latha Chandran, executive dean at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine.
Dr. Chandran is describing a 30% to 40% increase. Normally, the school gets six to seven thousand applications.
"I think when there’s a catastrophe like what is going on now with COVID-19 it inspires moral people to action," Dr. Chandran said.
It’s a national phenomenon of spiking med school applications, first reported by NPR. Applications to Tulane Medical School are up by 35%, Boston University is up by 26%, Texas Tech is up 20%, Nova Southeastern is up 15%, and on and on around the country.
Dr. Ed Lipsit is a retired radiologist who now works for MedSchoolCoach.com tutoring applicants who are studying to take the MCAT, the medical school entrant exam.
“Sounds a little hokey, but it’s quite noble, and they’re genuine, the students that I work with, they’re genuinely interested in making a difference,” Dr. Lipsit said.
Ryan Chahal of Tampa is in grad school at Boston University. He told us instead of being repelled by the stories of doctors being stressed out and exhausted from long hours taking care of Covid19 patients, he’s attracted to the profession, and is now applying to medical schools to become a physician.
"Absolutely, I see these interviews of people on the front lines and I wish I could be out there," Ryan said. "It really has been inspiring."
This is the so-called Fauci Effect, young people seeing role models in scientists and doctors.
"There is a quotation by Albert Einstein that setting an example is not the main means of influencing others, it’s the only way to influence others," Dr. Chandran said.
Christine Ryan is working on her PhD in neuroscience at the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. Seeing the rapid development of vaccines, a remarkable scientific achievement, is one of the factors which has inspired her to go on to medical school next year.
"I think it was incredibly inspiring to me to see the union happening between physicians and scientists so that’s what I would like to do as an MD-PhD, be a physician scientist to see patients and do research," Ryan said. "When the pandemic hit, I think I finally really took the plunge to purse that vision."
The upside of this surge in medical school applications is that more of the nation’s best and brightest are choosing to become physicians. The downside is that competition for those limited spots has now become even more fierce than usual.