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'Fauci Effect' creates surge in medical school applicants

According to the University of Minnesota, medical school applications have gone up 40 percent this year for the Twin Cities campus.

Like the aftermath of 9-11 and military enlistment, this pandemic is creating a surge of interest in public health fields as medical schools across the country, including the University of Minnesota, report massive increases in applications.

“I'd love to be a family practitioner with a focus on mental healthcare,” said Dawson Cooper, a Mankato native and U of M senior intending to apply for medical school in the spring.

He said he’s planned on being a doctor for a long time, but he said the pandemic has increased that drive.

“We are inspired to go help, and again the pandemic has shown how important the workers are and we want to be a part of that change,” said Cooper.

According to the U of M, medical school applications have gone up 40 percent this year for the Twin Cities campus. The university says it received roughly 3,500 applications vying for 165 spots.

Applications for the U of M Medical School’s Duluth campus went up 77 percent with 3,422 people applying for 65 seats.

It's not just future doctors, applicants for the university's school of public health increased 60 percent this year, according to a university spokesperson.

And it's not just in Minnesota, medical school applications are up 17 percent on average across the U.S., according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Some in the field are calling this wave the “Fauci Effect,” as prominent scientists and doctors, like National Institutes of Health infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, have gained the spotlight in the pandemic.

“We are reading a lot of personal statements that are talking about their own experiences with the pandemic,” said Dimple Patel, associate dean for admissions at the U of M Medical School-Twin Cities Campus.

Patel believes the surge in interest goes beyond Fauci's cool factor and has more to do with the profound impact the pandemic has had on people worldwide.

“I do think though this has to do with having a population of people that are really passionate about service and wanting to give back to the communities,” said Patel.

For doctor-hopefuls like Cooper, the rush of applicants means tougher competition.

“It’s encouraging, but it’s tough to get into medical school,” Cooper said.

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