'Fauci effect': Duke, UNC, medical schools nationwide seeing historically high applications

Joel Brown Image
Thursday, December 17, 2020
'Fauci effect': Medical schools seeing historically high applications
"We want to take care of people's needs because we understand that those medical problems are not going away, in fact, they get worse if they get delayed."

For nearly a year he's been the face of America's fight against the coronavirus. Now, Dr. Anthony Fauci may be fueling a new surge of young Americans who want to be just like him.

Nationwide, the number of medical school applications is up 18 percent compared to last year. In Durham, Duke University Medical School is seeing a 26 percent jump this year in students applying to be med students; and it's a 12 percent jump at UNC's School of Medicine in Chapel Hill.

With doctors at the forefront of the pandemic, some are calling this surge, the "Fauci Effect".

"This is the highest amount of applicants we've ever seen, " said Dr. Linton Yee, associate dean of admissions at the Duke's med school.

Yee believes the "Fauci Effect" is real. A phenomena, in part, powered by the pandemic's impact on the world and a resurgent desire to find a career that makes a difference. "Especially with Dr. Fauci, you see someone who has been very noble, very dedicated to promoting health and science. You see the role and impact he's having on making a positive change for society. I think people are looking at that and kind of going, 'Wow this is someone I can emulate'," Yee said.

It's not just a "Fauci Effect". Doctors like Orange County native Kizzmekia Corbett are gaining national attention -- praised as a key scientist behind the covid-19 vaccine.

Now in her final year of a M.D. / Ph.D program, UNC medical student Casey Rimland dedicated herself to improving people's health before the scourge of COVID-19.

"Ultimately, I think I'm going to become a rheumatologist. They study auto-immune diseases and inflammation," she said. "I think, for me, (the pandemic) just reaffirmed why I've been training for 14 years now to do bold science and medicine."

RELATED: Two local Pfizer trial participants urge others to get COVID-19 vaccine when widely available

"Just because it was faster doesn't mean that there's been any sacrifice for safety," one of the trial participants said.

The same kind of boldness of Dr. Fauci, Dr. Corbett or the countless other doctors and scientists now in the pandemic's spotlight.

Months away from being a medical doctor, too, Rimland says she's eager to take the questions and concerns from her soon-to-be patients back to the laboratory to push for cures to diseases.

"But (the path toward being a doctor) is not easy. It's a hard process that we go through," Rimland said. "But none of us are doing it because we want money or fame. We're doing it because we want to take care of you."

Of course, the surge in new applicants to medical schools also makes akes it much more competitive to get accepted. Dr. Yee says Duke's admissions board has been a lot more flexible this year with applicants as the school tries to accommodate the new obstacles students are facing in 2020.