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.
THE FAUCI EFFECT: Applications at local medical schools are surging. Duke’s med school is seeing an all-time high in applicants.— Joel Brown (@JoelBrownABC11) December 17, 2020
As Dr. Anthony Fauci leads the way as the face of the fight against COVID, many future doctors are moving to emulate him. #abc11 TONIGHT AT 11 pic.twitter.com/vLWoygiZS0
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."
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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.