‘Fauci effect’ spurs med school applicant growth
It just got even more competitive to win a spot at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, which saw a 48% increase in applications last year.
By the Dec. 1, 2020, application deadline, the medical school had received 6,374 applications for the class of 2025, which has a mere 49 openings. Last year, the school received 4,299 applications.
“We’re a new school,” says Dr. Lee Learman, dean of the Roanoke medical school, which opened its doors in 2010. “To us, it means a lot that we would see such an increase.”
Dr. Melanie Prusakowski, associate dean for admissions at the medical school and a pediatric emergency medicine physician for Carilion Clinic, says the “Fauci effect” is part of the reason for the increase, a term coined by pundits for the phenomenon of young people being inspired to pursue medical careers by the country’s top infectious diseases physician, Dr. Anthony Fauci.
The American Medical College Application Service, which coordinates applications for most U.S. medical schools, reported a nearly 17% increase in the number of applications received as of October.
“I think that those who are good students — and, let’s face it, applicants to medical schools tend to be successful students — have a lot of options,” Prusakowski says. “And so, when they see the importance of being part of the solution, we see a real increase.”
Some applicants, she says, also might have decided to apply after seeing family members get laid off due to the economic upheaval that accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic. “Medicine becomes an interesting choice,” she says. “Perhaps not glamorous, but maybe a little bit more secure.”
Gemma Porras Nielsen, a Roanoke native, was waitlisted for the cohort that began their studies in 2020. She was later invited to fill an opening, but she was already in Spain working on a master’s degree in biochemistry.
This year, Porras Nielsen applied again and made the cut. One reason she chose the school is because it offers small classes and a curriculum that’s centered around research. “That combination is really rare,” she says.
Administrators at the school are currently studying the pros and cons of increasing the number of students, says Learman. But he can’t imagine a scenario where the school admits more than 100 students per class. “The larger growth is something we’re looking very carefully at,” he says.