The Fauci Effect: North Texas medical schools seeing an increase in students

A record number of students are applying to medical programs during the pandemic. It’s become known as "The Fauci Effect" and it’s happening here in North Texas too.

There are a few reasons for the increase. Many students are inspired by the healthcare workers they see on the news like the nation’s top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci. But more than anything, they are looking for a way to make a difference.

Medical programs across the nation are seeing record numbers as more students search for ways to help during the pandemic.

"Before this I had never really heard of Dr. Fauci. I had never heard of public health that much," said Angela Johnson, a student at the University of North Texas.

Now that’s what Johnson is studying in her first year at UNT.

"What I want to go on to is looking at the prevention aspect and hope that something like this COVID would never happen again," she said.

"We’ve seen tremendous growth in some of our core courses, you know. Introduction to Public Health has grown tremendously," said Dr. Chandra Carey, the academic associate dean at UNT’s College of Health and Public Service.

Dr. Carey said enrollment is up 80% from the fall of last year.

"It’s so exciting to see the students who are coming into our program, the interest that they have and the diversity of students that are coming into our program as we look at what’s happening with the COVID-19 pandemic," she said.

Dr. Frank Filipetto is the dean at the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine at the UNT Health Science Center in Fort Worth. He’s seeing the same thing with an 18-20% increase in applications this year.

"They want to find purpose. They want to find meaning in their life," he said. "It’s really I think about our students right now. This generation is seeing role models whether it’s Dr. Fauci or their own doctor in the community or a doctor that may have saved a life of someone in their family or someone important to them who had COVID."

Johnson said she always wanted a job serving her community. Living through the COVID-19 pandemic opened her eyes to a different path.

"The pandemic really added on to that. I was like, "Wow. I could help others and this is a great way to do that,’" she said.

Dr. Filipetto said there are a few other reasons for the boost. Medical schools have adjusted the application process and made it a little easier since some tests couldn’t be administered during the pandemic.

He said the economy and high unemployment also has more people looking into the field.