“The Fauci Effect”

I keep seeing articles about how there’s a surge in medical school applications this year and how it must be because of Dr. Fauci’s presence on the national stage influencing and inspiring young people to take up the medical profession. This seriously overestimates both the power of Dr. Fauci’s public persona and the minds of aspiring physicians (I should know, I am one of them). I’m not trying to diminish Dr. Fauci’s service to the country or his influence as a whole, just this specific case might be a bit of a stretch.

First of all, most people who are submitting applications this year likely did not make the decision during the pandemic’s first few month. Which they would have had to if they planned to submit in May or June. Anyone seriously thinking about going to medical school likely starts planning their application about 1 year before submission. Prior to that they have to have been focused on their GPA, taking pre-reqs, volunteering, getting clinical experience, studying for the MCAT, etc etc for at 4 years or more. So to me, the 20% increase in submissions is probably not due to people being all of a sudden inspired by Dr. Fauci’s meteoric rise to fame in the 4 months leading up to the opening of this year’s application cycle.

I imagine that the reason is much simpler; students just had more time to focus on their applications. Another reason might be that students who pretty much had most of their things in order, but were planning on applying the following year decided, what the hell, if I’m stuck at home for the next year I might as well apply now and see what happens. These seem more consistent with how most potential applicants operate.

I’m sure there are many young pre-meds or elementary or high school students that Dr. Fauci inspired. And sure, there may be a few applicants this year for who Fauci was their primary motivation for applying this year, but just because something makes a nice story doesn’t mean its true.

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