It may or not be the “Fauci Effect,” but medical schools in southern Nevada are seeing a surge in the number of admissions applications amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The youngest UNLV graduate, Santiago Gudiño-Rosales, 24, who wants to start studying medicine in the summer of 2021, was surprised when the number of applicants rose across the country during the pandemic.
While the disease that has circled the world has strengthened his resolve to become a doctor, the application and introduction process at medical school – already a grueling experience in a normal year – posed major obstacles this year.
“It was quite a challenge for me,” said Gudiño-Rosales. He said there were fewer resources devoted to the application process, his first test date was postponed, and his interviews were conducted online instead of face-to-face.
Gudiño-Rosales, who takes a year off before studying medicine, has so far been accepted into five schools, including UNLV and the University of Nevada, Reno. He waits to hear from others before making a decision.
Nationwide, the number of college applicants intending to begin their studies in 2021 is up 18 percent year over year, the Association of American Medical Colleges said last week.
That’s good news in a country where there will be an estimated 54,100 to 139,000 medical shortages by 2033, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. Nevada ranks 45th nationwide for active physicians per 100,000 population.
Some experts have referred to the increase in applications as the “Fauci effect”, referring to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases. Fauci was ubiquitous on television during the pandemic and became a household name.
Dr. Neil Haycocks, vice dean of academic affairs and education at the UNLV School of Medicine, said he was skeptical that Fauci was responsible for about 11 percent increase in applicants for his doctoral program (MD) this year. The school, which will welcome its new class in July, enrolls 60 students each year.
“A noticeable bump”
“It’s a noticeable bump,” said Haycocks of the roughly 2,000 applications received by October 1 this year, compared to the roughly 1,800 applications that have been received annually since first grade arrived in 2017.
But is Fauci responsible?
“I don’t think it’s a likely explanation for what we’re seeing,” he said.
Veterinary schools are also seeing an increase in the number of applicants this year, he noted. It also usually takes several years for someone to prepare a competitive medical school application, he said.
A far more plausible explanation for the surge is that many people preparing to apply in a year or two decided to move forward as the pandemic disrupted other plans, Haycocks said.
UNLV also had some applicants withdraw after reflecting on their career choices and getting a better sense of what health care delivery entails, he said.
“I think it’s cut both ways,” Haycocks said of the impact on regulatory filings.
Lack of doctors
The UNLV School of Medicine has 240 medical students and 320 residents and fellows. She will complete her first year in May.
And in October the school celebrated the groundbreaking for its medical education building – its first permanent facility – which will be ready for occupancy in the summer of 2022.
Nationwide, the number of medical students has risen by almost 35 percent since 2002, according to the association, and 30 new schools have been opened “in the last few decades”. And that year the number of students entering medical schools in the United States reached its highest level in two decades.
But medical schools still have a relatively low acceptance rate. It’s also expensive for college students, with an average debt of $ 200,000 among graduates last year, the association said.
Gudiño-Rosales graduated from UNLV with a Bachelor’s degree in Life Sciences in May. Hoping to only go to one medical school, he said he couldn’t be more excited to have five admissions by December.
Long before the COVID-19 pandemic, Gudiño-Rosales had planned to apply for medical school. But he said the pandemic, along with the social unrest that year, confirmed why he wanted to become a doctor.
“Regarding the pandemic, we’ve seen Latinos and black Americans disproportionately affected by COVID-19,” he said.
Gudiño-Rosales said he grew up an immigrant with no health insurance or access to health care and could not routinely see a doctor.
He said he wants to become a doctor who can help other Latinos and the neighborhoods he grew up in. “These are always the truths in my hand.”
Touro University Nevada in Henderson has so far slightly exceeded the national average for medical schools with around 3,700 applications for its doctorate in osteopathic medicine this year – up from 3,015 last year. That is an increase of around 22.7 percent.
The private university has 180 incoming students per year, the next group starts in July. Many graduates go into primary care, an area where Nevada has a distinct vendor shortage.
Touro has many qualified applicants, said CEO and Senior Provost Shelley Berkley.
“We can be very picky about who we include in our program,” she said.
Berkley said the university is seeing an increase in applicants for all of its programs, including internship, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and nursing.
While this year’s jump was noticeable, Berkley said Touro has seen steady growth in applications over the past few years.
“I think students interested in health care are attracting the medical profession,” she said, adding that they see a need and get involved to help during the pandemic. “This is your way of doing this.”
The University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine has nearly hit its application record of 1,643 in 2019, to 1,635 this year.
UNR admissions director Tamara Martinez-Anderson said she agreed Fauci was an inspiration, but “most of this year’s applicants started preparing for the admissions process well before the pandemic hit,” she said in a statement.
Another local university, Roseman University of Health Sciences, is working on rolling out an MD program and expects to enroll its first undergraduate class in the fall of 2024. The university is based in Henderson but also has a campus in Summerlin that houses the College of Medicine. and South Jordan, Utah.
Contact Julie Wootton-Greener at [email protected] or 702-387-2921. Follow @julieswootton on Twitter.