Fauci Effect: Med School Applications Way Up At University Of Arizona College Of Medicine — Phoenix

By Mark Brodie
Published: Thursday, January 7, 2021 - 12:17pm
Updated: Thursday, January 7, 2021 - 6:31pm

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LAUREN GILGER: The state Department of Health Services is reporting 9,913 new coronavirus infections and 297 additional deaths in the state [Jan. 7]. To date, 9,741 Arizonans have died of COVID-related illnesses since the beginning of the pandemic. Right now, 93% of the state's ICU beds are in use. Maricopa County health officials have announced they will be ready to begin the next step of vaccine distribution on Monday. Residents eligible for Phase One-B vaccinations will include K-12 school staff and child care workers, law enforcement and adults over the age of 75.

STEVE GOLDSTEIN: As the coronavirus pandemic continues to worsen and the number of infections, hospitalizations and deaths continues to rise in Arizona and elsewhere, medical schools say they're seeing an increase in applications — and in some cases, they're seeing a big increase. The Association of American Medical Colleges says the number of students applying to med schools nationwide for the upcoming academic year is up about 18% from the previous year. And our next guest sees parallels to the increase in people joining the military after 9/11. Glen Fogerty is associate dean of admissions and recruitment at the University of Arizona College of Medicine — Phoenix. He spoke with our co-host, Mark Brodie.

 University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix campus
University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix
The University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix campus.

GLEN FOGERTY: Yeah, I've heard of this called the Fauci Effect, and I think it's a good term. As we've gone through this pandemic, you know, over this last year, Dr. Fauci is an M.D. He is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. And he has been a front face of this pandemic. And with that, we've heard across the nation, our American Association of Medical Colleges talked about an increase in applications, pretty much about 10% above national averages. And we've seen that exact same thing happening at our school. Here we average usually about 6,000 applications a year, which is amazing for just 120 seats. But with that, we've seen closer to 7,000 applications this year. So we certainly have seen a spike.

MARK BRODIE: Do you attribute that to what's going on in the world with [COVID-19] and with Dr. Fauci?

FOGERTY: Yeah, I've been thinking about that a lot. I actually think we might see that spike even jump up more next year, because these students that are applying for this current cycle, certainly, you know, we think part of the spike was they actually had time. You know, when this pandemic kind of started, it was really the start of the applicant cycle. And so they had time to really put their applications together. So if they were ever thinking about medical school, I think this is a time to apply. But then as we've gone through this cycle and we've been hearing from people that are now getting interested in medicine because of this pandemic, we actually think, you know, with this undergraduate population, more people move into type of science majors. You know, down the road we could see this, this 6,000 jump to 7,000; 7,000 jump to 8,000 applications, you know, for a cycle.

BRODIE: So what do you think it is that is encouraging people to apply? You mentioned people having time as one factor, but like, is there something that, that you think potential students are seeing going on around them that is making them think, "Yes, I would like to be doing this?"

FOGERTY: Yeah, absolutely. I think this pandemic has hit home in a very personal way for so many people. And with that, you know, a lot of these applicants have time to think about who they are and what they want to be. What I've seen is, you know, with my career, you know, 20 years in, in admissions, I've worked with MBA admissions, I've worked with law school admissions and now medical school. And all of these students, they are A-type driven. They are, they want to do well. But when you get to the medical students, they're just a little bit different than those other kind of groups I've seen. They have this calling to serve. And I think this is what's really driving it right now is they see their, their family, their friends get sick, you know, unfortunately, some passed away. It just really makes them reflect. And then, like I said, this, this call — this, this call to try and help others, we're finding it. And you need it for these type of doctors, these medical doctors that we're going to have down, down the road. They have to have this empathy. They have to have this care. And this, this pandemic driving them to this calling will only serve all of us well in the long run.

BRODIE: I wonder if you see that as maybe a little bit of a silver lining to this pandemic. Because obviously Arizona and other places have been in the midst of a physician shortage for a long time now. And if you're seeing more applicants to med school, that, in theory, at least, could put a dent in that, right?

FOGERTY: Yeah. I'm glad you bring that up, because, because yes. We, we've seen it just even here in our state of Arizona. You know, by 2030, we're going to be about 2,000 primary care physicians short just in this state — and nationally, it's of course even worse. But for us, we need to find more doctors. Our medical school, you know, we're a young one. You know, the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson has been there for a while. We only started here 14 years ago — in 2007, because, you know, back then it was the fifth largest city in the country and it didn't have a medical school at all. And we've grown over these years. Two years ago, we were building a class of 80 students. Last year, we built a class of 100. And now this year we're moving it to 120. That's what we're building — we're on the Phoenix Biomedical campus. And we were slated to get to the 120. But our dean, Guy Reed, he has pushed to try and get this, this full accounting as soon as possible because there is a shortage and this need. It is excellent that, you know, there's other schools that have come to town as well. Mayo brought a medical school, Creighton's brought a medical school, we had two doctor of osteopathic medicine programs as well in this town. So we're, a few years ago, there wasn't anything. Now we have five programs. But the need is there and we're all working collaboratively together to try and handle this physician shortage.

BRODIE: Do you have a sense or is there a discussion about how long you might expect this increase in applications to last? I mean, obviously, nobody hopes the pandemic lasts a second longer than it has to. But do you have a sense of for how much longer you might be looking at well above normal applications?

FOGERTY: You know, the, when I talk to the AAMC, the Association of American Medical Colleges, you know, they've, they've seen — we have 50,000 applications for 20,000 seats across the country. So that's you know, us, the 7,000 for the 120. These numbers are crazy because we're only admitting less than 1%. So you hear about the need. You know, the need is there. And so you're trying to find that kind of solution. Over these next few years, you know, the conversation we're having with these, these candidates now that they're just expressing interest. We have these pipeline programs that we built in the local community to serve those that are mostly in underserved communities to try and educate them about medicine. We're seeing those increases unbelievably coming through right now. And I — yes, I think over the next two or three years, strong growth. Absolutely. But this allows us to still get the best of the best, also to be a representation of our community. So that's something we always strive for as well, where different populations that are that make up the state of Arizona, we want to find, you know, medical students from each one of those populations. Well, because those are the ones who will go back to those communities, serve those communities well and bring what we need to bring to this medical community.

BRODIE: All right. That is Glen Fogerty, associate dean of admissions and recruitment at the University of Arizona College of Medicine — Phoenix. Glen, nice to talk to you. Thank you.

FOGERTY: My pleasure.

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