The Fauci Effect: What the United States Needed

September 29th, 2021. By Ethan Tam '22

Professionals at the forefront of the pandemic such as Dr. Fauci have inspired more students to apply to medical school; with such increased interest in the field, perhaps it’s the start of the solution to narrowing the gap between demand and supply of U.S. doctors.

As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded in 2020, many high school and college students alike were exposed to physicians, epidemiologists, and more medical field roles. With such a year dominated by the importance of global health, there was a record growth of interest in the field; medical school applications increased a whopping 18% in the 2020-2021 cycle, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). Some programs such as Stanford University’s experienced an even larger jump, at 50%. This spike in medical interest is largely attributed to public health figures such as Dr. Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Chief Medical Advisor, who became the face of the battle against the pandemic. Kristen Goodell, MD., Boston University’s dean of medicine, explained the phenomenon to Forbes: “That, I think, may have a lot to do with the fact that people look at Anthony Fauci, look at doctors in their community and say, ‘You know, that is amazing.’”

Coined “The Fauci Effect,” this wave of medical influence specifically on undergraduate hopefuls may be the solution to the United States’ future projection of a shortage of doctors. From AAMC’s annual data analysis in 2020, there will be an estimated shortage of 54,100 - 139,000 physicians by 2033 in both primary and specialty care. Population growth and aging are the dominant factors that drive this issue: researchers project the U.S. population of those 65 and older to grow about 45.1% by 2033, who will contribute most to the demand of healthcare attention. With less doctors comes lower quality care, less access, higher cost consultations, and further negative implications for citizens of all backgrounds.

With many studies forecasting the imminent growing gap between demand and supply of physician jobs, the new variable of COVID-19’s influence of medical school admissions through professionals is comforting; perhaps the supply can ultimately be met. However, it is important to note that medical schools have and still uphold ultra-selective standards to applicants, many of which have been main reasons for past low interests in the field. For example, even with an increase in applicants, Stanford University’s School of Medicine remained at a low 2.3% acceptance rate. Many other schools similarly remain at single digit rates, but why?

In addition to retaining “prestige” and abiding by overall funds, medical schools have another issue: residency openings. After graduation, med students have to apply into residency programs to continue their academic journey. However, there are still fewer openings than medical graduates, leaving many with an M.D. but no opportunity to advance. To ensure that most medical students are successful and best represent the university, admissions are extremely competitive, restricting who is admitted. This ultimately contributes to the shortage of doctors in the United States, since if the selectiveness continues to increase while the general population grows at an even higher rate, the issue of a medical job supply shortage will only worsen.

A profession in medicine is certainly a risk; with no guarantee of a job after years of academic and financial commitment, the intimidating aspects of a career in the field deters many from pursuing it. But as the shortage of doctors continues to increase, it is more important than ever to encourage more students to apply. The Fauci Effect can hopefully bring to light the enthusiasm and interest that can evidently emerge from the young generation, and the necessary steps needed to take in order for their dreams to aid in the U.S.’s future population growth. Rather than creating a pressure for perfect MCATs and GPAs, perhaps it’s the human connections from Dr. Fauci and other professionals that best inspire - a genuine, human passion for helping others.


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Ilana Kowarski. “Why Is It So Hard to Get Into Medical School?” US News, 3 Dec. 2018, 12:24pm,

​​Smith, Yolanda. “Physician Shortage.” News Medical, 27 Feb. 2019,

Zhang, Xiaoming et al. “Physician workforce in the United States of America: forecasting nationwide shortages.” Human resources for health vol. 18,1 8. 6 Feb. 2020, doi:10.1186/s12960-020-0448-3