BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Pandemic or not, Joya Ahmad was going to apply to medical school this year. The pandemic presented challenges in getting transcripts from school offices that were now remote, and her MCAT was delayed. The pandemic did not sway her decision.
“I think it reassured me that it’s something I want to do, but it also more so laid bare the things I want to improve as a member of the field,” Ahmad said.
A field that is growing.
Across the country, medical school applications are up 18% form last year, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. At University at Buffalo Jacob's School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, applications are up 40%, according to admissions director Dr. Dori Marshall.
Marshall said that's 1,740 more applicants, the largest in recent memory.
The AAMC said one possible factor is the "Fauci effect," similar to the increase in people entering the military after 9/11.
Marshall said some applicants did bring that up, but she points to other factors as well. For example, she suspects some students who planned on taking a gap year or two applied this year instead.
“Nobody applies to medical school on a whim," Marshall said. "So you can’t have become inspired by Dr. Fauci alone and decided to apply because you have to all the prerequisites in place, and that takes years to accumulate.”
Marshall said the pandemic has created a high demand for healthcare jobs at a time when other industries are seeing cuts. She also points to the focus on racial injustices both in the healthcare system and elsewhere in the country as a potential contributing factor.
“They want the opportunity to stand up and say I’m going to make the world a better place."
Alexandrea Adams is a recently accepted student and said the pandemic didn't influence her decision to apply to medical school, but might influence her specialty.
“I majored in both biology and public policy, so I do have an interest in public health policy and public health," Adams said. "So with a huge public health crisis like this, those types of skills might be needed more, or more valued, from a physician in the future.”
Both Ahmad and Adams said they want to focus on underserved communities.
Marshall said the school accepted online versions of required classes and applications that were still awaiting MCAT scores due to the pandemic.
One change to the admissions process Ahmad hopes sticks around post-pandemic is virtual admissions interviews.
“I don’t think I would’ve applied to the number of schools I had applied to if interviews had not been virtual because I know I wouldn’t have been able to fly to all of those places,” Ahmad said.