UW School of Medicine & Public Health sees ‘Fauci Effect’

MADISON, Wis. — UW-Madison’s School of Medicine and Public Health is seeing a record number of applicants this year amid the pandemic.

Dr. Mary McSweeney, the school’s assistant dean, calls it the ‘Fauci Effect’ or ‘Pothof Effect,’ named after Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert; and Dr. Jeff Pothof, UW Health’s Chief Quality Officer.

“After [the September 11th attacks] there was a huge increase in the number of young people going into the military,” Dr. McSweeney said. “And now, we see a physician like Fauci nationally, and Pothof locally, who are inspiring the next generation of young people to come and be part of the solution.”

McSweeney said it’s real: the school usually gets around 5,000 applicants for 176 positions, but saw a 26% increase this year, receiving up to 6,400 applications.

She said it is a trend being seen a schools of medicine across the country during the pandemic.

The number of students the School is able to accept has not increased, however, but McSweeney said they are considering the motivation of students who are applying this year.

But the pandemic isn’t just affecting who is applying to the school; it’s changing how they apply.

This year, all interviews have been done virtually to allow for social distancing, but McSweeney said she expects that to exist more often in the future, as well, even when it’s safe to travel. She said it’s cheaper for the students who are applying to not have to visit a dozen college campuses, take time off work, and pay for a hotel.

The pandemic is also changing how they might teach in the school in the future. McSweeney calls the pandemic the “gold standard of a national catastrophe” that can give students a backdrop or a format for what needs to be addressed when it “inevitably” happens again.