KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Medical schools in the Kansas City metro and around the country are seeing a bump in applications like never before.
The Association of American Medical Colleges says applications are up 18 percent nationwide compared to this time in 2019.
The AAMC credits the work of Dr. Anthony Fauci and other medical experts during the pandemic for inspiring the surge in applicants.
At Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences, applications are up 25 percent compared to this time in 2019.
Provost Dr. Edward O'Connor said the increase is significant.
"Applications have already far exceeded total applications from the previous year," O'Connor said.
O'Connor said other health-related programs are seeing an increase in applications too.
"Our masters program in biosciences, which helps educate future biomedical research scientists like those that have helped develop the vaccine, we've seen more than a doubling of applications this time," O'Connor said.
O'Connor said the school has seen a tripling of applications to the doctorate of clinical psychology program, which helps people with challenges when dealing with the pandemic on a day-to-day lifestyle.
O'Connor said application essays show the pandemic and the work of medical professionals are contributing factors to the surge in applications.
"They've been telling us stories of how they have witnessed so many examples of creative problem solving during 2020," O'Connor said. "They've been inspired by these front line workers that take on the virus each and every day, head on."
O'Connor said more applications won't mean more available slots.
"We can't automatically expand, but what we can do is find the people that are truly committed to solving the problem and those that are a good fit to Kansas City University," O'Connor said.
First-year medical student Deborah Dele-Oni said she believes the surge is partially due to students having more time on their hands for the application process, which is a long one.
More so than that, Dele-Oni believes students are inspired by the medical work they see happening around them.
"When you have a family member or a friend or you witness a doctor or a nurse take care of someone who has COVID and how much they're really just risking and sacrificing so much, it really inspires you," Dele-Oni said.
Even though her first year in medical school isn't what she imagined, Dele-Oni is grateful for the lessons she never planned on learning.
"It put things into perspective for me," Dele-Oni said. "I have to understand that this field I'm going into, I don't know if there's going to be another pandemic when I'm a doctor, that this is something that can happen again, I need to learn to adapt and think on my feet."
While this year has created new challenges for an already difficult program, students like Dele-Oni will keep persevering until they are the ones on the front lines.
"We're tired and we're a little stressed, but I think at the end of the day we don't realize how much we've learned in this experience," Dele-Oni said.