MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – More time at home this year has apparently given people more time to fill out graduate school applications.

The number of medical school applicants is up 18% nationally compared to last year, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

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At the University of Minnesota’s Medical School, the surge is even more pronounced.

Dimple Patel, an associate dean of admissions for the school, says applications are up 40% at the Twin Cities campus. They’re up 77% at the Duluth campus.

“All of the many issues related to the pandemic have motivated young people to make decisions about their career and commit to applying to medical school,” she said.

Rahi Patel, no relation to Dimple Patel, is a University of Minnesota junior on a pre-med track. She says everything that’s happened this year has only cemented her feelings about applying next summer.

“You see on the TV the healthcare workers and it’s obviously really taking a toll, but I think it also just underscores how important they are and the impact that they have,” Rahi Patel said. “I’ve always wanted to be a part of that.”

Dimple Patel says she sees the pandemic, and issues of health equity and social justice, mentioned in application essays she reads.

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She also says a tough job market can lead to more people seeking out postgrad opportunities.

The elevated profile this year of science and medicine in general helps too.

Dr. Anthony Fauci has become a national figure with his own bobblehead.

In Minnesota, Dr. Michael Osterholm has also become well-known. The University of Minnesota professor is advising President-elect Joe Biden on COVID.

“Having Dr. Osterholm being on virtually every news channel…really gets the word of how public health tries to be at that front end,” said Laura Fyfe with the University of Minnesota’s Pre-Health Student Resource Center.

Even though it could mean more competition for Rahi when she eventually applies, she says it’s great more people want to pursue medicine.

“The demand is going to go up and we’ve seen the need for healthcare workers now,” she said.

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David Schuman