Chika Okeke is a medical student at the Irvine School of Medicine at University California. It is also a leadership training program to promote diversity – scientist in Africa, Black and the Caribbean (LEAD-ABC).

Source: Serena Tally

As we near the second year of the coronavirus pandemic, healthcare workers have been welcomed as heroes in fighting an unpredictable and deadly virus. They are physically and mentally stressed, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges, but the number of medical school applications for the academic year 2021 has increased by 18%.

“Over the past year, the Covid-19 pandemic has increased stress among doctors, leading to higher burnout and retirement rates and exacerbating the shortage of doctors,” said Robert W. Seligson, CEO of the Physicians Foundation.

Almost 60% of nurses and 20% of doctors now state that they want to quit because of Covid stress. Some doctors have even decided to take early retirement, causing the worst staff shortage in decades.

But instead of deterring medical students, the pandemic has motivated them even more to pursue careers in healthcare.

“”[W]We see health workers go through the toughest parts of their jobs, “said Miriam Cepeda, a medical student at Columbia University.” But at the same time, I think this pandemic has shown me and my peers before medical peers how effective our work will be. “

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At Tulane University Medical School in New Orleans, applications for admission to Class 2025 increased more than 35% compared to the same period last year. At Boston University School of Medicine, they’re up 26%. At Saint Louis University Medical School, admissions officers have seen applications increase by 27%.

Dr. Rafael Rivera Jr., assistant dean of admissions at NYU’s Grossman School of Medicine, said another factor driving the surge in applications was the job market during the pandemic.

“When there is a time of uncertainty, particularly economic uncertainty among those concerned about the likelihood of getting a job, applications for medical schools tend to increase. People realize that we are no matter what Happening around Always Needing Doctors, Nurses, and other health professionals need to look after our wellbeing – and that adds to a sense of job security that many consider desirable, “said Dr. Rivera Jr.

And the application process for medical schools has become more affordable because of the pandemic. Medical schools have switched to virtual interviews, which has reduced travel costs for medical school applicants. Some schools have also waived MCAT requirements and extended the application deadlines for the admissions process.

To accommodate the surge in applications, NYU Grossman School of Medicine is developing an artificial intelligence algorithm that replicates faculty decisions to validate applications.

“It gives those decisions back in the blink of an eye, scales to accommodate an increase in applications, and reduces the impact of individual human bias,” said Dr. Rivera Jr. “It also gives applicants more timely decisions and ensures we can give them a thorough review of anyone who fills out an application for our school.”

“It’s no surprise that the pandemic has hit minority communities the hardest as they are under-represented in terms of access to health care and political support,” said Violeta Osegueda, a fourth-year medical student at the University of California at Irvine. “During the service I was on, there were almost 30 patients [had] Acute respiratory distress syndrome as a result of Covid-19 pneumonia; Most of them were Latinos. “

Violeta Osegueda is a medical student at the University of California’s Irvine School of Medicine. She co-founded a website called to target Covid in the Latino community, especially hesitation about vaccines.

Source: Violeta Osegueda

“The pandemic pushed me into the medical field because there continues to be a massive gap in access to medical care,” added Azan Virji, a sophomore at Harvard University. “Marginalized groups still have less access to correct medical information, tests, and vaccines – something I can hopefully work on as a doctor.”

“The pandemic has highlighted the health disparities faced by color communities and taught me that it’s not just about saving lives, it’s also about improving the quality of life for our patients by addressing the factors and barriers that Have an impact on their health, “said Chika Okeke, a freshman medical student at the University of California’s Irvine School of Medicine.

Medical schools are also seeing a more diverse pool of applicants than ever before. The AAMC reported in October 2020 that black and Latin American people applied to U.S. medical schools in greater numbers compared to the same period last year, in some cases with double-digit year-over-year increases.

At NYU Grossman School of Medicine, applications from underrepresented minority applicants has more than doubled since 2018 when the medical school announced its scholarship-free scholarship program.

Some medical students are already working on solutions to eliminate racial differences in healthcare before they even graduate.

Axana Rodriguez-Torres and Violeta Osegueda, both students at the University of California’s Irvine School of Medicine, have teamed up to create a website called that will provide medical resources in Spanish. They focused on addressing Covid in the Latino community, especially vaccine hesitation.

“There has been a historical lack of access to health care for these communities, which has resulted in sick communities, most of which are undiagnosed, untreated, or under-treated. The pandemic has made these circumstances much clearer and made it clear that these communities are our immediate Need attention and support, “said Rodriguez Torres, who is also part of the medical education program for the Latino community at UCI.

Axana Rodriguez-Torres is a medical student at the University of California’s Irvine School of Medicine. She co-founded a website called to target Covid in the Latino community, especially hesitation about vaccines.

Source: Axana Rodriguez-Torres

Many medical students share the view that diversity is paramount to the future of the medical field.

“As the US patient population becomes more diverse, the medical community must follow suit so that our patients are cared for by people who look like them, understand their culture and can speak to them in their native language,” said Virji.

And while the past year has shown how physically and emotionally demanding work in health care can be, many doctors say it is incredibly rewarding, too.

“Medical students can look forward to entering what I believe to be the noblest of professions,” said Dr. Rivera Jr. “Caring for patients and conducting scientific research to identify tomorrow’s cures are among the most personally fulfilling tasks of life.”

CNBC’s “College Voices” is a series of CNBC interns from universities across the country about growing up, getting their college education and starting their careers in these extraordinary times. Colette Ngo is a senior at Chapman University who studied broadcast journalism and business administration. The series is edited by Cindy Perman.

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