Educators notice the 'Fauci effect' in students amid coronavirus pandemic

Originally published by ABC Portland - February 1, 2021

As the country continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic, some Oregon schools are noticing more students are interested in going into the medical field. It's a trend also known as the "Fauci effect."

"Kids are like, 'I want to go make change. I want to go help the kids in that community. I want to work with pediatrics. I want to work with older people and help them in those communities.'," said Juanita Payton, a health and sciences instructor at Destinations Career Academy (DCA) Oregon.

Some students are taking what has happened in the last year and using it to propel them into the future.

"They don't want anybody to have to live through the kinds of things that we've had to live through during this pandemic. They want to figure out how to hit it off in the beginning so that we don't have this situation where everyone is in lockdown, businesses are closing, and those kinds of things," Payton said.

While the Fauci effect is leading to more people applying to medical and nursing schools, in Oregon, it's impacting high school students as well.  

DCA Oregon is a high school homeschooling program with students from across the state. Payton said in the last year, the number of students in her nursing classes have doubled.

"There were a lot of girls, who thought, 'Oh, I am going to be a nurse.' Now, they're like, 'What kind of nurse do I want to be? What kind of doctor do I want to be?'," Payton said.

Payton said part of the growing interest is feeling a personal connection to the cause and wanting to be part of the solution.

"They used to just be like, oh I want to be a kid and do this thing. Now, they really are future-focused. They are focused on how they are going to affect their world, how they are going to fit into their world. I think that is a huge thing," Payton said.

OHSU said it's too early to count the number of applications they're getting for the upcoming year, though, they've also noticed a growing interest.

With the pandemic and the constant exposure to the medical field through social media and television, more students have realized the wide range of career paths in the medical field.

Educators said for a long time, there was a notion that working in health meant being a doctor or a nurse. Now, more students and young people are learning about other opportunities like web design, engineering, public relations, and more. 

The school said it's thrilled to see more people want to join the health field because it's important to have a diverse group working with patients.

"Perhaps an artistic background. We need people who are all kinds of thinkers and doers. You may not be somebody who wants to be directly in patient care. There are many, many other opportunities in health and science for what you may bring," said Susan Shugerman, assistant vice-provost, OHSU education and community outreach.

Shugerman said, a person's health outcomes improve when they are cared for by a person who is like them.

"We have such a diverse state. It's important for OHSU and other training institutions to welcome very diverse student body, so that we can train people who can really support our growing demographic," Shugerman said.

To learn more about Destinations Career Academy of Oregon visit,

KEYWORDS: Destinations Career Academy of Oregon, Oregon

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