President and CEO's Blog

By Daniel Gentry, PhD, MHA posted 11-22-2021 10:14

The Fauci Effect Is Real. And So Is The “Calling” That’s Driving It.

Over the past 22 months, we’ve seen an interesting dichotomy unfold in healthcare. On the one hand, there’s an exodus of clinicians and other health professionals who are exhausted and burned out by COVID-19 and its aftermath. Part of the “great retirement” or “great resignation.” Yet on the other end of the spectrum, we’ve seen just the opposite: a huge spike in the numbers of people entering the health professions.

You’ve probably heard of “the Fauci Effect.” It’s a real thing. Google the phrase and you’ll find plenty of articles on medical school admissions offices receiving a surge of applications. In one NPR piece, Geoffrey Young, the AAMC’s senior director for student affairs and programs, was quoted comparing it to the sharp rise in military enrollment that occurred after 9/11.

The Fauci Effect may be even more pronounced in epidemiology and health administration/policy than it is in medicine. The great majority of AUPHA’s graduate programs’ enrollments are up, in some cases by 50 percent or more.

It’s all happening because the pandemic has awakened a deep need in people to make a real difference in the lives of others. This is what AUPHA’s wonderful colleague and my close friend Quint Studer refers to as “the calling”—and it, too, is a real phenomenon. In fact, Quint has a new book out on the subject, titled The Calling: Why Healthcare Is So Special. In it, he writes that those who are drawn to healthcare have a deep, inborn desire to be useful and helpful. He says we enter healthcare with a full emotional bank account. The tough part is keeping our sense of passion and purpose high throughout the ups and downs of our careers and life journeys.

Since we know healthcare people are at risk for stress and burnout, we need to get intentional about prevention. Quint’s book could be a good training manual, because it identifies what creates the challenges and potential exhaustion, and how to treat them. First, he zeroes in on the barriers that hold healthcare people back. Some are normal psychological and emotional defenses; others are organizational challenges. Then, he lays out some “replenishers”: those mind shifts, tools, techniques, and best practices that help people keep the calling alive.

“Replenishment” will be the theme of Quint’s keynote talk at our AUPHA Academic Program and Practitioner Workshop (APPW) during the 2022 ACHE Congress on Healthcare Leadership in late March in Chicago. His keynote will be followed by a panel of two academics, a practitioner, and a student; and lastly, we’ll have an interactive, hands-on session focused on strategies and techniques for achieving Joy in Work, co-facilitated by by a leading practitioner.

I believe this sense of calling must become a focal point for health administration and policy education. Certainly, we must equip students - those just entering the field and those returning to continue their education - with the tools to stay replenished as they complete their rigorous studies. But that’s only the beginning; we must also infuse the subject of “the calling” into our curricula. We must deeply engrain it into those we teach, train, develop, and mentor; all of us who are nurturing future generations of healthcare managers and leaders. Our graduates and early careerists are entering an age of uncertainty. We must educate them early on what to expect and how to keep the calling alive regardless of the circumstances.

It’s vital that as our students move into their careers, they know how to leverage this knowledge and apply it in their leadership practices in meaningful ways. They must know how to keep the doctors and nurses, managers, and other team members in their organizations engaged and replenished as they navigate what will surely be a challenging future This focus on keeping people connected to the passion and purpose that drive them must be baked into everything tomorrow’s leaders do—from how they structure their organizations to how they engage and retain great employees to how they train and develop their current and future leaders.

The Fauci Effect is giving our educational field a nice “bump’ in visibility for recruitment and commitment. It’s happening because the sense of “calling” that’s fueling it is a real - and very powerful - pull. It’s up to us to help the best and the brightest among our students, graduates, alumni, and fellow faculty and staff, to keep the calling, the passion for healthcare, burning bright throughout their and our lifelong journeys.

I wish you all a successful conclusion to the Fall 2021 semester; a “replenishing” winter break; and, happy and healthy holidays.

1 comment



11-22-2021 15:25

Thank you, Dan, for this information, your insightful observations, and the reminder that providing healthcare services can and rightly should be considered a "calling."  Doing so makes a tremendous difference for everyone involved.