WASHINGTON, D.C. — Dr. Anthony Fauci became a household name during the pandemic, with many turning to him for lifesaving guidance and others criticizing him for his role in our handling of COVID-19.
But the last two years are just a snapshot of a career that has spanned more than five decades at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Next month, Dr. Fauci is retiring from the federal government after more than a half of a century of leading the way in our fight against infectious diseases like HIV, AIDS, Ebola and COVID-19.
“I came in the summer, the early summer of 1968 as a fellow following my medical residency training in New York City to do a fellowship,” said Dr. Fauci.
Dr. Fauci stayed ever since, serving as Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) for the last 38 years.
He served under seven U.S. presidents and most recently worked as President Biden’s Chief Medical Advisor.
Among his most notable achievements, Dr. Fauci helped lead the fight against HIV and AIDS.
Scientists estimate that work helped save tens of millions of lives.
“I have studied over the past 41 years the pathogenic mechanisms of the virus. So, how the virus destroys the body’s immune system, which has been part, not completely, but part of the gateway to learning how to treat and prevent this disease,” said Dr. Fauci. “We helped develop the entire constellation of drugs, when put into combinations, have completely transformed the lives of persons with HIV, again saving ultimately millions of lives.”
In 2020, many looked to Dr. Fauci as a steady hand guiding the country through the pandemic.
“You literally saved millions of folks,” said Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) during an April 2022 Congressional hearing. “I want to thank you so, very, very much.”
But he also faced sharp criticism from former President Trump and some Republicans in Congress.
“Do you really think it’s appropriate to use your $420k salary to attack scientists who disagree with you?” asked Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) during a Jan. 2022 hearing.
“In usual fashion Senator, you are distorting everything about me,” said Fauci in response.
“It seems like there was a line drawn in many ways where people on one side thought of you as a hero. People on the other thought of you as a villain. How did you navigate that dynamic?” Washington Correspondent Samantha Manning asked Dr. Fauci.
“Well, I focused on what my job is as a scientist, as a physician and as a public health official,” said Dr. Fauci. “When the evidence says that hydroxychloroquine doesn’t work and when I say as a matter of fact the evidence shows it doesn’t work, and people insist it does, am I the polarizing cause of this or is the people who are holding on to untruths and lack of evidence the ones that are polarizing? I don’t aim to be polarizing but clearly when you politicize public health situations, then you’re going to get polarization.”
We asked Dr. Fauci about criticism he is facing from some Republicans who accuse him of concealing information about the origins of COVID-19 and who want Congress to investigate his role in the pandemic.
“Well, I welcome that because there’s no, I have never concealed anything or tried to hide anything,” said Dr. Fauci. “What I do is a completely open book. There’s an enormous amount of distortion about what has gone on from the very beginning and my role in that and I’d be more than happy if given the opportunity to explain that.”
Once his chapter at NIH comes to an end next month, Dr. Fauci said his work is not over.
“I’m going to be 82-years-old in a month,” said Dr. Fauci. “I still feel very vigorous and passionate about my work.”
He said he’s hoping to help young people entering the fields of science and medicine.
“What I have to be able to offer them I believe is the benefit of my experience,” said Dr. Fauci. “I particularly would like to have an impact on younger people who are either beginning their careers in medicine, science, and public health.”
We asked Dr. Fauci what he wants his legacy to be in the years ahead.
“I think historians will look at the medical history. Let them judge what I can be remembered by but my own self personally, I just want to be remembered as somebody that gave everything to my job,” said Dr. Fauci.
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