Dr. Anthony Fauci talks family, career and what’s next
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Dr. Anthony Fauci may be stepping down from his role as chief medical advisor to the president in December, but the immunologist says he’s “not even close” to completely retiring.
“I don’t know precisely what I’m going to do because I really can’t negotiate a post-government job while I’m in government,” he said. “My broad general theme, even though I don’t know the venue in which it’s going to happen, would be to continue to stay in the arena of science, medicine and public health.”
Fauci has served under seven different presidents, covering health crises from Ebola to the AIDS epidemic. Over the course of his five-decade career, the physician has faced both criticism and accolades from officials and the public.
He said that he “never ever wanted to hurt anybody, including President Trump,” who made several comments about Fauci during the height of the COVID pandemic. Fauci’s response to the virus, he said, led him to become “the boogeyman of the far right.”
“We are living now in an era, I believe, where there is so much distortion of reality, conspiracy theory and untruths,” he said.
The physician has even received death threats for his work, but says he doesn’t focus on them.
“The hate and the people who want to kill me is not real,” he said. “It’s unrealistic.”
Despite the backlash, he says he stayed in the position for all this time because “it was clear that if we walked away from telling the truth in an environment of untruths, then there would be nobody there telling the truth.”
“When you’re dealing with an outbreak involving the country and the world, you generally think of the country as your patient,” he said. “And when things get tough, you don’t walk away from it.”
He reflected on the work of his career, and what the nation has learned over the years, noting that the response to AIDS informed the country on the COVID-19 vaccine development.
“We made major investments in science for decades prior to COVID, and within 11 months [to] have a vaccine that went through massive clinical trials, that is beyond unprecedented,” he said. “We will never be able to prevent the emergency of a new infection. What you can do is prevent that emergence from becoming a pandemic.”
He’s lead the National Institutes of Health for about as long as he’s been married to world renown bioethicist and nurse Dr. Christine Grady. He got emotional talking about his wife and said he couldn’t have done his job without her.
“She’s just solid,” he said. “She was working 18 hours a day by working, raising three children, getting a PhD and doing a job that’s an important job.”
Last weekend, Fauci was honored with the lifetime achievement award at the ninth annual Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Awards.
“I gave it everything I had,” he said when reflecting on his life and career. “I didn’t leave anything on the field.”