Fauci to step down after decades as top US infection expert – thereporteronline

Lauren Nirgaard and Zeke Miller

WASHINGTON (AP) — Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert who became a household name — and the target of partisan attacks — during the COVID-19 pandemic, announced Monday that he will leave the federal government in December after more than five decades .

Fauci directs the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is the chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, and runs a laboratory that studies the immune system.

While the COVID-19 pandemic introduced him to millions of Americans, he spoke directly to the nation about multiple disease outbreaks, including HIV/AIDS, SARS, pandemic influenza, Ebola, and the 2001 anthrax attacks.

“I have been going to this campus, to the lab and to the hospital every day, including most weekends, for 54 years. The idea of ​​walking away from that is obviously bittersweet,” Fauci told The Associated Press.

Announcing his retirement, Fauci, 81, called his roles “the pride of his life” but said it was time to “move on to the next chapter of his career.”

Known for his candor and ability to translate complex medical information into everyday language, Fauci was a key adviser to seven presidents, beginning with Ronald Reagan.

Fauci became the face of the government’s response to COVID-19 in early 2020, appearing frequently on television news and in daily press conferences with White House officials, including then-President Donald Trump. But as the pandemic deepened, Fauci fell out of favor with Trump as his calls for continued public caution clashed with the former president’s desire to return to normal life and his promotion of unproven treatments for the virus.

Fauci has been marginalized by the Trump administration, but he has continued to speak publicly in media interviews, advocating social distancing and masks in public before the spread of COVID-19 vaccines.

He was also the target of political attacks and death threats and was given a guard post for his protection.

When Biden won the White House, he asked Fauci to remain in his administration in an elevated position.

“I could call him at any hour of the day and get advice,” Biden said in a statement. “Whether you met him in person or not, he touched the lives of all Americans through his work. I express my deepest gratitude for his public service. The United States of America is stronger, more resilient, and healthier because of him.”

Fauci said he plans to continue working after leaving government, saying he wants to use his experience “to hopefully inspire a younger generation of scientists and future scientists” to consider a career in public service.

For all the fury of the coronavirus pandemic, this was not Fauci’s first run-in with an angry public. He became head of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health in 1984, when the country was in the throes of the AIDS crisis. Activists protested what they saw as government indifference, and Fauci, frustrated by the inability to save dying patients at the NIH hospital, brought them to the table in search of a cure.

Later, under President George W. Bush, Fauci helped develop PEPFAR, the president’s AIDS emergency plan, to provide vital HIV treatments to developing countries. In 2008, Bush awarded Fauci with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Fauci said Monday that he had hoped to have a successful HIV vaccine by the time he retired, but “it was not for lack of trying” to overcome the unusual scientific challenges surrounding the virus.

Fast forward to COVID-19, and Fauci has remained a trusted voice for many Americans, even as scientists have been baffled time and time again by the rapidly evolving new virus. The NIH has laid the scientific foundation for the rapid development of powerful coronavirus vaccines that, while not perfect, are highly effective in preventing serious illness and death.

Fauci told the AP that he remains frustrated by the country’s divisions over how to handle the pandemic.

“If there was ever a situation where you would want a unified approach and everyone coming together for the common good, it would be when you’re in the middle of a public health crisis,” he said. “As a physician and scientist, I and my colleagues have a responsibility to do what is right, what is scientifically sound.”


The Associated Press Department of Health and Science receives support from the Department of Science Education at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. AP is solely responsible for all content.

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