1 of 4 | Dr. Anthony Fauci began at the National Institutes of Health in 1968, became head of the Laboratory of Clinical Investigation's Clinical Physiology Section in 1974 and became NIAID head in 1984. He's been in the position ever since. File Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI | License Photo
Aug. 22 (UPI) -- Dr. Anthony Fauci, the United States' top infectious diseases expert who rose to national and international prominence in 2020 after COVID-19 arrived, said on Monday that he will leave federal service in December.
As a respected diseases expert and head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, it fell on Fauci to assume a leading role at the start of the coronavirus crisis. He was an adviser to former President Donald Trump and is President Joe Biden's chief medical adviser.
While he's respected in virtually all scientific circles, Fauci faced great criticism and even threats from Trump and some of his supporters, such as former White House adviser Steve Bannon. Fauci, who sometimes clashed with Trump, said in early 2021 that it felt "liberating" having Biden in the White House.
Fauci said on Monday that he's leaving his federal office to pursue the "next chapter" of his life.
"It has been the honor of a lifetime to have led the NIAID ... for so many years and through so many scientific and public health challenges," he said in a statement.
"I have had the enormous privilege of serving under and advising seven presidents of the United States, beginning with President Ronald Reagan, on newly emerging and re-emerging infectious disease threats including HIV/AIDS, West Nile virus, the anthrax attacks, pandemic influenza, various bird influenza threats, Ebola and Zika, among others, and, of course, most recently the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I am particularly proud to have served as the chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden since the very first day of his administration."
Biden hailed Fauci on Monday as an American hero.
"I came to know him as a dedicated public servant, and a steady hand with wisdom and insight," the president said in a statement.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, pictured here in 2001, has served under seven presidents -- Joe Biden, Donald Trump, Barack Obama
, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton
, George H.W. Bush
and Ronald Reagan. File Photo by Roger L. Wollenberg/UPI
"When it came time to build a team to lead our COVID-19 response -- in fact, in one of my first calls as President-elect -- I immediately asked Dr. Fauci to extend his service as my chief medical advisor to deal with the COVID-19 crisis our nation faced."
Fauci admitted to past mistakes by not recommending masks initially during the COVID-19 pandemic and not recognizing asymptomatic patients as prime spreaders of the virus.
He's said that he may write a book in the future, or possibly teach, or both.
Although he's 81, Fauci emphasized in his announcement that he is not retiring.
"I plan to pursue the next phase of my career while I still have so much energy and passion for my field," he said. "I want to use what I have learned ... to continue to advance science and public health and to inspire and mentor the next generation of scientific leaders.
"NIH is served by some of the most talented scientists in the world, and I have no doubt that I am leaving this work in very capable hands.
"Thanks to the power of science and investments in research and innovation, the world has been able to fight deadly diseases and help save lives around the globe. I am proud to have been part of this important work and look forward to helping to continue to do so in the future."
Biden noted that Fauci was partly responsible for saving countless lives over his five decades of federal service. He began at the National Institutes of Health in 1968, became head of the Laboratory of Clinical Investigation's Clinical Physiology Section in 1974 and became NIAID head in 1984. He's been in the position ever since.
Fauci has also become part of pop culture, as he was portrayed by actor Brad Pitt on Saturday Night Live in 2020.
"Whether you've met him personally or not, he has touched all Americans' lives with his work. I extend my deepest thanks for his public service," the president said.
"The United States of America is stronger, more resilient, and healthier because of him.