Dr. Anthony Fauci ends 50 years in government marked by AIDS, COVID-19 crises

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, testifies before a Senate committee hearing on the National Immunization Program's preparedness for future public health challenges on Capitol Hill in 2001. Photo by Roger L. Wollenberg/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 29 (UPI) -- Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical adviser to the president, officially retires from the role in December, weeks ahead of his 82nd birthday and capping a five-decade career in public service.

Fauci held his final news conference from the White House a week ago, in front of reporters and members of the public that have gotten to know him while delivering updates during the COVID-19 pandemic.


"What I would like people to remember about what I've done is that every day for all of those years, I've given it everything that I have and I've never left anything on the field," Fauci said.

"If they want to remember me, whether they judge rightly or wrongly what I've done, I gave it all I got for many decades."

He also urged Americans to get COVID-19 booster shots.


Fauci officially leaves office in December, after a five-decade career in public health, serving as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He led the agency's response to AIDS, Ebola, swine flu, Zika and West Nile viruses and anthrax attacks over the years.

Fauci was born Dec. 24, 1940, in Brooklyn, N.Y. The youngest of two siblings, Fauci graduated first in his class from Cornell Medical School in 1966. He then began his career in public service as a physician, joining the National Institutes of Health in 1968.

He has published over 1,100 papers over his career. His first, on celiac disease, came in 1965.

He acted as an adviser to a total of seven presidents, beginning with Ronald Reagan.

During the Reagan administration, then Vice President George H.W. Bush publicly called a mostlyunknown Fauci a "hero."

Former President George W. Bush awarded Fauci the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2008 for his work in fighting AIDS.

In August, President Joe Biden hailed Fauci as a national hero.

"I came to know him as a dedicated public servant, and a steady hand with wisdom and insight," Biden said.


Just a few months before that, in June, the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., named its science complex after Fauci, an alumnus of its class of 1962.

Before he shot to fame, with his photo and video clips splashed across nightly newscasts, Fauci inspired the main character in author Sally Quinn's 1991 bestselling romance novel Happy Endings.

"I had not met him before. I knew who he was, because he was the famous AIDS doctor," she told CNN in a 2020 interview.

"We just sort of immediately got into a very intense conversation, and I just found him riveting, and unbelievably attractive, and charismatic. I thought he was brilliant. I thought he was really sexy."

But things didn't always go as smoothly when the public spotlight quickly shifted to Fauci as the COVID-19 pandemic set in across the United States.

As an adviser to former President Donald Trump, Fauci faced great criticism and even threats from Trump and some of his supporters, like former White House adviser Steve Bannon.

The criticism extended beyond the realm of politics. Fauci, his wife of nearly 40 years, Christine Grady, and their three daughters faced death threats at times. Grady works as the head of the Department of Bioethics at the NIH and met Fauci while the two worked together treating a patient.


Thomas Connally, 56, was sentenced to 37 months in prison for saying in an email that Fauci and his family would be "dragged into the street, beaten to death and set on fire."

Fauci, who often clashed with Trump, said last year that it felt "liberating" having Biden in the White House.

"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," Fauci said in August, when he announced he would step down.

Looking back at his time under Trump, Fauci said he "developed an interesting relationship" with the former president.

"Two guys from New York, different in their opinions and their ideology, but still, two guys who grew up in the same environments of this city. I think that we are related to each other in that regard," Fauci said in July.

Despite the difficulty, often magnified by the public spotlight and even calls to resign, Fauci persevered.

"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," he said earlier this month.

"When you're dealing with an outbreak involving the country and the world, you generally think of the country as your patient. And when things get tough, you don't walk away from it."


It's the same mentality he had in the 1980s, battling the newly emerged HIV, when it was being ignored politically.

"Indeed, politics did step in the way of science back in the 1980s, but it was a different kind of politics," Fauci said during a 2020 interview.

Looking back, he said he's most proud of how health officials were able to respond to COVID-19.

"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 earlier this month.

"We will never be able to prevent the emergence of a new infection. What you can do is prevent that emergence from becoming a pandemic."

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