Over the course of his 30-plus-year career as an infectious disease scientist, Dr. Anthony Fauci has never been one to shy away from the truth. Dating back to the HIV crisis of the 1980s, his track record of telling U.S. presidents and other government leaders the painful truth when it comes to preventing the spread of infectious diseases is a long one.
Dr. Fauci has become the face of the coronavirus pandemic for millions of Americans and those watching around the world. As a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, Dr. Fauci has participated in hundreds of interviews and press conferences over the last few weeks, helping leaders and ordinary citizens make sense of this chaotic situation.
Many have referred to him as “America’s Doctor” as he continues to be the government’s first line of defense against the virus, often correcting and pushing back against those who refuse to listen to the facts. Take a look at Dr. Fauci’s legendary career and how he has changed our healthcare system.
Speaking Truth to Power
Over the weekend, President Trump retweeted a message that contained the hashtag #fireFauci, prompting many in the media to speculate whether the president would fire one of his most respected confidants in the middle of a global pandemic. After serving as a general physician and immunologist, Dr. Fauci is currently the Director of Infectious Diseases at the National Institute of Health, where he’s worked for more than 30 years.
When he first started at the NIH, the world was grappling with the rise of HIV-AIDS. For years, then-president Reagan ignored the ongoing crisis even as it continued to devastate the gay and bisexual community as well as low-income individuals. At the time, many considered AIDS to be punishment for those who engaged in immoral behavior – i.e. intercourse between two men. However, Dr. Fauci was focused on the facts. He eventually convinced the Reagan administration to take the AIDS crisis seriously. At one point, he sat Reagan down and told him that the disease can pass just as easily between heterosexual partners as it could homosexuals, prompting more aggressive action from the White House.
Instead of pitting groups against each other or getting caught up in politics, Dr. Fauci has always put science first when responding to new outbreaks and diseases. He has helped researchers refocus their efforts on certain populations to learn more about developing health crises. For example, he was adamant about testing gay and bisexual men during the AIDS crisis when other providers were turning them away.
Constant and Persistent Warnings
As the years went on, Dr. Fauci became increasingly concerned that the U.S. would soon be exposed to a global pandemic. Having served under six U.S. presidents, Dr. Fauci has tried to convince practically every administration to prepare for an eventual outbreak. After studying viral outbreaks for years, he believed a virus could mutate into something that could spread quickly in close contact, potentially bringing the world to a grinding halt.
During the 2006 bird flu and the ebola outbreak of 2016, Dr. Fauci joined other scientists to deliver a harsh warning to the government, saying another global pandemic was all but imminent. At the time, he said, “At some point, we’re going to get the big one. We’re going to get a virus loose in the world that cannot be contained.”
But year after year, presidents refused to heed the call, failing to set up emergency containment protocols and other public health programs that could slow the spread of a novel virus.
The Voice of Reason Amid Growing Uncertainty
After years of sounding the alarm, the U.S. has finally met its match with the coronavirus. Just as Dr. Fauci predicted, we are dealing with a virus that spreads quickly in close settings, forcing leaders to put the national economy on ice.
As the White House scrambles to respond to the outbreak, Dr. Fauci has emerged as the public face of the virus response. He regularly appears next to President Trump at the White House Task Force press briefings, answering questions and pushing back on false facts and misinformation. He has repeatedly warned against the pervasive use of the drug known as chloroquine as a possible treatment for COVID-19, even though the president has hailed it as a potential “game-changer.” He has also fought back against the idea of reopening the country’s economy too soon, warning it could lead to another wave of coronavirus patients.
Dr. Fauci has become one of our most visible public servants over the last few weeks, bringing his long-esteemed career to new heights. While some government officials may be inexperienced when it comes to containing global pandemics, Dr. Fauci is here to make sure we stay on course.