Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease official, will step down from heading the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in December, he said in a statement released on Aug. 22. Fauci (81) said that he will also be leaving his position as Chief Medical Advisor to President Joe Biden.
But Fauci, who has served as NIAID director since 1984—under seven presidents—said 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.
Fauci was first known for his efforts in combating HIV/AIDS. He has turned down several offers to head the National Institutes of Health (NIH), explaining each time his desire to remain at NIAID—which is part of the NIH—until he felt more progress had been made in conquering HIV/AIDS. HIV was once a fatal disease and has become a chronic condition thanks to the collaboration he had with AIDS activists. He also helped chart new routes for anti-HIV drug approval and testing. Fauci was also instrumental in ensuring that HIV therapies reached underserved parts of the world that needed the drugs most by contributing to the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) under President George Bush.
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His drug routes for HIV were a major contributor to the rapid development of antiviral treatments and COVID-19 vaccines during the epidemic. Fauci’s work has been met with political resentment. President Donald Trump—who actively undermined the scientific process, attacked Fauci’s expertise and character, and flirted with firing him at the behest of his supporters—made him a target within months of the pandemic starting in 2020. Fauci, along with his family, has been subject to death threats and has had to rely on personal security. Fauci persisted, stating that he had never considered quitting his position as COVID-19 advisor for the government. For a public-facing infectious disease expert who’s devoted his life to public health, “if there is one challenge in your life you cannot walk away from, it is that most impactful pandemic in the last 102 years,” he told TIME in 2021.
In a statement, Biden highlighted Fauci’s dedication and breadth of knowledge of infectious diseases. “I’ve been able to call him at any hour of the day for his advice as we’ve tackled this once-in-a-generation pandemic,” Biden said. “The United States of America is stronger, more resilient, and healthier because of him.”
Fauci didn’t specify how he would continue his work in public health, but said he’s focused on the nation’s future. “I want to use what I have learned as NIAID Director to continue to advance science and public health and to inspire and mentor the next generation of scientific leaders as they help prepare the world to face future infectious disease threats,” he said.
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