Dr. Fauci has been getting a bad rap lately. His critics claim that he funded the creation of the COVID-19 virus and profited from it. That he conspired with the pharmaceutical industry to discourage the acceptance of cheap effective drugs such as hydroxychloroquine. That he promoted the COVID-19 vaccines which have harmed and killed people. That he pushed for masks, social distancing, lockdowns, and other ineffective measures which caused unnecessary pain. And that while he did this he lied about his true motivations. His critics also point out that Fauci’s support of certain ideas and treatments and his cozying up to the pharma industry also led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands during the AIDS epidemic. To sum it up, they claim he is an evil man who lies constantly and is responsible for untold deaths and suffering from which he profited, and that he belongs in jail.
Considering the rapidly evolving nature of the COVID-19 pandemic and the science (and nonscience) behind it, I consider that Dr. Fauci in general did a good job of informing us about the latest developments and measures to stop the spread of COVID-19. And while I also think he made some mistakes (some of which he has acknowledged), I have often defended him in my blog against all the nonsense that people write about him out of either malice, ignorance, or design, including unfounded conspiracy theories and baseless claims. For example, the COVID-19 vaccines and the mitigation measures against the virus saved millions of lives, and hydroxychloroquine does not work against COVID-19. These are solid facts. Fauci’s support of vaccines and mitigation measures as well as his opposition to hydroxychloroquine were grounded in science, evidence, and reason.
But I realize that quite a number of people do not know who Anthony Fauci is. In fact, many think he is an uncaring bureaucrat with no specific accomplishments under his belt. In this post I will endeavor to set the record straight.
As a researcher, Dr. Fauci developed successful therapies against the fatal diseases polyarteritis nodosa, granulomatosis with polyangiitis (formerly Wegener's granulomatosis), and lymphomatoid granulomatosis. And in the field of AIDS he made seminal contributions to the understanding of how the disease works and the developing of treatments. By 2022 Fauci was the 44th most cited researcher in the world. In the field of immunology, he was ranked 9th out of 3.3 million authors, in the field of research and experimental medicine he was 22nd out of 3.3 million authors, and in the field of general and internal medicine he was ranked 715th out of 1.4 million authors. Dr. Fauci’s work has clearly captured the attention of his peers who often cite his work. In science this is one of the most common measures of success. Dr. Fauci also has won many prestigious awards such as the National Medal of Science, the Lasker Award for Public Service, and the Robert Koch Gold Medal, and he has more than 50 honorary doctoral degrees.
Dr. Fauci has been the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) since 1984, and he has advised seven presidents beginning with Ronald Reagan on matters of public health including working on the federal response to AIDS, Ebola, the Zika virus, Anthrax, and COVID-19. And while Dr. Fauci’s research contribution are important, some of his greatest contributions have taken place at the managerial level. For example, Dr. Fauci was the chief architect of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) launched in 2003. This program, which provided treatment for people with HIV, prevented new infections, and made possible epidemic control, saved more than 20 million lives. For this accomplishment, President George W. Bush presented Dr. Fauci with the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
But the accomplishment that best describes the type of person Dr. Fauci is, is that which involved the notorious firebrand AIDS activist Larry Kramer. Kramer criticized Dr. Fauci for moving too slowly in finding a treatment for AIDS, and said he was evil and represented a callous government. Kramer called Fauci a pill-pushing tool of the medical establishment, an incompetent idiot, a disgrace, and a murderer who should be put in front of a firing squad. Kramer compared him to a Nazi and even insulted Fauci’s wife. So what did Dr. Fauci do? He talked to Kramer and other AIDS activists, he listened to their concerns and ideas, he realized they had a point, and he pushed for changes in the way clinical trials were conducted, thus expanding access to experimental medicines, speeding up the process, making it more flexible, and giving patients a greater voice. He reached out to those who insulted him and worked with them to change medicine for the better and make history. Eventually, Dr. Fauci and Kramer became good friends. Fauci helped Kramer get medical treatment for his health problems, and Kramer made Fauci a character in one of his award winning plays.
This is the man Dr. Fauci is. He is not some cold-hearted bureaucrat. He genuinely cares about people and patients, and those who know him can testify to his empathy for others. On top of this, as I’ve mentioned above, Dr, Fauci is among the best scientists in the world in terms of his research. And finally, Dr. Fauci has achieved what the majority of scientists only dream of. His research and managerial skills have had a real-life impact on the world in terms of saving or improving the lives of tens of millions of people.
All of the above is why I will not put up with anyone slandering Dr. Fauci. Sure, we can discuss all you want specific mistakes he has made, and what he could have done better, but he must be treated with the respect he deserves.
The image of Dr. Fauci by NIAID is used here under an Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license.