Dr. Anthony Fauci will step down as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and as chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden in December, Fauci announced Monday.
“While I am moving out of my current positions, I am not retiring,” Fauci said in a statement. “After more than 50 years of government service, I intend to pursue the next phase of my career while still having so much energy and passion for my field.”
Fauci, 81, did not specify what this next phase would include. He had previously said he planned to step down from government until the end of Biden’s term in January 2025.
“I want to use what I learned as the director of NIAID to continue advancing science and public health and to inspire and guide the next generation of scientific leaders as they help prepare the world to face future infectious disease threats,” Fauci said Monday. -fair.
Fauci, who began his career at NIAID in 1968, has directed the institute since 1984. He continued in that role under President Donald Trump, but seemed to endure the time with clenched teeth.
Trump’s response to the pandemic during his presidency has included spreading disinformation about the coronavirus and trying to minimize its effects. Fauci was forced to assert that the flu is not as deadly as Covid-19 and that the death toll from the pandemic in the US was not exaggerated.
Days before Election Day 2020, Trump suggested he would consider firing Fauci if he were to be re-elected. One of the former president’s doubts, he said, was that Fauci was wrong about facets of Covid-19.
As the pandemic evolved in the US, so did scientists’ knowledge of the new virus. The researchers found, contrary to their initial belief, that contracting the virus from doorknobs and surfaces was unlikely. Fauci’s advice followed the latest science, but Trump saw it as a display of mistakes — a criticism that could describe the president’s own experience of a pandemic.
Fauci, speaking Monday night on “The Rachel Maddow Show,” suggested that Trump’s culture of doubt has taken a toll on American health as conspiracy theories thrive and even as the scourge of post-war polio, defeated for seven decades by vaccines, it has resurfaced. originated in the state of New York.
“What we’re dealing with now is just a distortion of reality,” he said. “A world where untruths have almost become normalized – I mean, that’s the environment we’re living in.”
He said that unless Americans understand the truth, lies and conspiracy theories will only work to prevent “an adequate response to a public health challenge.”
Fauci said he had faith that America’s benevolent spirit would endure and that the nation would be able to “extract good from the people.”
He told Maddow that he planned to step down at the end of Trump’s term, but that Biden was quick to ask him to stay and be his top medical adviser. He said he believed the work would last a year, but then the pandemic remained.
Now is a good time to plan for his departure, Fauci said, because “some things feel like they’re starting to settle down a little bit.”
He has been Biden’s top medical advisor since January 2021.
In a statement, Biden described Fauci as “a dedicated public servant and a steady hand with wisdom and discernment honed over decades at the forefront of some of our most dangerous and challenging public health crises.”
Fauci has advised seven presidents on HIV/AIDS over four decades and helped lead the US response to many public health crises, including HIV/AIDS, Ebola, Zika and Covid-19.
He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2008 for his role in creating the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. By the end of 2020, the program had saved 20 million lives worldwide by expanding access to HIV care and treatment, according to the State Department.
Biden said one of his first calls as president-elect was asking Fauci to help lead his administration’s Covid-19 response.
“In this role, I was able to call him at any time of day to ask for advice as we dealt with this unique pandemic in a generation,” Biden said. “His commitment to the work is unwavering, and he does it with unparalleled spirit, energy and scientific integrity.”
Fauci said Monday that he plans to put his “total effort, passion and commitment” into his current role in the coming months and will help prepare NIAID for new leadership.
“The 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,” he said.