Last evening CSPAN carried a one-hour interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease for the last 30 years. Tonight I wish to post my summary of this excellent interview with Dr. Fauci:
Dr. Fauci was educated by Jesuits at Regis High School and Holy Cross University. From the Jesuits he learned to be intellectual, disciplined in mind and body, and to perform public service.
In 1981 he noted in the 6/5/81 CDC MMWR that 5 gay men in Los Angeles had developed PCP. One month later he noted in the 7/4/81 CDC MMWR that 20 gay men in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York City had developed PCP and Kaposi’s Sarcoma. He intuited that there was an unknown infectious disease affecting gay men and turned his attention to this unknown disease.
Dr. Fauci believes that medicine is a ‘calling’ so that physicians should always be respectful of patients and listen to the patient. In turn, patients should be open with their physicians.
His research and leadership at his institute has extended the median life expectancy for HIV infected patients from 8 months in 1991 to 50 years in 2014 (with retroviral ‘cocktails’).
SARS and Bird Influenza ‘went away’ because these viruses never adapted themselves to humans to allow human to human transmission. His great worry is of a pandemic influenza that does adapt to human cells so the virus becomes highly transmissible as well as highly pathogenic.
This year’s flu vaccine is not optimal because the H3N2 strain selected for the vaccine last February ‘drifted’ one month later while the vaccine was being produced.
One of his toughest decisions was to involve gay activists in CDC deliberations and discussions about HIV and AIDS. This was against the wishes of many of his institute’s staff. But it was a decision that paid off very well. Drugs were developed and tested and administered to HIV and AIDS patients much sooner than would have been possible if left to the CDC and FDA alone. (See Mukherjee’s ‘The Emperor of All Maladies’ for a detailed discussion of AIDS activism)
Dr. Fauci has great success as a speaker and with politicians because he follows these rules: be consistent; be honest; tell the truth based on scientific evidence (even if people don’t want to hear what you have to say); say when you don’t have the answers to their questions; try to speak so people understand what you say instead of ‘razzle-dazzle’ them.
Dr. Fauci has won 38 honorary degrees to date. He has turned down directorship of the NIH from 3 Presidents. He is the real deal.