One-On-One With Dr. Fauci

I have written several articles on Dr. Fauci. A list of the links have been provided at the bottom of this article for your convenience. This article will, however address different aspects on Dr. Fauci’s career. Links for Dr. Fauci are also provided.

National Geographic just published an in depth interview with Dr. Fauci. While I think he is a charlatan and a blowhard and a swamp creature, and these are just his good points, everybody deserves the right to defend themselves. So I have dedicated this posting to this one-on-one expose. I have included it in its entirety below, so you can make up your own mind.

One-on-one with Dr. Fauci: ‘Expect the unexpected’

National Geographic interviewed Anthony Fauci about his personal history, his career, and his role in health crises from HIV/AIDS to COVID-19.

Excerpts from Fauci—Expect the Unexpected: Ten Lessons on Truth, Service, and the Way Forward. The National Geographic book was drawn from interviews for the documentary film Fauci; proceeds from the book benefit conservation.

I was born on Christmas Eve, 1940. As my father tells the tale … the obstetrician who was taking my mother through her pregnancy happened to have been at a black-tie cocktail party. And when my mother went into labor, apparently it was pretty quick. My father brought her to Brooklyn Hospital, and he remembers the doctor walking in with a tux on. He had to get into the delivery room very quickly, so he just washed his hands and put the scrubs over the tux … We always joked about it at home: Just how much had he had to drink before he actually came in to deliver me?

***

Anthony Fauci was almost five years old in 1945 when the United States detonated atomic bombs over the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, unleashing catastrophic damage and spurring Japan’s surrender to the Allies.

That moment when I saw my mother reading the New York Daily News with the big picture on the front page of the devastation in Hiroshima was a memorable moment for me. I had played war games as a child, where the good guys were the GIs and the bad guys were the Japanese, and when I saw the destruction in Japan, I thought, Wow, hey, that’s great. 

But I saw in my mother something that puzzled me at first … Many decades later I still remember that scene in the living room in our apartment in Brooklyn. I can picture my mother sitting on the couch looking at the paper and me looking over her knee. She was really sad. That was a defining moment, understanding that you can feel empathy toward people who are very different from you—even people who might officially be the enemy. 

Picture of family with two children sitting on lawn chairs.
A 1940s photo shows young Anthony Fauci with his parents, Eugenia and Stephen, and his sister, Denise.PHOTOGRAPH FROM ANTHONY S. FAUCI ARCHIVE

***

We lived above my father’s pharmacy. I would deliver prescriptions on my bicycle around the neighborhood, and my sister would help out behind the counter. I had a Schwinn bicycle with a basket up in front, and I used to do it for tips. You would zip around the neighborhood, park your bike, knock on the door, deliver, and they would give you a 25-cent tip. That was a big tip!

You’d meet different people, and I got an appreciation of what illness was—you knew they were ill from the way they looked. That was my first introduction to illness and medicine. And helping out in the store, I got a better perspective of the family unit because we all worked together.

The documentary film Fauci explores the life and career of America’s top infectious disease expert. From National Geographic Documentary Films, it begins streaming on Disney+ October 6.

***

Fauci spent his early childhood in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn, New York, in a neighborhood he describes as “99.9 percent Italian American.” All four of his grandparents had emigrated from Italy via Ellis Island, then moved from the Lower East Side of Manhattan to raise their families in Brooklyn, where Fauci’s parents met and married. 

In the summer, when the windows were open, the smells were everywhere—mostly tomato sauce and sausages being cooked. And it was just something that becomes part of you. Whenever I happen to smell that now, decades and decades and decades later, it’s an immediate flashback. It puts me right on 79th Street and New Utrecht Avenue, and you just can’t escape it. There was a certain feeling of freedom—fresh air and sunshine and being outdoors on the streets of Brooklyn. It was the safest place in the world to be because all of the storekeepers would be sitting down with their little chairs in front of their shops, watching the kids go by. No one would in their wildest dreams imagine trying to intimidate any of these kids because the entire neighborhood was kind of like a protective squad. We felt perfectly secure all the time. It was an extremely happy childhood.

***

Fauci attended the prestigious Regis High School in Manhattan and went on to Holy Cross, an all-male college in Worcester, Massachusetts. By then, he already knew he was on a pathway to becoming a doctor. 

In college I worked every single summer in construction as what’s called a mason tender, who helps a bricklayer (you carry the cement, you carry the bricks, you clean up). I already knew then I wanted to go to Cornell’s medical school, and it was just by happenstance that I got picked to work on the construction of the Samuel J. Wood Library at the medical school, right on York Avenue and East 69th Street in New York City. One day I decided I would get up the courage to go inside. https://08fd4673f4813c56afd8bcdf268feb5c.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

Picture of book cover with man putting on a face mask.
Available November 2 where books are sold, Fauci—Expect the Unexpected: Ten Lessons on Truth, Service, and the Way F…Read More

When the other construction guys sat down for lunch on the wall, whistling at the nurses going by, I walked up the steps and walked in. I looked into the auditorium, and I remember saying to myself, Wow, this is amazing. All of a sudden, the security guard who’s standing at the door comes over to me, a big guy. He says, “Can I help you, sonny?” Sonny. He called me sonny. 

I say, “Oh, I’m just looking around here.” 

He says, “You got concrete all over your boots. Why don’t you just step outside?” I looked at him, a little bit indignant. I said, “Someday I’m going to be a student in this medical school.”

He looked at me with a straight face and he says, “Yes, sonny. Someday I’m going to be police commissioner of New York City.” 

But a year later I was a student there. 

***

When you’re a physician, it’s just as important to know human nature as it is to know human physiology. The most important thing in the care of a patient is caring for the patient. You’ve really got to care about them as a person, not as a statistic or as somebody that you’re going to bill or somebody that’s one of a number of people. 

***

Let me give you a personal example of the kinds of dramatic evolutions and changes that can occur totally beyond your control and that can profoundly impact the direction of your career and your life. 

In 1968 I finished my medical training in internal medicine at the New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center. That very same year, noted public health scholars … were opining and even testifying before the United States Congress that with the advent of antibiotics, vaccines, and public health measures, the war against infectious diseases had been won, and we should focus our efforts on other areas of research and public health. 

As fate would have it, at that time I was on my way to begin, of all things, a fellowship for training in infectious diseases at the National Institutes of Health. I remember reflecting as I drove from New York City to the NIH in Bethesda, Maryland, with the words of the wise pundits resonating in my mind, that I felt somewhat ambivalent about my career choice, to say the least. Was I entering into a disappearing subspecialty? I sort of felt like I was going to Miami to become a ski instructor. 

Fortunately for my career, but unfortunately and sadly for the world, even surgeons general are not always correct. Indeed, 13 years later, in 1981, the AIDS epidemic had emerged and transformed my professional career, if not my entire life. 

***

You must be prepared at any moment to enter uncharted territory, to expect the unexpected, and where possible, seize the opportunities.

***

Fauci was working as one of the leading researchers on immunology and autoimmune diseases at the National Institutes of Health in 1981 when an unidentified infectious disease came onto his radar. The scientific publication Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reported that five gay men from Los Angeles with no apparent underlying illnesses had developed a very rare pneumonia called Pneumocystis pneumonia.

I was sitting in my little office on the 11th floor of the NIH Clinical Center on a hot summer day, the first week in June, when I saw the report. I had been studying drugs that suppressed the immune system, and we were seeing Pneumocystis cases. So I said, “There’s something strange going on here,” and put it into my desk drawer. 

One month later, on the fifth of July of 1981, another MMWR appears on my desk. This time, 26 men. Amazingly, all gay men. Not only from Los Angeles, but from San Francisco and New York, who not only had Pneumocystis pneumonia but had Kaposi’s sarcoma: a tumor, a cancer seen in people whose immune system is dramatically damaged.

I remember looking at that and going, Oh my God, this is a brand-new infectious disease. I actually got goose bumps. I had no idea what the cause of the infection was, but I did know it destroys the immune system. As a physician/scientist trained in infectious diseases and immunology, if ever there was the disease that was made for me, it’s this.

I made a decision then that I was going to completely change the direction of my research. I had been extremely successful in my career, and my mentors, the people who recruited me here years ago, told me I was crazy. They said, “Why are you throwing away a promising career to go chasing after a disease that’s a fluke?” I decided that I was going to do it anyway. I felt obliged to explain it to the world. 

Unfortunately, it turned out that I was right. It exploded into one of the most extraordinary pandemics in the history of our civilization.

***

Homophobia was clearly pervasive at the outbreak of AIDS. Because I was spending most of my time with sick gay men, I would see homophobia in society—and by association as their physician be on the receiving end of homophobic attacks.

I don’t think I ever had any element of homophobia or even any inkling of that in me. I think it gets back to my parents and their tolerance for other people. Empathy was a big component of my growing up in the family in which I grew up—and again, it was solidified and underscored in the training, in Jesuit training in high school and in college.

I have always felt an empathy towards people who were being treated unfairly, as well as the unfairness of the prejudice against a person whose sexual persuasion is beyond their control. It’s just who they are. The injustice of that dominated my attitude about what homophobia was and is. It made me angry to see people have that attitude. It made me a defender of someone’s right to be who they are.

***

My optimism is that there are going to be bad actors and there are going to be better angels. But I think there are more better angels than bad actors.

***

I’m really not afraid of very many things. But what I’m most concerned about is not getting the opportunity to finish the things that I started decades ago and to add the finishing touches. I would like to see the defining public health challenge of my professional career, HIV, ended as an epidemiological pandemic. Everyone thought … we could cure or eradicate AIDS. And that turned out to be very difficult and could actually be impossible. I don’t think we’re going to eradicate HIV—in fact, I know we’re not—but I think we can almost eliminate it gradually throughout the world. First in countries that have more resources, like the developing countries, but then, ultimately, in sub-Saharan Africa … My fear is that I may not necessarily see that. But I hope I do. And I think I will. 

***

Fauci’s work at the NIH made him uniquely prepared to face the coronavirus pandemic: He had already worked on treatment and prevention efforts for the Zika virus, Ebola, anthrax, pandemic flu, HIV, tuberculosis, and others. But he’s acutely aware of the public’s short memory. We say we learn from experience, but how can we make sure that’s really true?

I think when you get further and further away from a really profoundly defining event, the impact of that just attenuates. In 1918, during the Spanish flu pandemic, my father was eight years old. I’m sure the horror of that year and a half influenced him as he got into his teenage years and his 20s and his 30s. And then it probably got less and less, but he never forgot it.

For those of us like myself who only read about it as a vague story in a history book, it doesn’t have the same impact of being there yourself or being intimately connected with someone who experienced it … 

World War II ended when I was five years old. The people who came back from the war and the experience they had could never be translated to people 40 years later: What do you mean you were in a place where you invaded an island and 10,000 of your friends got killed?  

I don’t think not understanding is a failing. It’s just the way life is. Unless you’re connected with something directly, it doesn’t mean much to you. The COVID-19 epidemic is like nothing we have experienced in the past 102 years. Let us not forget that we were not as prepared as we thought we were or as we should have been. So let’s get to being able to say, “Never again. We’re never going to let this happen again.” What I’m afraid of as we get out of this is that it’s going to be five years from now, 10 years from now, and people are just going to either forget or not care how this outbreak completely gripped the world. They’re going to forget. 

And I say this with a little bit of despair: that we’ve always been aware of health disparities. We’re always aware that African Americans and Hispanics get the short end of the stick when it has to do with diseases. And their disproportionate burden with COVID-19 now is staring us right in the face.  

Let us make a commitment that in the next three or four decades, we’re going to do something about that. Sounds great. But five years from now some other problem is going to come along, and we’re going to forget about COVID-19. 

***

I have worked with seven presidents over the course of 11 terms. I learned from the very beginning, you’re doomed to failure if you are afraid of not getting asked back, if you’re afraid of saying something that’s going to get somebody upset. Nobody wants the president of the United States to be upset with you.  

During the Trump administration, every once in a while, I would say something that they didn’t like, and then I would be off television for a week or so.  But I would always come back. I didn’t want to lose that. I didn’t want to lose the direct messaging to the American public. 

Donald J. Trump and I kind of liked each other. I don’t know … maybe it was the having-New-York-in-common thing … And we developed, as I think both of us have described, an interesting relationship, a good relationship. But more than once, as we would get into the press conferences, I would have to fine-tune something that he said. That seemed to be surprisingly OK until things started to get a little bit more tense. And yet when I would see him two days later in the Oval Office, it was like we were buddies again. I don’t think he had a deliberate, malicious disdain for science. I think he just didn’t think it was important. It’s not even disdain; it’s a disregard …

I felt my job was to do whatever I can to get us out of this outbreak. So, leaving was not an option. The only option I had was to take the chance, right in that venue, to contradict him. I could either keep quiet, which would be violating my own principles, or leave, which would have meant I can’t do any good anymore. I felt the only way I could maintain scientific integrity was to speak up. 

It was clear that my message to the American public was contrary to his message, so he allowed the legions around him to try and undermine my credibility. On the other hand, he had this interesting, complicated relationship with me, and I really don’t think he wanted to hurt me. I think he was torn by the fact that, deep down, he knew that what I was saying was true. He liked me, but what I was saying was unacceptable to him. 

***

One of the things that still completely baffles me is the lack of acceptance by some people in this country that COVID is a problem. There are people who think that this is a hoax, that this is some made-up thing for one reason or another, when the facts are staring us right in the face. That tells me that we have some fundamental lesions in this country that need to be addressed and healed. I know that people who are feeling that way are looking at me and saying I’m the crazy one. But I’m sorry, I have to call you on this. That’s crazy to think that this is not real.

***

I hope that if historians look back at what I’ve done in my life, they see a life of commitment to having a positive impact on society. And I have had some degree of success in doing so. Maybe somebody many, many years from now goes back and reads about this and says, Hey, that guy was pretty good.

Conclusion

I am not sure what to make of this expose, he certainly does have grand sense of self. You already know how I feel about him. So I will leave it at that.

Dr. Fauci Postings
https://common-sense-in-america.com/2020/10/15/where-do-the-loyalties-of-the-cdc-lie/
https://common-sense-in-america.com/2020/10/01/is-dr-fauci-a-devil-or-an-angel/
https://common-sense-in-america.com/2020/07/30/is-the-fda-big-pharma-and-appropriately-and-dr-fauci-playing-god/
https://common-sense-in-america.com/2020/06/21/dr-fauci-revisited-sour-grapes/
https://common-sense-in-america.com/2020/09/30/fauci-and-hiv-and-now-coronavirus-sounds-like-dejavu/
https://common-sense-in-america.com/2021/10/29/one-on-one-with-dr-fauci/