The New Yorker calls him “America’s Doctor,” while the independent National Catholic Reporter labeled him “America’s tough-love grandpa,” who sweeps in when political leader behave like irresponsible parents. Regardless of what the media might call him, many of us are just grateful that Dr. Anthony Fauci, America’s leading pandemic expert, has become a semi-permanent fixture on our news landscapes, as a voice of authority we can trust to give us the score on COVID-19.
Dr. Fauci is the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) — a post that he has held since 1984. And while that might seem like a long time, it’s also given Dr. Fauci a spot in the front lines of the fight against some of the most terrifying infectious diseases some of us have seen in our lifetimes, including HIV/AIDS, Ebola, and Zika. His expertise has enabled him to serve under six presidents from Ronald Reagan to Donald Trump. That experience has made Dr. Fauci uniquely placed to help us face down what even the WHO has labelled “the worst global health crisis of a generation.”
Anthony Fauci was born and raised in New York
Anthony Fauci was born on Christmas Eve, 1940. He grew up in southwest Brooklyn, New York, where The New Yorker says his family owned a pharmacy. His parents were born in New York, although his grandparents had emigrated to the United States — one set arrived from Naples and the other from Sicily.
Fauci speaks several classical languages, thanks to his rigorous Jesuit school education which exposed him to four years of Greek, four years of Latin, three years of French, plus ancient history, and theology. He has credited his commitment to science to his school, Regis High School, one of the top boy’s schools in the country, where he was taught “to communicate scientific principles, or principles of basic and clinical research, without getting very profuse and off on tangents.”
It was also at Regis where he said he discovered, as the captain of the basketball team, that he had no future in the sport. “… being a realist, I very quickly found out that a five-seven, really fast, good-shooting point guard will never be as good as a really fast, good-shooting seven-footer. I decided to change the direction of my career.”
Fate brought Fauci to Cornell Medical School
The New Yorker says Anthony Fauci discovered what would later become his medical alma mater, Cornell Medical College, when he was working on site for a construction job. In 1998, at the medical school’s centennial celebration, Fauci described walking in the school’s library for the first time.
He said, “On lunch break, when the crew were eating their hero sandwiches and making catcalls to nurses, I snuck into the auditorium to take a peek. I got goosebumps as I entered, looked around the empty room, and imagined what it would be like to attend this extraordinary institution.” When Fauci was interrupted by a security guard who asked him to bring his dirty boots outside, Fauci remembered, “I looked at him and said proudly that I would be attending this institution a year from now. He laughed and said, ‘Right, kid, and next year I am going to be Police Commissioner.'”
Fauci graduated from Cornell in 1966 and landed his first-choice job at the National Institutes of Health, where he has since spent five decades.
Fauci is married to a fellow doctor, Christine Grady
Dr. Anthony Fauci is married to Dr. Christine Grady, a bioethicist who also works at the NIH. Dr. Grady recalls the first time she met Dr. Fauci in an interview with In Style. Grady had recently returned from spending two years in Brazil with Project Hope, a healthcare-oriented humanitarian organization. When a Brazilian patient named Pedro needed a translator, Grady stepped in on a meeting with Pedro’s doctors. That included Pedro’s attending physician, Dr. Fauci.
“I had not met Tony before that,” Grady recalled. “And Tony told him, ‘He may go home and be very careful about taking care of his health and doing his dressings and sitting with his leg up and things like that.’ And when I told him that, Pedro said, ‘There’s no way I’m doing that. I’ve been in the hospital for months. I’m going to the beach, and I’m going dancing at night.’ And I sort of in a split second decided to tell Tony, ‘He said he’d do exactly what you said.'”
That was in 1983. Fauci says he asked her out the next day, and by 1985, the two had settled down and were marred. Dr. Fauci and Dr. Grady have three adult daughters.
Fauci has been facing global health threats since 1984
Fauci says that since he became director of the NIAID in 1084, there hasn’t been a day were he hasn’t had to face down an epidemic that threatened global health (via The New Yorker). His first health crisis was HIV/AIDS, and his handling of the HIV pandemic in Africa, where the doctor is credited with saving millions of lives by distributing drugs that could help them fight off the disease, earned him the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush (via National Catholic Register).
In 2016, Fauci told CBS that he feared “An influenza-like respiratory-borne virus that’s easily transmittable to which the population of the world has very little if any immunity against and that has a high degree of morbidity and mortality. Something similar to the very tragic pandemic flu of 1918.”
Fauci repeated this prediction in 2019 when he at a high school reunion, and today, that day has come. Dr. Fauci has told CBS that of all the viral pathogens that he has studied, including HIV, the H1N1 flu strain, and Ebola, none are as puzzling as the virus now powering COVID-19. But Fauci has also vowed to fight COVID-19 for as long as it took to get the job done.