Fauci to step down as nation's infectious disease chief

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, announced Monday that he will step down as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases as well as President Biden’s chief medical adviser at the end of the year.

“It has been the honor of a lifetime to have led the NIAID, an extraordinary institution, for so many years and through so many scientific and public health challenges,” Fauci said in a statement. “I am very proud of our many accomplishments. I have worked with — and learned from — countless talented and dedicated people in my own laboratory, at NIAID, at NIH and beyond. To them I express my abiding respect and gratitude.”

In his statement, Fauci stressed that while he is moving on from his current positions, “I am not retiring.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci stands at a podium at the White House.
Dr. Anthony Fauci at a press briefing at the White House in December 2021. (Susan Walsh/AP)

“I plan to pursue the next phase of my career while I still have so much energy and passion for my field,” he said. “I want to use what I have learned as NIAID Director to continue to advance science and public health and to inspire and mentor the next generation of scientific leaders as they help prepare the world to face future infectious disease threats.”

Fauci, 81, has served as director of the NIAID for nearly four decades.

“Over the past 38 years as NIAID Director, I have had the enormous privilege of serving under and advising seven presidents of the United States, beginning with President Ronald Reagan, on newly emerging and re-emerging infectious disease threats including HIV/AIDS, West Nile virus, the anthrax attacks, pandemic influenza, various bird influenza threats, Ebola and Zika, among others, and, of course, most recently the COVID-19 pandemic,” Fauci said. “I am particularly proud to have served as the Chief Medical Advisor to President Joe Biden since the very first day of his administration.”

Fauci, wearing a mask and with his left sleeve rolled up, gets a COVID-19 shot.
Fauci receives his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., on Dec. 22, 2020. (Patrick Semansky, Pool/AP)

For his part, Biden commended Fauci as “a dedicated public servant” with “wisdom and insight honed over decades at the forefront of some of our most dangerous and challenging public health crises.”

“When it came time to build a team to lead our COVID-19 response — in fact, in one of my first calls as President-elect — I immediately asked Dr. Fauci to extend his service as my Chief Medical Advisor to deal with the COVID-19 crisis our nation faced,” Biden said in a statement. “In that role, I’ve been able to call him at any hour of the day for his advice as we’ve tackled this once-in-a-generation pandemic. His commitment to the work is unwavering, and he does it with an unparalleled spirit, energy, and scientific integrity.

“Because of Dr. Fauci’s many contributions to public health,” Biden added, “lives here in the United States and around the world have been saved.”

Fauci also served under former President Donald Trump and rose to prominence as a member of his COVID response team. At times, he clashed with Trump over the administration’s response to the pandemic.

Donald Trump and Mike Pence walk into a briefing. Fauci is standing to the side.
Then-President Donald Trump and then-Vice President Mike Pence join Fauci at a coronavirus briefing at the White House in March 2020. (Alex Brandon/AP)

Fauci was also the target of attacks from Republican members of Congress, most notably Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Fox News personalities, who have sought to blame him for the government’s handling of the coronavirus.

In one particularly tense exchange on Capitol Hill in January, Fauci accused Paul of fomenting attacks that are falsehood-laden, politically motivated and dangerous.

Such attacks have led to death threats against Fauci and his family, forcing him to have an armed security detail.

“The only thing I’ve ever said or done is to encourage people to get vaccinated, to wear a mask and to do things that would be good for their health, the health of their family and the health of the community,” Fauci said in an interview with Yahoo News in December. “So to get villainized because of that is a sad testimony on our society.”