Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), as well as the top medical adviser to the U.S. president, announced that he will be stepping down from his positions in December after nearly five decades of service.
Fauci became a household name during the COVID-19 pandemic and was the subject of conservative attacks due to his role in leading federal restrictions during the pandemic. He has also led the nation against numerous outbreaks in the U.S., such as HIV/AIDS, Ebola, Zika and the 2001 anthrax attacks.
“It has been the honor of a lifetime to have led NIAID, an extraordinary institution, for so many years and through so many scientific and public health challenges,” Fauci said in a statement.
After completing his residency at Cornell University in 1968, Fauci worked as a clinical associate for the National Institutes of Health before becoming NIAID director and serving under seven presidents; Fauci first served under Ronald Reagan.
“During my time as vice president, I worked closely with Dr. Anthony Fauci on the United States’ response to Zika and Ebola,” President Joe Biden said in a statement. “Because of Dr. Fauci’s many contributions to public health, lives here in the United States and around the world have been saved. As he leaves his position in the U.S. government, I know the American people and the entire world will continue to benefit from Dr. Fauci’s expertise.”
Fauci’s retirement comes as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is facing on overhaul after a “botched” response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“For 75 years, CDC and public health have been preparing for Covid-19, and in our big moment, our performance did not reliably meet expectations,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC. “My goal is a new, public health action-oriented culture at CDC that emphasizes accountability, collaboration, communication and timeliness.”
Walensky says that the CDC responded to COVID-19 too slowly, and that its public messages such as face masks, social distancing, and boosters were “confusing and overwhelming” to the American public. The CDC’s new goal is to improve its communication and increase trust amongst the American public.
While Fauci is retiring from working with the federal government, the 81-year-old does not plan to retire from medicine.
“While I am moving on from my current positions, I am not retiring,” Fauci said. “After more than 50 years of government service, I plan to pursue the next phase of my career while I still have so much energy and passion for my field. 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.”