Long-time public health official Anthony Fauci is set to retire from government soon. Fauci said Monday that he will leave his current roles as an advisor to the White House and a leading official at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) come this December.
The 81-year-old Fauci has been open about his plans to exit the stage sooner rather than later. As recently as July, Fauci stated that he would retire before the end of President Biden’s first term, which ends in January 2025, though he declined to offer a specific date. On Monday morning, the Washington Post published a lengthy interview with Fauci, in which he revealed that his retirement would happen this December; at the same time, he released his own statement through the National Institutes of Health website.
Fauci will step down from all of his public-facing positions, which includes being the chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden, as well as being the director of the NIAID and chief of the NIAID Laboratory of Immunoregulation. His tenure as NIAID director has been a long one, with Fauci having served in the position across 38 years and many administrations.
“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. 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,” Fauci said in his announcement.
An immunologist by training, Fauci has helped coordinate the country’s response to numerous outbreaks or potential local epidemics of illness, including HIV/AIDS, West Nile virus, Zika, and most notably now, covid-19. He’s been a controversial figure several times, such as when activists accused the NIH of inaction during the earliest days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Most recently, Fauci and other public health officials have been accused of not being completely open with the public about the benefits of mask-wearing early on in the covid-19 pandemic, a strategy that seems to have been a clumsy attempt to preserve the then-limited supply of masks for health care workers.
The latter is a mistake that Fauci has owned up to, including in his recent interview with the Washington Post, saying that he and others were simply wrong to downplay masks for the public. And while Fauci has become deeply hated and blamed for just about everything by the conspiracy-tinged corners of the right wing, he remains well-trusted by a majority of the public, though there has been some loss in confidence as of early this year, according to survey data. Even many of his past detractors during the HIV/AIDS epidemic eventually grew to respect Fauci and his efforts to combat the public health crisis.
While Fauci may be leaving the government, he doesn’t intend to leave the public eye completely.
“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,” he said in his announcement.