Well-Being Prevention & Cures

Dr. Fauci responds coolly to death threats amid the coronavirus pandemic

dr anthony fauci stands in front of mics at a podium

Story at a glance

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, under the National Institutes of Health.
  • As COVID–19 spreads in the United States, Fauci has been one of the top public health officials addressing the outbreak.
  • Fauci has disagreed publicly with President Trump over answers to questions about the outbreak.

America’s top infectious disease fighter, Dr. Anthony Fauci, has risen to prominence during the coronavirus pandemic. But that has come with a price; he has reportedly been given a security detail in response to recent threats.

In his typical cool fashion, though, he is dismissing the threats.

“You know, it’s my job,” he told CBS’s Gayle King. “This is the life I’ve chosen, and I’m doing it. I mean, obviously there’s a lot of pressure. I would be foolish to deny that … It’s a job to do, and we’ve just got to do it.”

“I’ve been through crises like this before,” he said, referring back to the HIV epidemic in the 1980s.

As the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), Fauci leads just one of 27 institutes and centers that make up the National Institutes of Health (NIH). But as Americans turn to public officials to assuage their fears of COVID–19, Fauci has regularly been making the rounds on cable television and radio to give information and answer questions — even when it puts him in opposition to the president. 

During a briefing on March 2, President Trump said a vaccine could be ready in a matter of months. Fauci jumped in, explaining that it would be at least a year and a half before the vaccine was deployable.  

“You should never destroy your own credibility. And you don’t want to go to war with a president,” Fauci, who has served under six presidents, told Politico. “But you got to walk the fine balance of making sure you continue to tell the truth.”

He’s had decades of practice since he was appointed in 1984 and guided the response for the HIV/AIDS, SARS and Ebola outbreaks, among others. After the attacks on 9/11, he helped drive the development of biodefense drugs and vaccines. His service has been awarded with the Presidential Medal of Freedom and numerous other honors, including 45 honorary doctoral degrees from universities in the United States and abroad.

An Italian Catholic from Brooklyn, N.Y., he was born on Christmas Eve to parents who owned a pharmacy. His father, Stephen Fauci, was a pharmacist, his mother Eugenia and his sister worked at the register, and Fauci delivered prescriptions. His first doctorate was from Cornell University Medical College in 1966, where he was ranked first in his class.

Fauci is married to Christine Grady, who has bachelor’s degree, with a double major in nursing and biology, and a Ph.D. in philosophy and bioethics from Georgetown. They met at a patient’s bedside. Grady, who had spent two years working as a nurse educator and manager of ambulatory care for Project Hope in Brazil, was asked to translate for Fauci and a Portuguese patient, and Fauci called her later for a date. They now have three daughters.

At age 79, Fauci also serves as the chief of the Laboratory of Immunoregulation and on the editorial boards of many scientific journals. He remains prolific. In a 2019 analysis of Google Scholar citations, Fauci ranked as the 41st most highly cited researcher of all time.

“I feel like I’m 45. And I act like I’m 35,” Fauci told Politico. “When I start to feel like I don’t have the energy to do the job, whatever my age, I’ll walk away and write my book.”