After serving as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) for nearly 40 years, Anthony Fauci on Monday announced he will be stepping down from the position in December to "pursue the next chapter" of his career.
Fauci announces he is stepping down
In a statement on Monday, Fauci announced his intention to step down from his role as director of NIAID in December, noting that, "While I am moving on from my current positions, I am not retiring … I plan to pursue the next phase of my career while I still have so much energy and passion for my field."
Fauci joined NIH in 1968 and has led NIAID since 1984, advising seven presidents and guiding the United States through multiple health crises, including AIDS, the anthrax scares of 2001, Ebola, Zika, and the coronavirus pandemic, the Washington Post reports.
Fauci said leaving his job as NIAID director is "bittersweet" but added he's excited for the future.
"The reason I did it now, [is] because even though I'm 81-years old, I think I'm a pretty young, 81 years old, and I believe strongly that as long as I have the excitement, the energy, the passion and the good health, thank goodness, to be able to do something else on the next stage or a few years of my career, I'm excited about it," he said.
Fauci added that he's not leaving the public eye and told the Post he hopes to teach, lecture, write, and inspire a younger generation of scientists.
"I love everything about this place … But even with that, I said I'm going to have to leave some time," he said. "I don't want to be here so long that I get to the point where I lose a step."
An interim successor is expected to be named before Fauci departs, and NIH will conduct a national search for Fauci's permanent replacement.
In response to Fauci's announcement, President Joe Biden extended his "deepest thanks for his public service," adding that the United States "is stronger, more resilient, and healthier because of him."
"Because of Dr. Fauci's many contributions to public health, lives here in the United States and around the world have been saved," Biden said. "Whether you've met him personally or not, he has touched all Americans' lives with his work."
HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra also thanked Fauci for his service. "I quickly came to rely on Dr. Fauci's wisdom and counsel in our [COVID-19] response, and along with his scientific acumen, I treasure his ability to break down complex science in simple terms to the American people to save lives," Becerra said.
In a statement, acting NIH Director Lawrence Tabak said that Fauci is "the model public servant—dedicated and selfless, and a brilliant scientist and physician who is passionate about developing treatments and cures for those who are sick and suffering."
According to Jon Cohen, a journalist at Science magazine who also wrote a book about Fauci's attempt to develop an AIDS vaccine, Fauci "is a really interesting character in the history of the AIDS epidemic."
"He becomes the voice of science, he can translate science into English better than anyone, and he can speak to every president, every congressperson, every world leader, and he can speak to patients," Cohen said.
Some Republican members of Congress suggested Monday that they still intend to summon Fauci for congressional hearings, even after he steps down from his position.
"Retirement can't shield Dr. Fauci from congressional oversight," said Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) in a tweet. "The American people deserve transparency and accountability about how government officials used their taxpayer dollars, and @GOPOversight will deliver."
"It's good to know that with his retirement, Dr. Fauci will have ample time to appear before Congress and share under oath what he knew about the Wuhan lab, as well as the ever-changing guidance under his watch that resulted in wrongful mandates being imposed on Americans," said Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) in a statement.
In an interview with Axios, Fauci said he has no problem testifying before Congress.
"I have never had any problem defending what I've done and I have nothing to hide," he said. "I've testified before the Congress hundreds of times over the last 38 years. I have no trouble testifying before Congress." (NIH statement, 8/22; Abutaleb, Washington Post, 8/22; Stolberg, New York Times, 8/22; Knight/Owens, Axios, 8/23; Doherty, Axios, 8/22; Harris/Wroth, "Shots," NPR, 8/22; Fiore, MedPage Today, 8/22; Lim et. al., Politico, 8/22)