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bitchy | Anthony Fauci on missing his kids’ childhoods: ‘I am sorry & sad, but I don’t regret’

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In the past three years, Dr. Anthony Fauci has become a rock star. Fauci heads the NIAID, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and he became the trusted face of the Covid pandemic in America. Fauci agreed to sit for a lengthy profile in the Washington Post, talking about his life, his family, how the AIDS crisis shaped him, his relationships with presidents and more. I didn’t realize that Fauci is the highest-paid government official. He makes $480,654 a year. The reason he makes so much is because he’s worked for the government for so long and he never left to move into the private sector, where he could make millions or billions. He’s lived in the same house since 1977, he has a wife and three daughters and he swears up and down that Covid is his last pandemic. Some highlights from this extraordinary piece:

Why he never left NIAID for the private sector: “I pride myself in having been — with all due modesty — a fantastically good clinician,” Fauci says of his early-career internship and residency days. “My responsibility would be to the patient, and I would take care of them throughout the night. But when you were off, you knew that somebody [else] was taking care of them. I could compartmentalize. I would go to the Caribbean and snorkel and scuba dive.”

Why he chose the field of infectious disease. “It’s dangerous. I look upon a pathogen, a virus, as an enemy.”

He was one of the first people to understand what AIDS would become: “I was prescient enough to realize that it wasn’t going to just go away. I said: I’m an infectious-disease doc. I’m an immunologist. … It’s killing young gay men. It’s almost certainly sexually transmitted. And sexually transmitted disease is going to spread globally, because if there’s anything that’s universal, it’s sex. … If ever there was a disease that was made for me, it was this new disease.”

He’s still traumatized by the people lost to AIDS:
Fauci went from curing nearly all his pre-HIV cases to, he says, a situation where “you developed relationships with your patients … but almost all of them ultimately die.” It was unendurable to emotionally process that much loss. “In order to be able to live through that, you’ve got to do a lot of suppression,” Fauci says of his preferred coping mechanism. “You can’t mourn every patient, or you spend your entire life mourning. But when you suppress everything, years later when somebody asks you to describe what you were doing, all of a sudden, it’s like you almost can’t even speak about it.” Fauci says he believes he has post-traumatic stress disorder from this experience, though he has never sought therapy. (“I’ve discussed it a lot with my wife, who’s the world’s greatest therapist,” he says.)

He fired people over their attitudes towards AIDS: “I had to get rid of some of my own people,” he says of NIAID employees who thought their process shouldn’t be influenced by nonscientists who had the disease they were fighting. “I didn’t fire them in the street, because you can’t do that in the government. But I made it very clear that I don’t want to work with you anymore.”

He missed a lot of his daughters’ childhoods: “I am sorry and sad, but I don’t regret,” he explains. Of his daughters’ athletic events, he says: “I tried as best as I could. … I didn’t miss them all. I went to a few of them. But I would’ve liked to have done what Chris did. Chris missed none of them. She sacrificed career opportunities literally every month for years because she wanted to make sure that she was there with the kids.” Grady has since become renowned in her field and leads the Department of Bioethics at NIH. Their oldest daughter, Jenny, is a clinical psychologist at Cambridge Medical Group who works with adolescent girls suffering from abuse-related mental distress; their youngest, Alison, worked at Twitter before spending time as an EMT. Their middle daughter, Megan, teaches third-grade math and science at an inner-city charter school in New Orleans and got married the weekend after Fauci and I met in D.C.; her father attended remotely, via FaceTime, because of his covid infection.

He would do the same thing all over again: “I would do it over again,” he says, of being less-than-present for his family, “because I was doing things that are really important. When they were growing up was right in the early, challenging years of HIV, when we didn’t know what the virus was. And then we wound up with pandemic flu, and the anthrax attacks, and Ebola. It was constantly one time-consuming challenge after the other.”

He hated Trump: “I kept on pushing back. ‘No, it’s not gonna end. No, hydroxychloroquine doesn’t work. I don’t care what the pillow man says.’”

He doesn’t hate everyone within the Trump administration. “I try to look for the positive aspects of people in the Trump White House. I think anybody who says, ‘Everybody who was in the Trump White House was a bad person’ is incorrect. I mean, there were people there who were really trying their best, except that there was a prevailing motivation, with few exceptions, of ‘Defend Trump and what he does at all costs.’ ”

[From WaPo]

The WaPo piece quotes a lot of Republican senators, all of whom are still salty about Fauci for… reasons. It never made any sense, their attacks on him and blaming him for the pandemic. It’s interesting to know that those attacks did come close to breaking him, but he was so hellbent on seeing the pandemic through to a manageable level, he stuck with it. He also seemed surprised that he loathed Trump so much because before that administration, he was always known as such an apolitical figure who got along with everyone. I was extremely moved by all of the stories about the early years of the AIDS crisis and how Fauci worked hand-in-hand with gay activists and how he cared so much about saving that community. As for what he says about not being around for his daughters… it is the choice he made and it’s the choice he would make again. I understand it but I don’t really admire it.

Photos courtesy of Instar and Avalon Red.



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