Lifetime Achievement: Anthony Fauci, MD
When Anthony Fauci, MD, was called upon to help lead the country’s response to COVID-19 in January 2020 as part of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, it was far from his first time with a health crisis involving a deadly virus. As the country’s leading infectious disease expert, Fauci, who joined President Joe Biden’s administration as chief medical adviser, oversaw efforts to contain HIV, Ebola and Zika. Still, he says he’s never seen anything like the novel coronavirus.
“HIV has evolved insidiously, and it’s not for a very long time that people have fully appreciated its severity and magnitude,” he says. While the scale of HIV is enormous – nearly 33 million people worldwide have died of AIDS-related illnesses since the epidemic began in 1981 – the speed of COVID-19 has been extraordinary. “You have a brand new virus that evolved in December 2019, was identified in January 2020, and then literally, in less than a year, exploded on the planet to become the most difficult and most difficult respiratory infection pandemic. devastating. in 102 years. “
For years, Fauci worried – and warned – about the possibility that a virus could pass from animal to animal and easily spread from person to person, causing millions of deaths. He called it his “worst nightmare”. “Now I am living what I described,” he said. “I was hoping we would never have such an epidemic, but unfortunately for us we have it.
The effort to control the pandemic and minimize the number of lives lost is preventing Fauci from sleeping at night and working 18 hours a day. The fact that the epidemic struck in the middle of a divisive election year only added to the difficulty of containing it. “It’s amazing when you have over 500,000 people [as of early March 2021] who are dead and people say it’s not real. It’s a hoax. It’s very difficult to put your arms around this, ”he says.
As unimaginably dark as the pandemic has been, there have been bright spots as well. Three vaccines were developed, approved and implemented in millions of guns within months, an effort that would have taken 7-10 years previously. “If there’s anything we should be very proud of, it’s the reaction of the scientific community,” says Fauci.
He adds that the combination of a vaccine and widespread adherence to public health measures such as mask wearing and social distancing will finally “end the epidemic as we know it”. Yet the possibility of another pandemic looms on the horizon. “We will continue to have outbreaks of new infectious diseases. … The trick is how to answer it? ” he says. “The better prepared we are to deal with a pandemic, the less likely we are to get an epidemic of the magnitude we are currently seeing.”
WebMD Exclusive: Our 2021 Health Hero Gets Personal
Who is your hero?
I have a group of heroes: the health care providers who get up, go to work and put themselves in danger every day to care for seriously ill people.
If there was anything you could do to help others, what would you do?
I would have a health system that allows equitable and quality health care for all.
What is your dream job?
Exactly what I am doing at the moment.
What are you doing to relax?
I don’t relax much, but the only thing I do constantly is take a brisk walk of about 4 miles with my wife as many days a week as possible.
PUBLISHED ON JULY 17, 2020
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