Updated with additional statements from healthcare professional associations and politicians.
Anthony Fauci, M.D., plans to step down from his decadeslong role as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and other prominent public service positions, including his title as chief medical adviser to the president.
The country’s foremost infectious disease expert said in a Monday statement that he will be departing from his positions in December and until then will be helping NIAID prepare for a leadership transition.
Fauci’s more than 50 years of government service included 38 years as NIAID director and 42 as chief of the institute’s Laboratory of Immunoregulation, from which he will also be stepping down.
Still, Fauci said that his departure does not signal an outright retirement from the realm of public health research.
“I plan to pursue the next phase of my career while I still have so much energy and passion for my field,” Fauci said in his announcement. “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.”
Fauci, who will be 82 in December, joined the National Institutes of Health in 1968 as a clinical associate immediately following the completion of his medical residency.
Alongside work in his own research lab, he played key advisory roles to seven presidents, starting with President Ronald Reagan, as they responded to emerging or otherwise pressing infectious disease emergencies including HIV/AIDS, West Nile virus, anthrax, influenzas, Ebola and Zika. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2008 by President George W. Bush.
The institute director became a household name during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, speaking directly to the public as a chief member of the federal government’s response team. He was also frequently painted as an antagonist by President Donald Trump and legislators including Rand Paul, M.D., R-Kentucky, amid disagreements on pandemic precautions such as isolation and masks as well as disagreements over unsupported therapeutic treatments such as hydroxychloroquine.
Fauci’s announcement was met with a warm farewell from President Joe Biden, who in a statement recalled the infectious disease leader’s “unparalleled spirit, energy and scientific integrity” when working alongside Biden on Zika, Ebola and COVID-19.
“As he leaves his position in the U.S. Government, I know the American people and the entire world will continue to benefit from Dr. Fauci’s expertise in whatever he does next,” Biden said in a statement. “Whether you’ve met him personally or not, he has touched all Americans’ lives with his work. I extend my deepest thanks for his public service. The United States of America is stronger, more resilient, and healthier because of him.”
Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement that he “quickly came to rely on Dr. Fauci’s wisdom and counsel” when joining the federal agency a year into a global pandemic and that his years of public service “have undoubtedly improved the health of millions of people globally.”
In farewell statements, American Medical Association President Jack Resneck, M.D., described Fauci as "a strong and steady voice for science- and data-driven responses to some of the biggest public health challenges of our time," while heads of the Association of American Medical Colleges noted that "the mRNA vaccines for COVID-19 are a direct result of decades of research supported and advanced by the NIH and NIAID specifically, under Dr. Fauci's leadership."
Republican lawmakers critical of Fauci said they still plan to include Fauci in Congressional investigations they hope to launch next year should they control one of the two chambers.
"So Dr. Fauci is stepping down in December," Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA) tweeted following Fauci's announcement. "That won’t stop a Republican Congress from telling the truth about his disastrous tenure and holding him accountable for the mistakes he made and the lies he told."