Advocacy Award Honoree Dr. Anthony Fauci is a driving force in the fight against global health threats

Anna Hatch

This article is the second in a series highlighting the accomplishments of Research!America’s 2017 Advocacy Award honorees who will be saluted at a dinner in Washington, D.C., on March 15. More details can be found here.

Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., is Research!America’s recipient of the Legacy Award, which honors an individual’s outstanding commitment to sustaining our nation’s world-class leadership in medical and health research. Dr. Fauci is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

An effective communicator, Dr. Fauci has testified before Congress more than 250 times, voicing strong support for biomedical research and public health issues, such as HIV/AIDS, antimicrobial resistance, Ebola and most recently the Zika virus.  

At Research!America’s 2016 National Health Research Forum, Dr. Fauci emphasized the role basic science plays leading up to the creation of bold research initiatives like the Cancer Moonshot. Robust funding for basic research as well as major endeavors is important to achieving scientific progress. He explained, “I would like to see a balance between initiatives and undifferentiated research that serves as an incubator for future initiatives.”

Dr. Fauci, who has now served under six U.S. presidents, has made significant contributions in immune-mediated and infectious diseases, including the global fight against HIV/AIDS. More than 1.2 million people are living with an HIV infection in the United States.

Well before researchers understood how HIV attacked the body, Dr. Fauci was caring for HIV/AIDS patients. As a physician-scientist, he believes that treating patients provides unique insight into diseases. By attacking from multiple angles, Dr. Fauci has been successful at fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the U.S. and abroad.

Dr. Fauci’s research helped uncover how HIV weakens the immune system, and he also played a fundamental role in developing treatments for HIV patients. President George W. Bush presented him with the National Medal of Science for his contributions to HIV/AIDS research in 2007.

In addition, Dr. Fauci has been dedicated to planning medical and public health responses for emerging infectious diseases. He was one of the main architects behind the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which was enacted in 2003. This global health initiative is working to control the HIV/AIDS epidemic, primarily in Africa. PEPFAR provided HIV/AIDS testing and counseling to 74.3 million people  in FY2016 alone and has distributed antiretroviral therapies to nearly 11.5 million people. Furthermore, this initiative has prevented almost 2 million babies from being born HIV positive.

Dr. Fauci has been widely recognized for his contributions in managing the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In 2007, he was honored with The Mary Woodard Lasker Public Service Award and President George W. Bush awarded Dr. Fauci the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in 2008.

Dr. Fauci has also focused his time and attention to managing emerging infectious diseases like Ebola, Zika, and pandemic influenza. Notably, he helped treat Nina Pham, a nurse infected with the Ebola virus during the 2015 outbreak. Dr. Fauci wanted to demonstrate that he would not ask his staff to do something that he was unwilling to do.

At a news conference announcing Pham’s full recovery, Dr. Fauci said, “What a great pleasure and in many respects a privilege it has been for me and the staff here at the Special Clinical Studies Unit at NIH to have the opportunity to treat and care for and get to know an extraordinarily courageous and lovely person.” 

More recently, Dr. Fauci has called for an emergency fund to rapidly respond to public health crises like Ebola or the Zika virus. At a planning event for future pandemics at Georgetown University, Dr. Fauci explained, “We need [a public health emergency fund] because of what we had to go through for Zika. It was very, very painful when the president asked for the $1.9 billion in February and we didn’t get it until September. That was a very painful process.” Dr. Fauci subsequently published this blog post reflecting on what we can learn from previous pandemic threats including HIV/AIDS, Ebola, and Zika virus. 

Anna Hatch is a Research!America Communications Intern.

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The capabilities are enormous, a little bit of research can pay off quite a bit in the long run.
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