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June 18, 2008



When National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci agreed to an interview this week, we circled the date multiple times. To understand why, it helps to look at just a few dates on his calendar. June 10: Address the United Nations. June 19: Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom, nation’s highest civilian honor, joining the likes of Neil Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, Martin Luther King Jr., and Walt Disney. Honestly, it would have come as no surprise to see June 15: Accept Tony Award for Best Revival (of a Musical or Patient).


Unlike the UN, his office didn’t have a translator, but we managed to keep up with the Brooklyn native Monday in Bethesda. By invitation from the President of the General Assembly, Tony addressed the UN at a special session on HIV last week. It was his first speech before that body and called attention to the implementation gap which prevents research discoveries from reaching the developing world. To close the gap, he pleaded for government leadership and the empowerment of women in all countries, including the US. He told us that developing an AIDS vaccine is NIAID’s biggest challenge, and as proud as he is of recent therapies that have improved the lives of AIDS patients, it’s not enough.


Tony’s rounds currently include pushing Congress to update the 2003 President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, a $15 billion effort he crafted to combat the disease around the world. He says this year they’ve upped the ante to $50 billion and face Senate opposition as a result. His own budget has also seen the pitfalls of being discretionary during a war. While it’s up to $4.6 billion—from $360 million when he took over as director in 1984—it’s leveled-off after doubling from 1998-2003. Funding priorities include researching recent outbreaks such as dengue fever and drug-resistant TB, and developing a vaccine for malaria.


What other local doctor has both Robert De Niro and Gov. Tommy Thompson on their me-wall? Despite his personal achievements, vicarious enjoyment is more his norm. For example, a 2-sport star in high school, he’s a regular bleacher creature at the St. Alban’s high school baseball diamond, including this year’s championship run. And while Tony does think of work a lot (even as director he never gave up his lab and still sees patients twice a week) there’s no truth to the rumor he only showed up to games because he thought RBIs were a virulent strain of SARS.

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