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Dr. Anthony Fauci, point man on coronavirus, is a Holy Cross alum

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases spoke at the White House Monday.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases spoke at the White House Monday.Evan Vucci/Associated Press

Long before Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a point person on the federal government’s response to coronavirus, was issuing dire warnings about the pandemic, he was a pre-med student at the College of Holy Cross in Worcester.

Fauci, a 79-year-old New York City native, graduated from Holy Cross in 1962 and was the subject of a flattering profile 40 years later in Holy Cross Magazine, which noted his pre-med studies also “encompassed the study of Latin, Greek and philosophy.”

“There was a certain spirit of scholarship up there, that was not matched in anything that I’d experienced,” Fauci told the magazine. "The idea of seriousness of purpose—I don’t mean nerdish seriousness of purpose—I mean the importance of personal development, scholarly development and the high standard of integrity and principles that became a part of everyday life at Holy Cross. And that, I think, was passed down from the Jesuits and from the lay faculty to the students.”

After Holy Cross, he went on to Cornell Medical School, where he graduated at the top of his class, said the article, which noted that Fauci has spent “his entire professional career at the National Institutes of Health.”

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The NIH oversees the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Fauci has served as director of the institute since 1984, a tenure spanning six presidents, including President Trump.

“He oversees an extensive research portfolio of basic and applied research to prevent, diagnose, and treat established infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, respiratory infections, diarrheal diseases, tuberculosis and malaria as well as emerging diseases such as Ebola and Zika,” says his biography on the NIH website.

His institute’s budget for fiscal year 2020 is pegged at approximately $5.9 billion, the site says.

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During the 2002 interview with Holy Cross Magazine, Fauci, who twice turned down offers to lead the NIH, recalled that early HIV and AIDS activism changed how the broader public interacts with the medical community.

"With the HIV epidemic came the birth of a certain form of activism that demanded participation in the decision making, particularly when it was dealing with a deadly disease, for which there was no treatment,” Fauci told the magazine.

Then-President George W. Bush awarded Fauci the Presidential Medal of Freedom in June 2008. In a statement announcing the award, Holy Cross included text of the presidential citation.

“As a physician, medical researcher, author, and public servant, Dr. Anthony Fauci has dedicated his life to expanding the horizons of human knowledge and making progress toward groundbreaking cures for diseases,” the citation said. "His efforts to advance our understanding and treatment of HIV/AIDS have brought hope and healing to tens of millions in both developed and developing nations. The United States honors Anthony Fauci for his commitment to enabling men, women, and children to live longer, healthier lives.”

Fauci spoke to the Globe in 2013 during the opening of a leading AIDS research center’s $30 million laboratory building in Cambridge, at a time when the NIH had slashed its budget by 5 percent in anticipation of a sequester and had started sending notices to researchers that grants could be reduced.

“We do fund projects that are high risk,” he said in 2013. “But it’s a peer-reviewed process, and sometimes a proposal that’s way out there doesn’t get a good score from reviewers.”

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Four years later Fauci addressed Boston University School of Medicine graduates at their convocation ceremony.

“Now obviously, to be realistic, not every change, evolution or advance in medicine or the biomedical sciences will be as dramatic or as draconian as a frightening infectious diseases outbreak,” Fauci told the newly minted graduates. “However, please believe me that the same unpredictable elements in the evolution of public health medicine and biomedical science are going to confront each and every one of you regardless of what specialty or sub-specialty of medicine you pursue.”

More recently, he’s been warning the country about coronavirus, telling the House Oversight Committee last week that even starker times are looming.

"The bottom line: It is going to get worse,” Fauci said of the coronavirus outbreak as he answered a question from New York Representative Carolyn Maloney.

“How much worse we’ll get will depend on our ability to do two things: To contain the influx of people who are infected coming from the outside, and the ability to contain and mitigate within our own country,” he said.

Material from prior Globe stories was used this report.




Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.