Retirement hasn’t quite settled in for Dr. Anthony Fauci.
While he officially stepped down at the end of 2022 as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Fauci is staying busy. Even at a glitzy, white-tie event, he’s ready to jump in when duty calls.
That was the situation Saturday at the annual Gridiron Dinner in Washington, D.C., which featured speeches from officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken and former vice president Mike Pence, and skits performed by members of the press corps.
Fauci, in his own way, was also in the middle of the action. The face of the nation’s pandemic response stepped in to help not one, but two guests in need of medical assistance during the dinner.
“It was an eventful evening for medical emergencies,” Fauci said Monday in an interview with the Globe. “None of the people involved had any serious implications to the event.”
But “that’s part of life of being a physician,” he added. “When people say, ‘Is there a physician in the house?’ you have a responsibility to go and see if you can help.”
One scene was chronicled on Twitter by speechwriter Chandler Dean, who was with his colleague, Sarah Gruen, when a woman collapsed just 10 feet away.
The guest hit her head on a table during cocktail hour and was lying still on the floor, Dean said by e-mail. With all of the noise and commotion in the room, it was a “scary moment,” he said, with only a small number of people “close enough to see what was happening.”
As people tried to tend to the woman, someone went to find a doctor.
Not long after, “America’s doctor once again saved the day,” Gruen wrote in an e-mail. “We knew Dr. Fauci was in attendance that evening, and I had literally made a comment, in jest, that maybe he could help. So when we saw someone guiding Dr. Fauci to the scene, we were astonished — it felt almost comically perfect.”
The photo Gruen snapped of a tuxedo-clad Fauci, appearing to talk to the woman while standing next to a table littered with glasses, has since gone viral.
“When he helped the woman sit back up and get stable, we were relieved. Turns out, Fauci is the real deal — he doesn’t just play a doctor on TV,” Gruen said.
Fauci said the woman likely had a fainting episode, which is “not an uncommon happening when you have a large function with a lot of crowded people and a lot of excitement.”
Fauci wasn’t the only doctor who sprang into action. Dr. Kevin O’Connor, President Biden’s private physician, also offered his help.
“This woman had the unusual situation of passing out at a big gala dinner and within a period of a few seconds, having come to her assistance, me and Dr. Kevin O’Connor — at the same time,” Fauci said.
The two doctors elevated the woman’s feet “to get the circulation back to her head,” Fauci said. She was “quite fine in a matter of a few minutes,” he added.
But before he was able to fully enjoy the night, duty called again.
About 10 to 15 minutes after the first episode, Fauci was asked to help a second woman who had fallen and hit her head after the dinner had begun. She also turned out to be fine and was advised “to just go home and rest,” he added.
Ask any physician, Fauci said, and most have rushed to assist someone in need at some point.
“In many respects, you have an obligation to help out if you can. That’s exactly what happened that night,” he said. “Thank goodness everything worked out all right, and everybody was fine.”
Fauci said he enjoyed the rest of the night, which featured comedy routines and a number of skits, including ones about space lasers, Biden’s age, and George Santos.
“It was a lot of fun. There was a lot of good comedy, which is generally the case with those dinners,” he said.
Dean said fellow speechwriter Eric Schnure summed up the night best: It felt like an “Only in Washington” moment.
“If you were writing a sketch about someone needing medical assistance at a D.C. event, who would you have show up? Would the nation’s most prominent doctor suffice?” he quipped.
Shannon Larson can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @shannonlarson98.